Woman lifting weights.
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Now that Adam Campbell, fitness director of Women's Health and author of The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises, has given you 20 reasons to start lifting weights, he's answering your next question: How do I start training?
Learn enough about fitness, and you'll probably decide that the answer to just about every workout question should start with the same two words: "It depends." After all, every person and situation is unique, and there's more than one way to achieve most goals. That's why The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises provides you with basic principles and general guidelines, not unbreakable commandments. I've simply tackled the questions I'm asked most frequently, and given you my take based on what I've learned over the years. Think of it as the CliffsNotes for my version of Training 101. The best part: I only use the word "caveat" once.

What's the difference between a repetition and a set?
Simple: If someone tells you to do 10 push-ups, they're telling you to do 10 repetitions of the push-up. If you go ahead and do the 10 push-ups, it means you will have done one set of 10 repetitions. If you rest a minute and do another 10 repetitions, you will have done two sets of the push-up.

How many repetitions should I do?
When it comes to your workout, this is always the first question you should ask. Why? Because it forces you to decide what your main goal is. For instance, do you want lose fat faster or build more muscle? The answer will determine the number of reps you do. Just make your choice, then use the guidelines that follow to find the rep range you need.

If you want to lose fat faster:
This one's easy: All the top trainers I know have found that doing 8 to 15 repetitions works the best for fat loss. And perhaps it's no wonder, since research shows that performing sets in that same range stimulates the greatest increase in fat-burning hormones, compared with doing a greater or fewer number of repetitions. Of course, 8 to 15 reps is a fairly broad recommendation. So you'll need to break it down further. A good approach: Use three smaller rep ranges to vary your workouts while staying between 8 to 15 repetitions. Examples:
  • 12 to 15 reps
  • 10 to 12 reps
  • 8 to 10 reps
All of these rep ranges are effective for burning fat. So choose one—12 to 15 reps is a great place to start, especially for beginners—and then switch to another every two to four weeks.

What if you want to build more muscle?


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