If you are a regular exerciser, give yourself a pat on the back. But are you exercising to your maximum potential? If your workout routine only includes cardio, it’s time to change things up. In order to really get the results you want, and to really see your body change, you must make strength training part of your regular routine.
What is strength training?
Strength training refers to targeted exercises that push your muscles to work hard. You can strength train with equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, stability balls, resistance bands or body bars. If you don’t have equipment, you can use household items, like water bottles or milk jugs. You can even just use your own body weight to strength train.
Basic Strength Training
A beginner would probably strength train using a certain number of reps and sets. A rep is performing an exercise one time. You might do 12 reps of biceps curls. That equals one set, and you might do 3 sets of biceps curls. That means you would do 36 biceps curls total, with a brief rest in between each set.
Interval Strength Training
A more advanced exerciser can strength train using an interval style too. For example, you could do one set of 12 biceps curls, then one set of 12 squats, then go through and do that two more times with no rest in between sets. Interval training burns more calories and saves time, so it is a more efficient way to exercise, but it is more challenging too.
Combination Strength Training
Once you get the hang of basic strength training moves, you can move on to combination moves. This means you put an upper body exercise together with a lower body exercise, and do them simultaneously. For example, instead of doing a set of 12 biceps curls, then a set 12 squats, you would do the biceps curls while you squat. Like interval training, this will increase your calorie burn, because your body has to work harder to do both moves at the same time. Combination training is also a great way to maximize your exercise minutes.
There are so many different ways to strength train. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to push yourself, and how much time you have to devote to it.
Why strength train?
While cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart and bones, and helps you burn calories, it will not change your body like strength training can. (Just to be clear, I am not suggesting you stop doing cardio. A balanced combination is best.) When you work your muscles this way, you are actually creating tiny tears in them, which sounds bad, but is actually a good thing. The muscle then has to repair itself and you end up with more lean muscle mass when this happens. The more muscle you have, the more calorie-burning power you have.
Sure, you can burn some serious calories in a one-hour cardio spin class, and your burn might last for a little while after class, but think about this: When you have more muscle mass, your body will torch more calories all day long! Yep, even just sitting there. This is something your Fitbit just can’t track. I know you love seeing the numbers from your long run, but the constant burn from strength training is happening behind the scenes all the time.
Cardio will help you shed pounds, but it won’t tone and sculpt your body like strength training will. You still need to firm up those muscles underneath the fat you are shedding. When you start to see the definition in your muscles showing through, then you will feel real satisfaction.
Ignore the Myth
If you are a woman thinking, “No way, I can’t lift weights. It will make me bulk up,” please know how false this is. Unless you plan on becoming a body builder who works out for four or more hours every single day, you don’t need to worry about bulking up. Women’s bodies are not made the same way as men’s. A man naturally has more muscle mass than a woman, so strength training results will be more exaggerated for him than for her. In fact, strength training will help you not only lose weight, but lose inches too. Your clothing will fit better, and you may even go down a size or two.
How to Start
If you have never done strength training before, I would definitely recommend having a professional get you started. This could be a personal trainer at a gym or a qualified online fitness coach. They will be able to set up a program tailored to your needs and goals, and show you strength training moves that will help you reach your goals. If you have tried strength training in the past here and there, it’s time to make it a regular part of your fitness routine. Start with one day a week, then two, and work your way up to three days a week regularly.
You will definitely be sore when you start strength training, but that’s a good thing. That means it’s working. The more often you do it, and the longer you stick with it, that soreness won’t happen as much. I still get sore when I change up my strength moves, but nothing like when I was a beginner. Push past the pain and keep going, but listen to your body. If you are too sore to even walk, then take a break and let your muscles recover a bit. You might need longer recovery periods in the beginning until your body gets used to this new type of exercise.
You should also know that strength training doesn’t have to be an hour-long routine. Play around with different weights and different amounts of reps. Try basic training, interval training, and combination training to see what you like best. Twenty minutes is sometimes all you need to get a killer strength routine done.
It won’t take long for you to notice a difference in your body, and in turn, your confidence. Whether you buy or rent some workout DVDs, attend sculpting classes at your gym, or try out some of your own moves on the weight floor, you will be so happy you brought this type of exercise into your life.
If you would like a customized strength training plan, send me an email and we can work together!