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Muscle Development Essay, Research Paper
The Upper Body
People lift weights for a couple different reasons. They lift to make them more physically able to play sports, so they can feel fit and stronger, and most of the people who lift weights just want a more muscular appearance. It’s true, for the most part a muscular body is an attractive body. However, there is a limit. Most people don’t find professional weight lifters attractive, they think that a body that big and toned is disgusting. Physically, regular exercise helps develop muscle tone and strength and control weight. Besides strengthening the muscles, including the involuntary muscles like the heart, it is believed to make the bones stronger by increasing calcium uptake. It has also been proved to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Mentally, lifting helps contribute to a feeling of well-being and helps to relieve stress. Regular exercise also postpones the aging process by up to 50%.
The best way to start weightlifting is to set goals and to be motivated to accomplish those goals. An overweight man should set a goal of how much weight he wants to lose and how he wants his body to look after lifting for a period of time. Even if you had a hard day at work and don’t feel motivated to lift, you should still do at least two or three sets. This keeps the muscles stimulated so they don’t get weaker. However, before anyone starts lifting, they should have a physical examination from a doctor to make sure they are in good enough shape and will not hurt themselves.
There are two kinds of muscle contractions, concentric and eccentric. Concentric contractions lift an object and eccentric contractions lower the object. Surprisingly, eccentric contractions use more energy. This is because that is when the oxygen and carbon dioxide are carried away by the active cells.
When people lift, they lift weight in sets and repetitions, commonly called reps. One rep is doing an exercise one time and a set is a number of reps at a time. For example, you can three sets of ten reps. Today training three times a week is too much. Most people only work a certain muscle once or twice a week for fullest recuperation. When you lift weights, your muscles tear and need time to heal themselves. When they heal they get bigger and stronger. Stretching is one of the most important things in weightlifting. It helps a lot in keeping you from getting hurt by preventing tears in the muscles and tendons. You should stretch before and after you lift. You should also do a couple of warm-up exercises. This helps to get the blood flowing through the muscles. A few good warm-up exercises include walking, running, biking, swimming or playing a sport.
Maximum strength is said to be best achieved by doing five to eight sets of three to four reps. If you want to build mass, make your muscles look bigger, do sets with eight to twelve reps. If you want to get toned, make your muscles look more defined, do three sets of twenty reps. Most body builders nowadays do either five normal sets or one to two intense sets. One thing to keep in mind is that form is about as important as how much weight you use. It is better to use a moderate amount of weight with good form than to use too much weight so it ruins your form.
Now to start learning what kind of exercises should be used to develop specific muscles. The two major muscles in the arms are the biceps and triceps. The best exercises to work the biceps are curls. The four most popular types of curls are the barbell curls, the incline barbell curls, the barbell preacher curls, and the dumbbell concentration curls. All of the curls should be performed with an open-grip, your thumbs underneath the bar next to the rest of your hand.
The barbell curls work on building more mass for the largest belly of the biceps. This exercise is performed by standing straight holding a moderately heavy dumbbell at your hips with your arms straight. Your arms should be tight up against your body and your should be wider than your shoulders. Keep your wrists locked and do not move your elbows. Now lift it up to your chest. Once it is up to your chest, hold it and then lower it down slowly. Do not just drop it because the lowering of it strengthens your muscles also.
The incline dumbbell curls stretch the biceps and work the belly and some of the lower biceps. To perform the exercise, sit on a 45 degree angle bench. Have a dumbbell in each arm, holding them just above your chest. Lower the dumbbells slowly until your arms are just about to lock. If you let them lock it is much harder, but it also helps work your muscles a little bit more. Once your reach the down position, curl the bells explosively but under control. Once up at the top again you can rest for a second thanks to negative resistance which holds the weight by your chest. This exercise is hard to do at first so you might be better off getting a spotter to keep your elbows from moving.
The barbell preacher curls are similar to the barbell curls except you are sitting down and your arms are resting on an incline platform. Preacher curls work only the lower biceps. You sit upright on the bench with your armpits resting on the edge of the inclined platform. Hold the bar down with your arms locked. Then thrust it upward fast but under control. Once the weight is straight up in the air, lower the weight down slowly. This exercise is good because it is a lot easier to use good form. Your elbows will not want to move backwards like in the other curling exercises.
The dumbbell concentration curls develop the peak of the biceps by developing the outside head. This exercise will tone the muscles well. Sit on the edge of a bench with one arm resting on your leg. With the weight in the other hand, that arm will naturally be pulled to the center of your body and towards the ground. Pull the weight up towards the leg with your arm resting on it. Your shoulders will have to be rotated to do this. Lift the weight until your arms are at a 90 degree angle. Do not lift the weight straight out in front of you. You will know if you are doing this exercise right if your arms cramp when you finish.
The best exercises to work the triceps are the close-grip bench press, and triceps pushdowns. The close-grip bench press is very similar to the normal bench press, except your hands are much closer together. This exercise works the head of the triceps which is most of the muscle. Therefore, this is a great mass builder. Lay down on a bench like the regular bench press. When you grip the bar, touch your thumbs together. After your hands are lined up, pull your thumbs back in. Lower the weight to your chest and the thrust it back up.
To perform triceps pushdowns, you need a universal machine with a stack. There is a bar hanging in the air. Grip it with your hands a couple of inches apart. Start by holding the weight with your arms at 90 degree angles. Push the weight down until your arms lock. Once they have locked, let the weight up slowly. This exercise is another one that is hard to keep your elbows in a good position.
The major muscle in your chest are your pectorals. The most common exercise for the pecs is the bench press. This is probably the common lift. A lot of people use their max lift, doing only one rep, to compare strength with other people. You lay flat on your back on the bench. There will be a bar above your head. Grip it with your hands just wider apart than your shoulders. Slowly lower the weight down to your chest. As soon as it touches your chest, thrust it back up with all your energy.
The incline bench press is another good exercise for the pecs. It works the higher part of the pecs. It is exactly the same as the bench press, except you are on about a 45 degree angle. You will not be able to do nearly as much weight with this one because it uses the smaller part of the pecs.
The major muscle in your shoulders are the deltoids. Your deltoids give you broader shoulders which makes you look very strong. A good exercise for the deltoids are upright rows. Stand up straight with legs spread about shoulder width apart. There are two ways to grip the bar to target different parts of the deltoids. Your can grip it with your hands a couple of inches apart or grip it shoulders’ width apart. Start with the weight at about your hips. Pull it straight up until you almost touch your neck and then lower it back down slowly.
Another common exercise is the seated dumbbell press. These also give your arms a good workout. Sit straight up on a bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about shoulders’ height. Thrust the weight straight up over your head and then lower it back down slowly.
Weightlifting is very addicting, but it is a good addiction. Once you start you will not want to stop and you will feel great about yourself. It is a great self-esteem booster.
Weight Training Video. Dir. Thomas Baechle. Human Kinetics Publishers, 1993.
Kennedy, Robert. Weight Training Basics. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1997.
Norris, Christopher M. Weight Training Principles and Practices. London: A&C Black Ltd, 1993.
Pauletto, Bruno. Strength Training for Coaches. Champaign: Leisure Press, 1991.
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