Weight Training Question & Answer


Which chest exercise would aid in firming and lifting my breasts along with increase cleavage with low neckline sweaters?

Generally speaking, after the age of 20, we can lose 1/3 lb to 1/2 lb of muscle mass and gain 1 pound of fat each year. The exercises for the chest can restore muscle mass under the breast tissue. If the restoration of muscle mass is accompanied with a decrease of fat there may be no net change of girth, but a toning effect. Both an increase of muscle and decrease of fat will result in this toning effect. Although, this may not really restore the natural sagging of the breasts that occurs with age, particularly if you have ever nursed your children. As you know, the breast is an organ surrounded with fat tissue. Exercises for the upper chest may yield somewhat an illusion of upper breast cleavage. Products like the Wonder Bra or in extreme cases, reconstructive surgery will yield more dramatic effects. Realize plastic surgery does not need to include implants. Certainly, I urge you to at least try an exercise program including chest exercises.

In the beginning, most any basic chest exercise you feel comfortable with can be recommended. Later, the more effective exercises become the ones that are less familiar. Even the best exercise can lose its effects over time. Change your exercises every month or two. Pick one basic exercise for the Chest (General) and one exercise for the upper chest (Pectoralis Clavicular). If you are using a split program and specializing on the chest, add an auxiliary exercise for the chest. Continue to perform an exercise for every major muscle.


I hope to set up a weight lifting program, but I was confused with the exercise choices. I'm an absolute beginner--age 48, female, 254 pounds. Equipment available: a weight bench (with butterfly? and leg curl? attachments), barbell set, and dumb bells (1-5 pounds). What would be a starter program?

Choose mostly barbell exercises for now. You can add dumbbell exercise after you purchase heavier sets; you only have enough weight for beginning dumbbell lateral raises. To develop a program, follow the Workout Creation Instructions and Weight Training Guidelines or see Basic Program with Minimum Equipment. Also include an aerobic component like brisk walking most days of the week, follow Dietary Guidelines, and see Exercise & Obesity.


What's the recommended training for abs? Sometimes, higher reps 20-50 are recommended. Or should I try to use the same approach as with the larger muscles (8-12 reps then increase weight)?

I would only recommend 8-12 reps on ab training if your goal of spinal flexion strength outweighs aesthetic concerns. As with any muscle, the muscles of the midsection can atrophy, or grow thicker, particulary in men. As your body fat drops, the abdominal region is probably the last area you will achieve total leanness. Interestingly, fat is both above (subcutaneous) and below the abdominal muscle (visceral). If you are super lean with a very small waist you could see good results with 8-12 reps. Otherwise I recommend lighter weight and more reps (e.g. 20-50 or 20-30 reps) to retard muscle mass increases in this area with typically greater fat. This will not burn more fat, it will improve muscular endurance, though. You can afford to do lighter weight on the abdominal exercises since it would yield little metabolic increase relative to exercise that work a larger muscle mass. These are the exerices, involving larger muscles, that have the most potential to burn the most fat for hours after a workout.


Hello, I'm an Italian boy, and I don't know what plyometric means, you have used this term to indicate the utility of an exercise for the obliques, could you explain to me what it means? Thank you

A plyometric is an explosive movement performed after a quick intense loading. As in the case of plyometric oblique movements, this involves fast repetitive movements performed between rapid stretches to each side. The rapid changes of inertia, or momentum provide the loading for these type oblique exercises. See core under power exercises.


I've been training with weights for 15 years. I probably have not missed more than a week's worth of working out in that time. I love training and thought I knew a lot about it. Just recently I came to the sad conclusion that I have spent way too much time in the gym over the years. I, like so many others who grew up in the 80s, used to do 20+ sets per bodypart per workout. According to the scientific literature all I needed to do was 1 work set after a warmup twice a week per bodypart to achieve the same results (See Low Volume Progressive Intensity Training). You are likewise a bodybuilder. Do you train with low volume? I need a support group for others who have wasted so much time in the gym.

