Most of us are aware that training with weights can bring a range of health benefits, but not everyone understands how to make it work.

Successful weight training is based on the principle of progressive overload. What this means in practice, is you pushing your skeletal muscles harder than they are used to working.

When you lift, your muscle fibres suffer tiny tears. What happens next is rather complicated and this is not the place for a scientific description. Suffice to say that, in the repair process, the muscle concerned ends up a little larger and stronger than it was before. One of my weight-training books describes the effect as being like nailing a new piece of 6 x 4” wood to a rickety fence post! It’s quite an apt description.

So, how do we do it right? Well, the term ‘progressive overload’ provides the clues. Physiques like Arnold’s can’t be achieved overnight, but are the result of steady increases in resistance (weight) over time. If you try and shortcut the process, you’ll invariably crash.

A useful rule of thumb is that, after lifting, you should feel a pleasant tightness in your muscles. By contrast, pain and inflammation are sure signs that you’re overdoing it. Your body might be able to cope with that for a while, but if you carry on in that vein, you’re likely to injure yourself.

That said, you do need to work hard enough. The term ‘overload’ implies pushing your muscles to their limits. If you never get anywhere near that, then you could lift for years without seeing any increase in size or appreciable gains in strength.

It’s encouraging to know that, if we apply (and continue to apply) the right principles, we can all get there in the end. Let’s go! :-)

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