Weight training is a type of strength training that uses the weight of an object as resistance against muscle contraction. Weights can be either free weights or weight stacks in gym equipment. Free weights come in two categories—dumbbells and barbells. Dumbbells are weights that can be held in one hand, and barbells are bars—to be held with two hands—with weight disks that can be added to both sides.
Muscle contraction has two phases: the concentric phase is when a muscle shortens; the eccentric phase is when it lengthens. In other words, as you go back to starting position, targeted muscles are still contracting. That is why it is best to perform weight exercises slowly and thoroughly—do not drop the weights at the end, because you are missing an important half of the exercise.
All muscle groups can be exercised with weight training. However, the arms, shoulders, chest, and parts of the back benefit most from weight training. The core may respond better to other types of strength training.
Most sources indicate that each muscle group should be trained 3-4 times per week with at least 1 rest day between training sessions. Rest days allow muscles to grow and heal. Ideally, one should begin a strength training session with easy motion to warm up (mild aerobic exercise is an option); a session should end with a brief cool down of easy motions and stretches.
Most gyms have signs to indicate the target muscles of equipment, and there is equipment for almost all muscles. However, free weights are an alternative that can be used in or out of the gym. Here are a couple free weight exercises to target often neglected muscles:
The trapezius muscle spans the central upper back and neck, and its contraction pulls the shoulders up and back—a movement that is ubiquitous in modern dance. To target the trapezius, hold free weights of manageable weight in each hand, keep arms hanging down, and tighten upper back to bring shoulders up and back and then, keeping back engaged, come back to relaxed position.
The triceps extend up the back of the upper arm; they usually do not get the attention that the biceps (front of upper arm) get. To target the triceps, take one free weight of manageable weight, hold weight with both hands on center handle of weight, carefully lift weight over and behind head, and straighten arms to lift weight higher over your head before flexing elbows to bring weight back down. Repeat about 12 times.
While many feel that aerobic exercise is the best way to get the benefits of exercise without the bulking effects of strength training, it turns out that weight training produces worthy benefits to the non-bodybuilder: Maintaining muscle mass has anti-aging effects, including better balance, higher metabolism, and generally longer lifespan; muscle growth helps burn fat and improve body shape; with strength training, much progress can be made with only a little added time each week; strength training reduces risk of injury from athletic or recreational activities.[i] While there are many strength training options, weight training is the most straightforward way to tap into these many benefits.
[i] Klein, Sarah. (2014). “13 Reasons to Start Lifting Weights.” Healthy Living. (Accessed 13 August 2017). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/12/benefits-of-lifting-weights_n_6432632.html.