Classes are wildly popular in most gyms. You get a teacher who guides the group, you have a certain comradship which builds up over the course of time, a routine and a set time to exercise, and the safety of being a face in the crowd. The biggest benefit is that you learn to do something which is good for you. There are lots of different sorts of classes you can take but I am going to put them into two categories for the sake of clarity: the cardio classes where you move a lot and get your heart rate up, and the strength classes. Let’s start with the strength classes first and save cardio for a separate blog later.
If you want to develop your muscles which will help you lose weight and make you look better, strength training classes are for you. Generally, you stand in one spot and lift weights. There are “Boot Camp” classes and spinning classes where you are usually confined to one spot but those are meant to get your heart rate up and pure strength classes are meant to develop muscle.
There are brands of strength classes like “Body Pump” or “Urban Iron” and most of them use a bar with different weights you can chooses to lift to music. The class theory is lots of repetitions with relatively low weights concentrating on different muscle groups as you go along. One class I was in I counted 92 repetitions in about 5 minutes (that was squats for the quads and glutes). You get the picture. In the classes I have been in the groups targeted are: back/hams/glutes, chest, abs, shoulders, triceps, biceps, core, quads, and general warm up.
It isn’t really possible to totally isolate a muscle group, they all work together. So, if you are trying to develop your biceps, it is practically impossible not to involve a lot of the rest of you, too, like your: lats, forearms, shoulders, and chest and abs. You can’t really spot develop but you can develop a large muscle group and certainly strengthen one group as well. Just remember you are all connected.
Start out slow in weighlifting and go up slowly as well. Please don’t start off by loading up the bar with as much weight as it will hold and lifting it come hell or high water. You can end up with a nasty case of tendinitis which will take out out of the class for 6-8 weeks. Not worth it. Start with light weights, you will get plenty of repetitions to keep you working.
Concentrate on form. Again, you don’t want to hurt your back or knees because you were trying to show off. Also, I will be frank, showing off is considered “not in the spirit” of weightlifting. So drama, noise, strutting, well…not.
Weightlifting is probably one of the most contemplative exercises I have ever done because it’s just you showing you what you can do. Even in a class, it’s not a team sport and it’s actually very quiet and takes great concentration. There is a serious side to it, solemn even. That is one of the great attractants of weightlifting, a certain humble edge and seriousness of purpose. There isn’t the posing of yoga, the yelling of zumba, or grim grind of spinning.
Weightlifting classes compete somewhat with freeweights. The latter is totally outside the classroom and at most with a buddy or “spotter”. Classes find you among people but you are your own judge of whether or not you can lift something and put it down successfully.
Heart rates are usually lower for weight lifting classes than for cardio, and you won’t lose as much weight in them either, ironically. I usually burn about 250 calories in a weightlifting class of an hour but I can push myself to 300-350 calories with increasing weights, repetitions (just one or two more at the beginning, participating in the class demo at the beginning, and making sure that you put your weights away and helping putting away others’ gear will tack on about 25 calories and sometimes more).
You will learn how much weight you can lift in 5 minute shifts. There are usually small weights to tack on to bring up the total to the next level or to try out and see if you are ready to go up. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t eternally progress, everyone has a limit and that means concentrate on form and duration.
Women look better after weightlifting. I have not seen anyone muscle bound, and I have been lifting for 5 years now and no one has stopped me on the street to ask how I ended up looking like Charles Atlas BUT I have gotten a lot of compliments. Being stronger is being beautiful. I look great in a strapless black evening dress. Think Lisa Lyons (look her up…very entertaining).
Finally, what to wear? Something simple and comfortable. Good flat bottom sneakers (like running shoes where the sole is thick and flares out for stability), shorts if you are a man (I wear workout pants or capris), a shirt which does not constrict you (bra if you are a woman but it does not have to smash you because you are not going to be leaping around). I bring water to class (I always do that) and a towel because I will sweat. I wear my heart rate monitor to show myself how hard I am working (really helps), and weightlifting gloves.
Gloves are good because the weakest part of your body in weightlifting is your hands. I can pick up a lot more weight than my hands will let me. You have to keep your grip on the bar as well. Gloves have a suede palm which helps you grip your bar and makes you safer and more comfortable. They are fingerless so you can feel the things you need to pick up, put on and off; and they protect your knuckles. I buy mine on amazon.com and there are a lot of different brands. Target sells them, too, as well as sporting goods stores in your neighborhood.
I lost 25 lbs last year and weightlifting was one of the cornerstones of my effort. I highly recommend it as a part of everyone’s routine. Doing it right takes a bit of practice, but it is so worth it. More later.