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Strength Training Magic


Now that last week’s blogs got you all jacked up to start a running or walking regimen, I’m going to tell you to STOP!

No, I’m just kidding. Don’t stop.

But do add in strength training.

You won’t end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I promise. Even if you’re a guy it’s difficult without hours and hours of training and supplements. If you’re a woman – mercifully – it’s next to impossible.

What strength training will do is the closest thing to magic there is: torch calories even when you’re resting (at an impressively higher rate than cardio exercise), target and tone specific muscle groups, help you bust through weight loss plateaus, improve bone density, and fight back loss of muscle and functional movement that happen as we age.

So what exactly is strength training? How often should you do it? What equipment do you need? What exercises should you do? How do you get started?

I’m so glad you asked!

Strength training is the practice of using free weights, weight machines, body weight or resistance bands to build muscle. The moves can be isometric, that is they isolate one muscle or set of muscles (i.e. quadriceps) in concentrated movement, or they can be complex moves that involve multiple muscle groups and emphasize functional movement. Strength training certainly can be aerobic, but it is primarily anaerobic. Think very short bursts of maximum (or near maximum) effort.

The greatest benefit of regular strength training is that you build lean muscle mass very effectively.

Consider the impact of that on weight loss; more lean muscle mass means that your body torches through calories at a higher rate because muscle is much more efficient at burning calories than fat is. And even though we all know spot reducing doesn’t work, targeting and toning specific muscles through strength training can mean the difference between having a fit, strong body as you lose weight and just a smaller body.

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How often should you strength train? Ideally, three days a week. These sessions can be 30 minutes or more and can definitely be combined with a cardio session.

You can approach strength training in several different ways. There is the typical way – gym weight room – but you can also create an entire workout at home that utilizes only body-weight exercises. Other simple, inexpensive equipment that works well for a home gym might include a stability ball, resistance bands, dumbbells (for women: 5 lbs and 10 lbs, for men: 8 lbs and 12 or 15 lbs). These tools are a great investment and will last virtually forever.


One of my other favorite ways to strength train is a group class. My YMCA has lots of classes, but I’m really hooked on a barre class in my area. I go to Pure Barre. Barre (as in, ballet barre) classes are really popular nation-wide, so it’s possible you might have one near you. These classes are fast-paced 60-minute workouts that target those areas that give us the most trouble: arms, abs, thighs and seat.

In Thursday’s blog I’ve got a straightforward strength training workout I’m going to lay out for you. Keep in mind, it’s a workout a beginner can do, but I do these moves all the time too. You make the moves more challenging as you get stronger by increasing the number of reps, or the number of sets, the amount of weight you lift, or by making the move more complex. The fundamentals never change. By way of example, there are so many variations on push-ups it’ll make your head spin … and your pecs strong!

Losing weight is hard, but strength training can make it so much easier … and more fun! And you’re so damn worth it!

Let’s go get it!

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