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Strength Training

This exercise program is designed for overweight people who intend to use exercise as a means to accelerate weight loss and to ensure maintenance afterwards. It is based on the method of lifting weights to burn fat and build muscle.

The Basic Equipment Women Men
The exercise program assumes that you do not have a lot of disposable income to buy expensive equipment, however you will need dumbbell pairs of different weights specified to the right.

As you get stronger, you will graduate to heavier sets of weights. New weights sell for about $1.00 per pound, but second hand weights can often be found at garage sales at much lower prices.
3 lbs 5 lbs
5 lbs 10 lbs
7 lbs 20 lbs
10 lbs 25 lbs

The Benefits of Weight Lifting

Increasing your muscle size raises your resting metabolic rate, which means that you burn extra calories for a much longer time after exercising than is the case with most other exercise activities. This body building regimen predominantly emphasizes upper body exercise for two reasons:

  1. Most overweight people already have developed strong muscles in their lower body, and have also often produced a lot of wear and tear in the process of carrying extra weight.
  2. Most people, and especially women, will exercise their lower body and neglect their upper body. Since with most activities initial gains are usually the greatest, we believe that it is appropriate to emphasize development of the upper body.

Some Basic Terminology

To begin, lift several weights and choose the one that for a given exercise you estimate that you can lift 10-15 times consecutively before fatigue prevents further lifting. Each lift is called a repetition, or “rep”. Each series of “reps” is a “set”. The goal when doing a set is to lift to fatigue, not to achieve a particular number of reps.

Getting Started

For the first month, do one set of each exercise 3 or more times a week. As the sets become easier and you are able to do 20 or more reps, increase the amount of weight.

For the second month, do two sets of each exercise. After two months, do three, or if time permits, four sets of each exercise. Increase the amount of weight used in each set.

The first set is a warm-up set done with a moderate amount of weight repeated until you are one or two reps from exhaustion. Rest a few minutes; then for a second set choose a greater weight and exercise to fatigue. Fatigue is achieved when you can’t complete the exercise motion again. Rest 3 to 4 minutes, then choose a heavier weight and exercise to fatigue again. If possible, increase the weight for a fourth time and exercise again. You may only be able to do two or three reps in the third and fourth sets. The process of increasing weights with each set is called “pyramiding up”.

When you go from doing two sets of each exercise to doing three or four sets, a much greater demand is made on both your muscles and your time. It is wise to break the exercise program into three different parts, do each part on a different day, and rotate back around. It is important also to keep a record of how many sets, reps, and how much weight is used with each set. A sample record is attached at the bottom of this description. If you are getting stronger, you are growing more muscle, and if you are growing more muscle, your resting caloric expenditure is getting larger, and you will lose more weight!

Jane's Exercise Workout Record
Exercise Weight Reps/Sets
Back - Shrugs 3 lbs 15 / 2
Back - Pullover 2 lbs 12 / 2
Back - Rows 3 lbs 12 / 2
Chest - Incline Fly, Flat 2 lbs 13 / 2

The following is a description of the exercises that we hope you will do. If arthritis or previous injuries make it difficult for you to follow these exercises, we can arrange an individual counseling session with our exercise physiologist to devise an exercise regimen better suited to your individual needs. The bottom line is, it is very important that you exercise, so the type of exercise you do should be pleasant enough that you’ll want to keep doing it. We think that weight lifting is the best exercise, but if you cannot make yourself do it regularly and you can stick to something else, do that instead. Any exercise is much better than no exercise at all.

Specific Exercises

The following exercises work sequentially the back; the front of the arms (biceps et. al.); the back of the arms (triceps); the chest; the shoulders; legs and abdomen.



Shrugs are done by holding weights in each hand and repeatedly raising the shoulders up towards the ears without bending or lifting the arms. It is the same kind of effort we use lifting suitcases, and can be done with fairly large weights. It is important not to lift large weights by bending over and straightening up – this can result in back injuries.

It is important not to lift large weights by bending over and straightening up. Back injuries can result.


Do this exercise lying flat; arms extended above th ehead. Raise weight overhead


Do rows with one hand resting on a chair and the weight in the other hand. Alternate hands for resting and lifting.


Exercises for the front of the arm (biceps and other muscles) may be done sitting or standing. Different muscles are used if the weight is gripped with the palm down or the palm up. The exercise is called a curl and should be done three different ways. With the first exercise,the Basic Curl, the weight is held palm up. The elbow position is kept fixed and the weight is raised and lowered. The second exercise is the same as the first except the weight is held with the palm down. The elbow position should not move during the first two curl exercises.

During the third exercise, the Advanced Curl, the elbow position is shifted from vertical to horizontal at the same time that the elbow is being flexed.

Basic Curl Palm Up and Palm Down Advanced Curl


Incline Fly:

Start with the arm straight down. This exercise is done with the palm facing upwards.

Fly Flat
Fly Incline
Fly Decline


Exercises for the back of the arm (triceps) are similar to those for the front of the arm in that different muscle fibers are involved when the exercise is done with palm(s) facing upwards and with the palm(s) facing down. Similar to those for the front of the arm, there are three different exercises for the back of the arm. This exercise is sometime called a French curl.

The first two exercises, the French Curl Lying Down, are done lying down with the elbow pointed towards the ceiling. The weight is raised until the arm is straight.

French Curl Lying Down French Curl Sitting

The third exercise for the back of the arm, the French Curl Sitting, is done reclining slightly or sitting but the elbows are lifted as high as possible and two hands are used to raise and lower the weight behind the head.


There are four different exercises for the shoulders.

Front Lift(Example on Left)
The arms are held straight.
Lateral Lift (Example on Right)
The arms are held straight but the weight is lifted to the side.
Seated Back Lift:
This exercise can be done lying on an inclined bench or simply lying in one’s own lap while seated.
Shoulder Press:
An alternate shoulder exercise is the shoulder press. It can be done as a substitute or in addition to the shoulder lifts.


Head and Shoulders Lift
The arms are held straight.

Head, Shoulders and Chest Lift
The arms are held straight while lifting the head, shoulders and chest off the ground.
Head, Shoulders and Chest Lift 2
Lift head, shoulders and chest with hands behind head

Head, Shoulders, Chest, and Legs Lift
Raise shoulders and feet from floor with hands behind head


Level 1 Level 2 Level 3

Hold on to an anchored chair or railing. Progress to each level by increasing depth until thighs are parallel to the floor but not deeper, so as to avoid injury to the knees.


Level 1 Level 2 Level 3

This exercise works both chest and back of the arms. Level 1 is performed with just the shoulders lifting off the ground. As you get stronger move on to Level 2 and 3. Level 2 pushes up the the full extension of the arm but the body is supported by the knees. Level 3, the most difficult, keeps the knees straight and supporting your body with your toes push off to the full extension of your arms.


Level 1 Level 2 Level 3

The above exercises, which do not require weights, can be done when weights are not available. All you need is a sturdy table. Level 1 pull up just enough to lift the shoulders off the ground. As you get stronger move on to Level 2 and 3. Level 2 lift up bending at the waist and pull up as far as you can. Level 3 keep waist straight and lift up as far as you can.