Despite popular misconceptions, weight training can actually be extremely beneficial for losing weight as well as building muscle. According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training boosts your metabolism, burns calories and strengthens your muscles, bones and joints. The basic principles of constructing a solid weight training plan are the same for everyone, regardless of gender, says Joe DeFranco, owner of DeFranco's Training in New Jersey. When training three days a week, there are several ways you can split up your routine.
Your training split refers to how you split up your body parts per session. When training three days a week there are two ways you can go. One option is a full-body workout where you train each major muscle group in every session. This is better for beginners and if you're looking to maximize calorie burn and fat loss, claims strength coach Marc Perry, author of the "Get Lean Guide." The other way is to follow a body-part split where you train two or three muscle groups per workout. Choose this option if you're looking to build muscle, advises Perry.
Whatever route you decide to take, the exercises you choose are of paramount importance. Exercises can be placed in two basic groups -- compounds, which hit multiple muscle groups and joints, and isolations, which focus on single muscles. Compound exercises should form the majority of your routine, says trainer Chad Waterbury, author of "Body of Fire." They hit more muscle fibers, increase strength faster and boost your metabolism. Isolations can be useful for hitting smaller muscle groups and improving your weak body parts. Focusing on compounds means doing squats or lunges instead of leg extensions, chest presses over flyes and so on.
In a gym there are hundreds of pieces of equipment you can use -- barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands, cable machines, fixed weight machines, kettlebell, body-weight movements, the list goes on. It's best to use a mix of equipment to get a variety of benefits; however, you should focus on free weights where possible. Free weights allow you to move in a more natural plane of motion and involve your stabilizer muscles more than machine training, which can force you into unnatural movement patterns, according to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois. Base your routine around barbell or dumbbell squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses and rows, as well as body-weight chinups, pushups and dips.
The key to succeeding in any weight training program is progressing at an appropriate rate. To begin with you may be able to add weight every session and perform extra sets and reps each time you train, but as your body becomes accustomed to weightlifting, progress may slow down. When this happens, start training in phases. Perform four weeks of fairly light high-volume work where you perform exercises for five sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Then switch to four weeks of heavier training, such as three to four sets of eight to 12 reps. Finish with two weeks of strength training -- two to three sets of four to six reps. Rest for a week, then start again at phase one, using heavier weights than before.
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