As you age, lean muscle mass naturally decreases. Without regular strength-training sessions, that muscle will be replaced with fat, according to MayoClinic.com. But just two 20-minute weight sessions per week can slow down or halt that process, along with increasing bone density, joint flexibility and helping with weight control. If you’re new to weight training, begin with a plan using weight machines. They isolate your muscles to strengthen them individually and force you into using proper form, reducing the risk of injury.
Major Muscle Groups
A comprehensive fitness plan using weight machines requires targeting all major muscle groups. This includes the abdominals; the arms, including biceps and triceps; back, including the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids; legs, including hips, quads, hamstrings and calves; chest; and shoulders. According to “Fitness” magazine, some of the top weight machines to target these muscle groups include the incline chest press, assisted chinup machine, lateral raise machine, cable machine overhead triceps extension, cable machine biceps curl, leg press, prone hamstring curl machine and cable machine standing leg lifts.
Duration and Frequency
Aim to hit the weight machines at least two to three times per week for 20 to 30 minutes per session, recommends MayoClinic.com. On each machine, a single set of 12 repetitions will build muscle efficiently. But doing two to three sets will garner even more health benefits, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For safety, review the instruction panel on the machine before lifting a weight.
Amount of Weight
Lifting weights that are too heavy puts you at risk for injury, while weights that are too light won’t build muscle as quickly. Find weights that are just right by using an amount that tires your muscles after 12 to 15 reps; you should just barely be able to eke out the final repetition. If you’re disheartened that you can’t lift as much weight as you’d like, be patient – as your tendons, ligaments and muscles strengthen, you can move up in the amount of weight.
Full-Body vs. Split-Body Routine
Some people choose to spend their weight machine sessions working out each muscle group, so they have to spend fewer days in the gym. Others would rather go to the gym daily and work a specific muscle group, such as chest and back on Mondays, legs on Tuesday, arms and shoulders on Wednesday, and so on. The choice rests on your schedule and preferences. But no matter which method you take, give your muscles a chance to recover for at least 24 hours. If you work the full body, wait at least 24 to 48 hours before lifting another weight. If you only work your arms on Monday, don’t target those muscle groups until at least Wednesday. Muscles repair and grow stronger with rest, and not giving your body time to recover can lead to overtraining injuries.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.