PUBLISHED: 11:12 AM on Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Change the way you weight train

Courtesy photo
Anyone who has ever set foot into a gym has seen them - the serious weight trainers who perform set after set of dumbbell curls to build up their biceps. Maybe you're one of them.

Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove, co-authors of "The New Rules of Lifting," say you may be wasting your time and energy.

Six key movements give you all the workout you'll ever need, Schuler said, and the biceps curl isn't one of them.

"Your biceps get all the work they need from rows, chin-ups and other pulling exercises," he said. "They don't really need any special attention to gain (size) in proportion to the rest of your muscles."

The key six are the squat, deadlift, lunge, pushing exercises, pulling exercises and twisting exercises.

Schuler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and journalist, and Cosgrove, a strength and conditioning coach, have taken a wealth of weight training information and debunked, rejected and refined the data into this new tome. The pair advocate a different way to look at your physique and your training. If you focus on integrated movements, rather than exercises chosen for their ability to isolate body parts, you'll build the same muscles but end up with a body that knows how to use them.

"Exercises that use lots of muscles in coordinated action are better than those that force muscles to work in isolation," Schuler said.

"The great thing about squats is that is uses virtually all the muscles in your lower body in one movement."

And the movement in squats is functional, helping people do little things like getting out of a chair.

"The lunge is crucial to everyday physical well-being," Schuler said of the movement that focuses on lower-body muscles and also the hip flexors. "The shorter your strides (from less flexible hip flexors), the less mobile and agile you become. When mobility and agility go, you're just one slip or tumble away from the assisted-living facility."

Everything in real life involves a series of bends and twists, they said: getting out of bed, getting in and out of a car. The importance of midsection fitness is endurance, strength and flexibility to prevent back injuries.

Injury prevention is also on the mind of Pete Ynojosa, certified personal trainer at the South Family YMCA. Warming up the body before hitting the weights is of paramount importance.

"Stretch the area you'll be working," he said. "For upper body work, it's important to warm up the rotator cuff because it's real delicate. Just keep it basic: no more than 5-pound (weights during the warm-up) to prevent injury."

Then go into specific warm-up sets of the muscle groups to be worked, Ynojosa said.

"Do a few lightweight reps, not a full set," he said. "Check your body to make sure everything's in line. Then, the first set, make it nice, light and easy."

Schuler and Cosgrove wrote a lot about the things they liked. They also wrote about what they hate - machine-based weight lifting.

"The range of motion (of the machine) doesn't allow the shoulders and chest to choose their own range of motion," Schuler said.

Ynojosa agreed, up to a point.

"Machines have their function. They serve a purpose - to get (someone) motivated when they start seeing results (from exercising)."

Ynojosa, who has been a personal trainer at the YMCA for seven years and has been a competitive weight lifter for five, also agreed with the authors when they said, "Everything works but nothing works forever."

"You don't want to get stuck in a rut," Ynojosa said. "You'll have to change up (your workout) when you plateau."