The number of repetitions and sets you do depends on your goals. If
you want to gain strength, do a few sets of a few reps with heavy weights.
But you may want muscular tone and endurance, which means a few sets of
many repetitions with light or medium weights.
results, use a resistance (weight) that makes your muscles tired
after 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. As you build muscle strength, you'll notice that you
can do more and more of each exercise. Some people will see a change in the way
their muscles look, but others will not see a change for a long while. A more important sign of progress is how many
repetitions and sets of an exercise you can do, or how
much easier it feels to do them. This means that your muscle fitness has
How can you get started?
It's always a good idea to
talk to your doctor before starting a resistance-lifting program, especially
if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or joint problems.
- Begin with professional instruction from a local YMCA, a fitness club, or an experienced
professional trainer. Set a goal such as body building, toning and
shaping certain body areas, or improving performance in a certain
- Don't forget to warm up. Take 5 to 10 minutes to walk or jog in place.
- Learn the proper form for each exercise, then always use it. The proper form ensures that you get the most out of
each exercise and helps prevent injuries. A good trainer will teach you about
- Allow at least 2 weeks for your
muscles and connective tissues to adjust to the new stresses and strains of
weight training. Start by lifting weights that are lighter than you can manage.
This helps you tell the difference between the normal aches and pains of weight
training and the pains of overuse or real damage.
- Work slowly, and move your muscles through their full range of motion. Fewer repetitions that are done slowly, using the entire length
of the muscle, are more effective than many repetitions that are done quickly
with only a short part of the muscle.
- Learn how to breathe properly when working with weights. Exhale when pushing against
the weight. Don't hold your breath at any point. Inhale when there is little or
- When you are ready, ask your trainer for guidance on:
- How often to
sets and repetitions. In general, do 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
Older adults and people who are frail can do 10 to 15 repetitions with less
- When to increase weight. Start with a weight you can lift 8
to 12 times but that gets hard to lift by the last repetition. When it gets
easier, add a little weight and go down to 8 repetitions, then gradually build
up to 12 repetitions again.
- Vary your program. Variety
keeps your interest up and injuries down. Mix muscle strengthening with
flexibility and aerobic work. Also, vary your work by alternating between:
- Your upper body and lower
- Free weights (barbells) and machines.
weights with fewer repetitions and lighter weights with more
By starting slowly and using the right technique, you may
find that weight training is an enjoyable and effective way to build