THE BLOG
11/04/2014 09:44 am ET Updated Jan 04, 2015

Weight Training: If You Aren't, You Should Be

Have you ever heard of a barbell or dumbbell? If you don't know, they are the scary metal objects Arnold Schwarzenegger embraced so endearingly in the popular documentary "Pumping Iron." When most people think of weight lifting they visualize the imagery portrayed in this film -- oversized hyper-masculine bodybuilders yelling in agony, aggressively attempting to lift heavy weights. With this connotation in mind many people are fearful of the weight room.

As a personal trainer I see people sign up daily for gym memberships. Unfortunately- from the very first day through several New Year's resolutions later, most of them never actually make it to the weight room floor. That's the section where the good old-fashioned barbells and dumbbells are.

The ubiquitous goal to lose weight and burn fat has everyone running for the treadmill or elliptical to do cardio until their lungs fall out. Occasionally the more adventurous ones will rub shoulders with some of the machine weights but nothing further. A routine like this might deliver initial results to our cardio-workout-faithfuls but after a while these individuals will find themselves at a plateau.

Performance coach Tevan Everett explains, "cardio machines can be effective weight loss tools however; this low intensity training will only produce a limited amount of results if done alone." Releasing your apprehension of weight training could be the difference maker in helping you to achieve maximum health and fitness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the advantages of weight training are widely diverse. The most widely recognized benefit is the improvement of lean muscle mass. Another major advantage is an increased metabolism. The more muscles you have the higher your metabolism will be, and the more calories your body will burn for energy.

The improvement of bone and joint function is also a positive side effect noted by Mayo. This happens through increased ligament and tendon strength -- a great benefit to the elderly population. The American Diabetes Association supports the research claims that resistance training can improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, helping to minimize the occurrence of preventable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

NYC performance expert and Equinox trainer David Jeanty believes that resistance training via weight lifting is the most effective form of exercise. "Cardio workouts and bodyweight exercises are great choices, but nothing elicits more of a dramatic response from the body than lifting weights."

For our weight loss-focused cardio-crunching folks, resistance training can also be an effective weight management tool. David tells us, "by doing resistance training you will burn those deep layers of body fat and build lean muscle which will help you to burn more fat throughout the day." With an increase in muscle mass and a decline in body fat, the bodies' resting metabolic rate (caloric burn rate) becomes higher. As mentioned earlier, this is due to the simple fact that muscle requires more energy to operate.

An added benefit provided by weight training is known as EPOC. David explains, "an intense weight session is the best way to create the fat burning sensation EPOC which is short for 'excess post exercise oxygen consumption.'" This means you will have a heightened metabolism throughout the day, even after exercising. As a result, while you sit on the couch watching TV your body will be working harder and expending more calories to recover from the workout.

Often when I introduce the idea of weight lifting to gym members the excuses I hear back are across the board. For women it's usually the fear of growing too big and muscular. Older people fear injury. And frankly, some people just have no idea where or how to begin.

First off, lose the worry of gaining too much muscle. Building a muscular physique is not that easy. Ask any of the several guys groaning and grunting in the corner of the gym mercilessly doing bicep curls by the mirror. There is a specific resistance training method known as hypertrophy (muscular growth = hypertrophy, but we won't go there now) that stimulates this unwanted muscular growth. Keep the weight lighter and the reps higher to ensure that this does not occur.

If you are one of those fearful of injury, exercise machines are sometimes more dangerous than free weights (dumbbell and barbell). People have a tendency to feel a false sense of security on machines and as a result they end up injuring themselves trying to do too much.

Below is a list of basic exercises you can do using weights to execute an efficient total body workout. Watch the video for a demonstration of proper technique.

1) Dumbbell shoulder press
2) Barbell squat
3) Barbell bench
4) Dumbbell row
5) Dumbbell step up

Fear not the dumbbell and the barbell! Join hands with the weighted opposition and journey into a new relationship with fitness. Rev up your metabolism, increase your strength, and improve your overall well being. If it is in the budget, hire a personal trainer to help guide you. You can take advantage of their professional knowledge to ensure safety and to design a workout routine that is specific to your goals.