First, I have over heard a number of ladies say 'I want to lose weight but I don't want to put on any muscle because my legs / arms / shoulders (insert body part here) are big enough'. This basically means that these ladies become scared of the weights room as they think that by lifting weights they will become the female equivalent of the hulk.
Second, this is an observation of men in weights rooms. Time after time I have seen guys lifting the heaviest weights they possibly can, which I imagine is either to impress the women that don't go in to the weights room any way, to show all the guys who the big dog on campus is or because they think this is actually how to gain lean muscle.
In this blog I would like to tackle these two things as I understand them.
For the ladies out there that are scared of doing weights because they think that will automatically lead to looking like a female version of Arnie, don't worry because that isn't going to happen unless you actually trained for it to happen. By avoiding weights it means that all you are doing is committing yourself to a life long prison sentence to boring cardio, you may as well cancel your gym membership and just go running outside.
My fiancee had the same concern when she first started going to the gym but I put her mind at ease when I told her that every 1lb of muscle she put on would help her to burn an extra 50 calories per day. I also explained to her that the biggest muscles in your body are your quadriceps (the top half of your legs) so there is a good place to start if you want to add muscle to your body. So don't shy away from weights as building lean muscle is a very important aspect to losing weight.
Now on to the guys; I understand perfectly why we want to lift the heaviest weight we can but if you want to a) avoid injury and b) properly target your muscles, you need to ensure you are not lifting weights that are too heavy. By lifting weights that are too heavy you will automatically use other muscles to complete your rep. Ask yourself this; have you ever seen anyone doing bicep curls who had to bend their back or swing their hips to complete the rep? I know I have. Now ask yourself this; have you ever done this?
If the answer to the second question is yes, then drop to a lighter weight. All you are doing is using other muscles in your body to lift the weight so your bicep isn't even getting the maximum benefit from the exercise. You are also risking injury to your lower back. So if you want to get the maximum results from the muscle group you are working you must ensure you can complete the desired number of reps with perfect form. If your form cannot remain perfect throughout the rep, do not complete the rep.
If you don't trust me on this, read the advice given by any weight training expert as they will only ever say the same thing. So remember, perfect form means bigger muscles and no injuries.
Good luck and enjoy your weight training.