My intention in writing this article is to pass along the most fundamental, but equally most important information I can about resistance training using weights. While there are a great many authors on this subject, my purpose is to guide you in this theater in accomplishing a strong, flexible, and functional body well into old age.

Use It or Lose It

Our muscles and skeleton provide a frame of reference for each other. As our need for strength increases, even if modestly, our frame or skeleton will also strengthen to provide a frame of reference. In other words, as our muscles grow and strengthen, our bones will have to as well to deal with the stress. If a person does little in the way of exercise, the muscles will stay in a weakened state, and consequently, so will your bones. As we age, this becomes more of an issue in being able to withstand the most basic of physical stresses and only hastens our physical demise and potential for injury. Weight training can and will stave off the ravages of time and decreasing hormonal output and keep our bodies strong and better able to repair themselves, and we will maintain increased physical and mental vigor.

While it is never too late to begin such a program, the earlier you start in life, the better your discipline and training will become. I have been weight training for over thirty years as well as incorporating body weight training and what Charles Atlas used to refer to as dynamic tension. As I now have the opportunity to interview many people at gyms, I have come to see how little they really understand of what they’re doing and how little endurance most of them have.

Frequency Is Most Important

There is a plethora of information on types of exercise and routines to use. The single most important thing in all these is frequency of training. Most folks will never win a marathon or become a champion fighter by only training once a week. With regard to weight training, I diverge from the crowd. Most of the people I speak to train each muscle group only once per week. I train each group three times per week. For years I stuck with twice a week, until I came across a program from the Soviet Bloc in 1989 that advocated training three times per week; this program created a fundamental change in my whole approach. I realize I am hard-core and wouldn’t ask the average person to try this as it is very taxing in terms of effort and time. So many people tell me that they are too sore to train twice a week per muscle group and that I must have good genetics to be able to recover so well and still train like this at the ripe old age of forty-six. This is hogwash. Any and all training routines are about discipline first. Nothing will be gained without effort and dedication. I was born a chronic asthmatic, and if I can manage a two-day split, then anyone can manage a three-day split (the entire body worked out in three days).

Frequency also applies to the amount of repetitions per set. Using a higher number of reps (the number of times you press or pull the weight before failure) will build strength and endurance. Endurance is just as or more important than strength alone. Remember the joke Robert Duvall told Sean Penn about the bulls in the movie Colors? Strength means very little if you’ve blown yourself away after only sixty seconds of effort.

If It Hurts, Don’t Do It

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t believe how many people do exercises in a fashion that is unnatural for the body. Getting hit by a car years ago showed me pretty quickly what works and what doesn’t for my back. I have known so many people who are in constant pain because of constantly performing the same exercises because they were told they should. Listen to your body. Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. Figure it out. Change the way you do the exercise, and see if that makes a difference. If you keep pushing through the pain, you will be headed for surgery or incapacity. This will be counterproductive to achieving a strong body. Whenever possible, use dumbbells. These allow for a broad range of motion and certainly task the muscles more effectively than any bar can do. If you experience pain when pressing a bar overhead, you may find this goes away by simply using dumbbells and rotating your hands ninety degrees. Simple, but it works.

Isolating the Muscle Isolates the Joint

Again, I will break precedent with so many in the weight lifting field. Your limiting factor in weight training or any other form of exercise is how well your tendons and ligaments deal with the stress. Connective tissue takes much longer to strengthen or repair if damaged. Your body was never meant to push or pull in an isolated manner. When you pick up a child or push a wheelbarrow, your body works as a cohesive unit. If you use equipment that isolates a particular muscle group, such as a preacher bench for bicep curls, you also focus undue stress on your elbows. Most folks who use a preacher have ripping pain in their elbows as they curl. And yet they continue as they love the pump. To what end? When you can’t pick up your kid anymore because of shoulder or elbow pain, how are you better off? Use exercises that allow your body to support what you’re doing.

A good many of gym exercises and the equipment to perform them are a waste of time and can lead to debilitating injury.

Slow and Steady

To stay healthy and continue to build strength and endurance, you should always focus on style and never speed. I know all about the speed training techniques and the reasoning behind them. I also know all about ripped muscles and, worse, detached or torn tendons. Fast twitch muscle, if trained strong enough, is capable of overcoming the associated tendons. It is all too easy to cause injury when you move a weight too fast.

When you have to push a car, you apply yourself in the correct manner automatically. If you took a good run at the car and slammed into it, the car probably wouldn’t budge, and you would be the worse off for trying.

No Excuses

Now I know there are a great many people who will say that they can’t afford the expense or time of a gym or any training program that keeps them from home. I’d like to think I’ve heard all the excuses. Buy a pull-up/dip station for your home. Weight training is not limited to iron weights. You carry around the best tool possible: your body. Most weight lifters will never accomplish ten reps of pull-ups, but with a little time and work, you will be able to perform twenty to twenty-five of these nonstop. The same goes with dips. Several sets of these two or three times a week will give you incredibly strong shoulder, back, and chest muscles. Look at the bodies of gymnasts. Again, endurance is key to overall strength and longevity.

There is a gentleman by the name of Matt Furey who has numerous publications about body weight training. These are definitely worth looking into as you will be challenged to perform even a few reps when you first get started. The only equipment you’ll need to bring to the party is your body. Now you have no excuse not to get started.

Stretch, Stretch, and Stretch

Ever marvel at the power and speed of cats? Watch their stretching routine. The joints are opened, never compressed. This allows power to flow effortlessly. Look at how many people are stooped and inflexible in their older years. This is due to inactivity, both muscular contraction and expansion or stretching. Stretching will keep the tendons and joints flexible and impart greater strength to the body than resistance training alone. I know too many people who are broken down in their prime due to too much strain on their bodies without the counterbalance of stretching. This is probably the most overlooked area of strength building. Yoga is a marvelous adjunct to any training routine.

Vary Your Workout

Routine: the word implies dull and dead-end. In my program, I have two light days with high reps, two medium days with more weight and moderately high reps, and two power days with lower reps and heavy weight. Don’t always start with the same body part. Change the type of exercise for each body part every two weeks or so. Stay on high reps (up to twenty) for a month, and then switch to lower reps with greater weight for a month. Your body will continually respond and adapt. If you become bored, your training—and consequently, your results—will reflect this.

Last but Not Least

Whatever you do, do it for you. If you wish to alter your being because somebody else is pushing your buttons, you won’t last long. Make it a lifelong commitment for a long and healthy life. My personal motto here is “And the weak shall inherit the girth.”

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Rick Kampen lives just outside Charlotte, North Carolina. He is forty-six years old and has been weight and resistance training for thirty-one years. He owns a nutritional supplement store in Charlotte with an up-and-coming Web site. Rick has taken the best of twenty-six years of self-defense training with various styles and is developing his own style with the fulfillment of his ambition to perfect the two-hit fight. Married with six kids and living on a small farm that houses his wife’s mobile petting zoo, Rick is the lucky one who gets to roll the thousand-pound round bales of hay as far as three acres’ distance out to the animals as he is too poor to afford a tractor.