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Improving YOUR Workout Results with ANY Weightlifting Program

There's a long lost and often neglected technique that is a must for any weightlifting program- whether for fitness, bodybuilding, powerlifting, strength training or sports performance- that can increase the intensity and improve your results without changing a single component of your current program. Too often- athletes are zeroed in on how much they can lift, usually sacrificing quality technique, and almost always omitting this critical technique. This is especially true because this weightlifting technique will easily humble anyone focused on just how much weight they can lift.

With so much focus on your workout schedule, it's structure, the exercise movements involved, and how much weight you can use- there is a single, and probably the most important technique when training with weights that is often lost in the shuffle: flexing the target muscle at the top of the exercise movement. If you are new to weightraining- this might be the first time you have heard of this technique, and if you are an experienced weightlifter- you might have to honestly ask yourself when you used it last. This technique is much more important in activating muscle cells and working your muscles completely than how much weight youíre using. Often, when you are using too much weight- youíre calling other muscles into action to help with the weightload- taking focus away from the muscles you are targeting with that particular exercise movement.

To explain this technique, we must first break down an exercise into 3 steps, which works for any weightlifting movement. The first and the last steps are easy because they are essentially the same: the start and finish position. The middle or second step is where our focus is, and is often referred to as the "top" of the movement- where you have just completed the hardest part of the exercise movement- lifting the weight(s). Most athletes today focus on merely lifting the weight, then lowering it to the "bottom" of the movement, which are both the finish point and conversely the starting point for the next repetition. Before lowering the weight to finish the movement- flex and hold the muscles you are targeting for 2-3 seconds before lowering the weight to the finish point of the exercise. We'll break down the technique below using a couple of exercise movements to give you an example of integrating the technique into your weightlifting program.

FLAT BENCH PRESS- For this exercise, let's consider steps 1 and 3 the point where the barbell is lowered down to chest level- the start and finish point, or the "bottom" of the movement. Pressing the weight upward and straightening your arms would be the middle step or the "top" of the movement. It is at this point that you should "squeeze" and flex your pectoral (chest) muscles hard- for a 2-3 second count before lowering the bar back down to your chest. To take this a step further- lift you shoulders off of the bench, rolling them upward to squeeze your pectoral muscles even closer together activating even more muscle cells and fibers.

STANDING BICEP CURL- Whether you're using a barbell or a pair of dumbbells- steps 1 and 3 would be when the bar(s) are down at thigh level, waiting to be curled upward. When the weight is lifted up to your shoulder or chin level- this is considered the "top" of the movement, or the middle step. Note, that this is the point where you should be flexing your biceps (hard) and holding this flex for 2-3 seconds before lowering the bar back to the bottom or finish position.

SQUATS- For this exercise, let's consider steps 1 and 3 the point where your knees are bent, with your thighs parallel to the floor with the barbell behind your neck- the start and finish point. Pressing the weight upward and straightening your legs and standing upright would be the middle step or the "top" of the movement. It is at this point that you should "squeeze" and flex your quadriceps (thigh) muscles hard- for a 2-3 second count before bending your knees and lowering the weight back down to the squat position, or the bottom of the movement.

Applying this technique to the rest of your routine should be easy (in words anyway) using the above examples to give you an idea on how to use this technique with other weightlifting movements. A good tip for applying this to some exercises is while standing in front of the mirror- simulate the actual exercise movement while flexing (hard) the muscle(s) being targeted for a particular movement. This should be part of your mental visualization when actually using this technique while weightlifting- even when working your abs- don't forget those! If you apply this technique to every repetition, of every set, of every workout- you will be shocked at how deep the muscle burn can be, and how thoroughly your muscles will have been worked. As a matter of fact- at this point you will most likely have been "humbled", realizing that you will probably have to use less weight than you are currently using for each exercise.

Just remember- even though you might be using less weight- you are actually working your muscles more intensely, and the results will speak for themselves. Whether your goal is toning or building muscle, strength training, powerlifting or looking to increase your sports performance- using this technique will get you closer to your goals even faster. It is widely known and published in many medical and sports performance journals that shorter and more intense workout sessions are much more effective and increase your ability to properly recover than lengthy hours spent training- especially with weightlifting.

As we all strive to improve our weightlifting results- regardless of our specific goals, and with todayís busy schedules and way of life- it's even more important to train as efficiently as possible and get the most out of our exercise time. Just going through the motions is not the most efficient way to train, and using techniques like this to increase intensity do not add any time to your workout sessions yet- can improve your fitness results dramatically.

Fitness and Bodybuilding Faster - Weightlifting Safety and Training Tips for Fitness, Bodybuilding and Sports Performance

Welcome to the first of a series of Fitness and Bodybuilding Faster training articles. We have decided to lead the series building a solid foundation with one of the most important aspects of your fitness or bodybuilding program- regardless of your level of training or the type of training that you perform- weightlifting safety. Whether youíre a fitness enthusiast, bodybuilder or powerlifter, or just looking to increase your sports performance- safety should be the foundation of your training program.

