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Developing a Weight Training Program

Fiber Types
If you went to the lab to construct the perfect weight lifter, you'd use lots of fast-twitch muscle fibers (they're the kind that are capable of the greatest gains in size and strength), short arms and legs, and long tendons. When six-footer Jonathan accompanied Deidre to her powerlifting meets, he felt like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at a jockey convention. At a bicycle race he looks like one of the herd. (This may explain why he went into bicycle racing rather than competitive lifting.) Nevertheless, he lifts diligently in order to improve his cycling performance. On the other hand, Deidre, who carries 122 pounds of sculpted muscle on her 5-foot, 3-inch frame, has the ideal muscle type and body for hoisting prodigious amounts of weight. Did she have to train like a Trojan to become a world champion? Definitively yes. Could she have been a comparatively good cyclist or basketball player? Smart money says no.

Your next question might be: If you can't change these things, why even bother discussing them? For the simple fact that knowing about these variables can help prevent unnecessary frustration in the weight room. As we mentioned earlier, everyone can get stronger from weight lifting, but each person responds differently even if the stimulus is the same. Now that you know about some of the things we can't alter, let's talk about some of the things we can. Luckily, no matter what your genetics, height, or body type are, the body is an amazing machine that adapts beautifully when called upon. If you run a lot, your legs will respond; if you swim or kayak a lot, the upper body snaps to attention. The same is true of lifting weights: lift right, lift often, and the gains are there to be had.

Get With the Program
While there are unyielding universal truths when it comes to developing a strength-training program, it's just common sense to tailor your routine to you – and not some prototypical lifter who may have different goals, time constraints, and so forth.

Starting in the next chapter, we give you a variety of exercises to work all of your major muscle groups. Don't know how to awaken your dormant latissimus dorsi? No problem – we offer step-by-step instructions. And later on we give you suggestions about which exercises are most appropriate for you given your specific goals. After all, if you want to improve your 10K running time, buffing up your biceps isn't time well spent. Strong hamstrings – well, that's a muscle of a different color.

For now, let's go over some of the fundamental aspects of a sound training routine.

What to Do?
For virtually every body part we'll discuss, we'll show you a few exercises. For every exercise that we show you, there are usually at least two or three more – some good, some not so good – that you could do instead. In most cases these exercises are interchangeable. They're not really all that different. The most important thing to do is to make sure that you train all your major muscle groups and that you train them in the right order. Right order? Yes. As we mentioned earlier, if, for example, you train your biceps first, your arms are likely to be too tired to offer proper assistance when you work your back or shoulders. As a rule, it's best to work the larger muscles first and work in descending size order. This means that if you were going to hit all your major muscle groups on a particular day, you'd start with, say, your hips and legs and move down the list as we suggest below:

  • Hips and legs
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Abdominals
No, that's not written in stone – for instance, there's no real problem with switching chest and back or biceps and triceps – but it's a good guideline.


Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.


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