After being a physically inactive guy all my life, I joined a gym for the first time about a decade ago. My intention was to get active, gain some strength and muscle in the process. The gym experience turned out to be a disaster! I had no idea about the body and how to work its various muscles. The trainers handed me a cookie-cutter workout program and totally ignored me. It looked like the gym was a rip off for underweight guys (like me) and overweight people. The trainers spent all their time and attention on people who did not need any help: muscular guys grunting at their weights and shapely women bending at their routines.
Thankfully, I have gotten more active and fitter (?) over the years since. But, I recently sprained my back after doing a back extension and could not bend for a couple of days. That experience awoke me to the fact that I needed to have a basic understanding of the body and how to work it safely at the gym. I picked up Weight Training for Dummies (Third Edition), which to my pleasant surprise is written by three ladies: Liz Neporent, Suzanne Schlosberg and Shirley Archer. Like most Dummies books, the book is aimed at total newbies who want to learn about the body and how to work it using weights for strength and endurance.
Parts I and II of the book give an introduction to weight training. If like me, you too felt overwhelmed and awkward looking at all the machines, the weights and the people working out, these pages are a godsend! Nothing is spared, all the exercise/gym jargon and the complex-looking equipment are demystified. The authors explain how weight training is useful for anyone, whether your aim is to gain endurance or to gain strength. In this part and in the rest of the book, the authors constantly point out how to exercise safely without harming any muscle or getting injured.
Part III is the meat of the book which describes the exercises for the different parts of the body. I have read innumerable articles on the Internet and complex body charts at gyms, but this book easily beats them all in its clarity. It breaks the body down into back, chest, shoulders, arms, abdominals, butt-legs and the core. There are 1-2 major muscles in each of these areas and the book elaborates on exercises for each of them. For each such major muscle, at least 3 kinds of exercises are described: using a machine, using free weights (dumbbells or barbells) and using your own body weight. I found this kind of breakdown very useful since knowing this I can work out no matter where I am: at the gym, at the park or at home. Knowledge is truly liberating! 🙂
Part IV helps the reader create workout programs to accomplish their objectives. For example, one might design a full-body routine or a split routine that covers upper-body one day and the lower body on another day. Part V has the Part of Tens chapters, with ten ways to use a rubber band and exercise ball for fitness. And not to forget that like all Dummies books, this one too has some rib-tickling cartoons by Rich Tennant.
I definitely think that it is the female touch in this book that makes the subject of weight training so refreshing and easy. This book is for you if you find the testosterone-filled gym atmosphere nauseating or intimidating. Read this book and you will be able to confidently workout at any place with any equipment and easily talk about curls, glutes or reps without breaking a sweat! 😉 Whether you want to work your body for endurance or strength, this is a good reference. Who knows, it might turn you into a gym rat! 🙂