Strength Training Without Injury

Strength Training Without Injury

Since Arnold Schwarzenegger flaunted his bulging biceps and quads in the 1977 docudrama "Pumping Iron," the rule of thigh (if not thumb) has been that to get strong you need to lift weights that are uber-heavy -- or collapse trying.

Well, we have a new mantra: Pump less and flex more. We've said it before: Start light. There's no shame in using 1-, 2-, 3-, or 5-pound weights. The point is to do what you can until the muscle you're using is fatigued.

Working out at 30% of your maximum strength until you are too fatigued to do one more rep is the smart, safe way to do strength training (muscle fatigue can occur in as little as 2 minutes), so use weights that are just a third of the heaviest weight you can safely manage. For example, if you can do one biceps curl with a 10-pound weight that you curl up to your shoulder, a 3-pound weight is smart for reps.

The 30% approach builds serious muscle strength and keeps the whole body humming at a higher burn rate for longer than if you pumped fewer but heavier reps. It also helps fight off extra pounds, keep diabetes at bay, and avoid injury to tendons and ligaments, so if you want to get rid of belly fat -- as well as chase away anxiety -- take the light and long road to muscle tone and power.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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