The following weightlifting safety tips apply whether you train at home, a health club, a school weightlifting room, or in the bowels of a bodybuilding gym. Before you pick up that barbell or dumbbell, or park yourself on that next piece of workout equipment- you should familiarize yourself with the basic safety concepts associated with weightlifting.

With the fitness world constantly changing and evolving, and athletes continually fine tuning their training program- the one thing that should always remain constant is safety. We donít donít just mean for yourself, but for others working out around you. Follow these basic guidelines for lifting weights and training safer and reducing the risk of injury to you or others training with or around you.

Yourself and/or Your Training Partner

  • Make sure the equipment you use is in good working condition.

  • Use proper lifting techniques when moving weights around the room, and always be aware of other athletes around you so you donít interfere with their safety needs or cause them injury.

  • Make sure pins are secure in the machine prior to each lift, and that safety bars or catches are in place and properly positioned to be effective should you lose control of the weight(s).

  • Make sure there are no obstructions in the weightlifting area.

  • Wear proper footwear to ensure support, stability and good traction during the performance of each exercise, as well as protection for your toes and feet.

  • Most people should wait until they are at least 14 years old before trying the major lifts, such as squats, deadlift, and bench press. At 14, most athleteís bodies are mature enough for these compound exercises. The major lifts are likely to cause injury if you lift heavy weights without proper technique and the help of spotters, especially if your muscles are not mature enough to properly recover from previous sessions.

  • Find a mentor who can help you learn how to do the exercises correctly. Good technique is one of the most important ways to avoid injury. A high school coach or athletic trainer can help you. If a college is located in your town, the strength coach for the varsity athletic teams may be able to give you advice or recommend another instructor. Books, DVDís and videos can help, but nothing beats personal instruction from a properly accredited mentor.

  • Warm up and cool down for each session. Your warm-up session before lifting weights should include stretching exercises, some light calisthenics and/or aerobics to warm up your muscles with sufficient bloodflow. When you begin each weightlifting exercise, use small amounts of weight at first and then progress to heavier weights. Light stretching and additional aerobic work are also important during your cooldown to flush your muscles of waste byproducts accumulated during your physical workout.

  • Before performing an exercise, be sure of proper technique. Your success in training depends to a large extent upon the proper technique of the exercise movements. If you are performing an exercise for the first time- use a light amount of weight and focus on your form and technique first, before using heavy amounts of weight.

  • Always use additional safety accessories like: gloves, lifting belts for heavy lifting, wrist/bar straps to help with grip, and even joint wraps or braces for weak or recovering joints- usually lower back, elbows, knees wrists or ankles.

  • Donít lift heavy weights without spotters, safety racks or Smith-type machines that can control or isolate the weight if you should lose control or sustain an injury during the movement.

  • Donít lift more than you know you can lift safely as this could injury to yourself or others around you if you should lose control of the weight(s).

Workout Execution and Performance

  • Always assume proper lifting form. When lifting free weights from the floor, make sure that the feet are close to the exercise bar, the hips lowered in a squat position, the head is up, and the back is straight. Always lift with the legs and not the lower back.
  • When performing resistance exercises, you should always control the motion of the weight during all phases of the lift. This means having control of the movement when working with gravity as well as against gravity.
  • Use as much resistance as possible without sacrificing proper technique. The technique is of great importance in any exercise being performed to properly work the target muscles, and progress towards heavier weight resistance.
  • Donít ďcheatĒ on your technique just to lift heavier weights than you can properly and safely handle as this could cause injury or negate the focus on that muscle group by recruiting other non-targeted muscle groups to assist in moving the weight.
  • Follow a proper progression of weight advancement in each exercise. Resist the temptation to see how much you can lift. When too much emphasis is placed on the actual amount of weight being used, the result is almost always a reduction in form quality technique, and as a result- safety.
  • Weight should not be moved on the rebound, or ďbouncedĒ off of your body. Stay in control and lift through a full range of motion. The resistance should be controlled and moved smoothly and slowly with a definite pause and muscle flex at the work end of all movements, and at the bottom or start position.
  • Donít breathe in and out quickly or hold your breath when you lift heavy weights. You may faint and lose control of the weights. Breathe out slow and controlled when you perform the lift.
  • Concentrate on your exercises when performing them and the specific muscles youíre working. Do not carry on a conversation at the same time. Do not simply ďgo through the motionsĒ- you MUST maintain focus on safety while performing the exercise movement.

Fitness and weight training are not only beneficial to your body, but to your life. Being in top physical condition can not only help extend your life- it can make every day life more enjoyable and productive. We wish you all the luck in the fitness goals you set for yourself, and all of the benefits of not just the goals themselves- but the benefits along the path to those goals as well.

NOTE: Lifting weights can cause serious injury or even death to yourself or even those training around you. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT A PHYSICIAN FOR APPROVAL BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM.


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