Saturday, October 8, 2011

For serious weight lifters only!

Or not. Because when it boils down to it, if you're strength training, you ARE lifting weights seriously. Are you not? So walk yourself right on over to that section of the gym where the "big boys" play. Ladies, it's not off limits to you. I promise. In fact, if you were to let your confidence fly in this previously uncharted section of the gym, I think you'd quickly discover that you're not the only chick doing so. And that the big boys themselves really don't care about you—in a good way! Sure, they might check you out, but they won't scoff at your usage of the "big boy toys." They certainly won't shoo you away, either.

This ain't no neighborhood tree house with a "no girls allowed" sign at the entrance. This is your gym. The one you pay for. So play where you pay. Yes, you CAN use the "big boy toys." Seriously, they're not just for the big boys. Let me explain.

The Weight Bench
This is where you'll typically find an Olympic bar, which usually clocks in at 45 pounds. Some gyms stock a woman's version, which clocks in at 33 pounds. You can use either version when bench pressing—certainly not without a spotter. The bench itself will sit flat, or at an incline/decline which serves to work your chest muscles from multiple angles. Use of the bar, of course, would replace anything you might do with free weights. And don't, for any reason, feel that you have to add weight plates to it. Work at your level, and work up toward the added weight. You can also forgo the bar completely, using the bench with free weights or to perform such exercises as decline planks and pushups, abdominal kickouts and step-ups.

The Olympic Bar
It isn't always associated with a bench. Some gyms have one on a rack so you can use it for dead lifts, bent rows, squats, lunges... Again, just be sure you've got someone nearby in case you run into trouble maneuvering the bar, the weight of which distributes differently than the free weights you're probably used to. Note that when you're squatting, you're probably holding it behind your head on your shoulders or in front of you on your upper arms (harder)—typical rack systems offer multiple resting spots which allow you to pick the bar up at a height that matches yours. You might also find pads and anchors that make holding the bar on your shoulders a little more comfortable.

The Free Weights
No, not the colorful covered weights near the ab or stretching section of your gym. I'm talking about the free weights that line the mirror or wall. The ones that increase in size—to a size that probably weighs as much as you do. They look tough, but they work just the same. And they're placed in front of the mirror for a reason. So use them. Don't be afraid to try a smaller set of curls with a weight that's one step heavier. You might not crank out as many repetitions, but you might be surprised to learn that one or two are possible. Again, use a spotter. And use just one, slightly heavier weight for squats and calf presses. Heck, use two slightly heavier weights for these exercises. Or maybe some walking lunges. But remember: Never push beyond your limits. Make sure to challenge your muscles, but avoid straining them. And always use a spotter if you're unsure of your abilities. Oh, and despite what the big boys do, never drop the weights on the gym floor. It literally kills the gym floor and is truly not the safest way to work. Not only could you smash a foot or toe, but you could pull something while moving in such an uncontrolled manner. And plus, it scares the shiz out of everyone around you.

Other Equipment
From the Smith machine to the decline row machine, to the assisted chin-up machine and the various types of free benches—use 'em, ladies. There are so many ways to do so. Learn by observing others, or by searching the Internet for exercises. Remember, play where you pay. The more you get yourself out of the corner, the more you get yourself off the machine circuit, well...the more advances you make in your fitness.

Do not, under any circumstances, forget this one thing: Always ask for a spot when you do a new exercise or use a new machine for the first time. Never, ever attempt either without a clear understanding of what lies ahead of you. If you don't know how to use something, ask. The trainers at your facility will be more than willing to help.

Your safety, more than your need to expand your horizons at the gym, is important. Always and forever.

Question: What's the most intimidating piece of equipment at your gym? Is there a certain area of the gym you avoid? Explain away, friends!

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