I began serious bodybuilding training, December 1979. "Arnold, the Education of a Bodybuilder" was my original guide. Throughout my competitive career I trained with multiple sets although I had always tried to get the most out of the least possible number of sets and exercises. After I retired from competition (1990) and still a bit skeptical of low volume training, I experimented with one warm up and two sets. Eventually I adopted single set training (after a warm-up set) out of necessity during my master's studies. I haven't looked back since.

Sure I can't perform set after set of squats like I used to... Once, in the old days, I had a powerlifter training partner lose his lunch trying to keep up with me squatting set after set. After he missed his remaining sets, I found him in the bathroom lying down with his leg propped up on the wall. He explained he lost his lunch. Being able to perform set after set is not important to me any more, particularly as you have reiterated, you receive the most benefits from the first workout set anyway.

You may find, though, you will have to perform a bit more cardio (to expend more calories) to compensate for the shorter weight training workouts. Besides that, I've experienced nothing but benefits: faster recovery between workouts, more strength gains, fewer overuse injuries less need to perform more than a single warm-up set, opportunity to work a few more miscellaneous body-parts, and time with the family.

I know of no low volume support group but you may be able to find online forum boards that discuss high intensity training or weight training for hard gainers who have similar philosophies. Best of Luck,

Thanks so much for your quick response. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with your web page. Your page is the most comprehensive yet concise resource for fitness with the latest scientific information. I have changed my routine based on your recommendations for the last two weeks and already feel like a new person. I have so much more energy in my day to day life from not spending hours upon hours in the gym every week. My strength gains in the last two weeks are better than what I've gained in the last year. I'm not exaggerating. I feel like I need to tell everyone who is wasting away in the gym how to workout based on a scientifically proven method.


I stumbled across your site about 6 weeks ago and read the articles concerning low volume training. I was a little unsure about the approach, but I figured I'd give it a try. It's now 5 weeks later, and I've seen faster strength gains than I have in years along with a much faster recovery time! You've made a believer out of me!! :) I used to do 5 sets per exercise (1 warm-up, 3 progressive sets and one exhaustion set), and I never saw the results I'm getting now. I'm curious as to what recommendations you can offer for effectively building muscle mass? In the "old days," I would go with 5-6 sets of progressives, lowering the reps as I increased the weight and no exhaustion set. Would something similar apply in a low volume version? Thanks again for all of the great work and informative information you have provided to us all!

Thank you for your kind words on the ExRx site. Changing your weight training program will be vital for continued progress.

Within an individual, strength is very highly correlated to muscular size. Always strive to ultimately increase your strength for maximum muscle gains. For the advanced weight trainer, strength gains and lean bodyweight gains seem to be more rapid with diverse workouts. This can be accomplished by training for strength during one microcycle, challenging more muscular endurance the next microcycle, and perhaps slightly more power the next microcycle. Even with these deviations, do not stray too far from your major goal. For example, if your goal is just mucular size, there would be little value in performing 50 repetions for your endurance day and plyometrics for your power day. Instead make subtle variations. Also see Interdependence of Performance Fitness Components.

You may still consider performing an additonal set periodically for a month or every other workout (perhaps with a slighly shorter recovery between sets). Just monitor overtraining symptoms closely and have recovery workouts accordingly.

Your diet will play a very important role in muscle mass gains. Eat at least 20% of your calories from protein. See Dietary Guidelines. There is a very fine line between eating enough calories and eating too many.

Monitor your porgress objectively. Find someone who can take your body composition (7 site) every month or two, ideally someone who is very experienced. Make sure they take at least 2 if not 3 measurement from each site. Take an accurate body weight each time so you may calculate pounds of lean and fat weight along with your body comp. If you are not making lean body weight increases or gaining too much fat, trouble shoot your program and make a change to your program right away. Continue with this change until your next body comp test.


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