I might as well fess up now; I didn’t actually put together this strength training workout for you. My trainer did it. She’s a genius. At exercise, and a bunch of other stuff too. Lucky for us, she said I could share it with you as a good example of an introductory strength training workout.
As I mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, strength training is the closest thing to magic there is when it comes to weight loss. It will burn calories even when you’re resting (at a higher rate than cardio will), 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. All good things.
A couple of things before we get started: my trainer and I think it’s a good idea to work opposing muscles. That is, if you work quads, work hamstrings too. It’s important to keep opposing muscle groups firing up equally so that one doesn’t overpower the other. Not doing so can lead to imbalance and injury.
Also, it’s not necessary for most people to do a “leg day” or an “arm day”. Body builders train that way, but most of us are looking to create a strong, fit physique, not enter a weight-lifting competition.
You can work your whole body 2-3 times per week without worrying about overtraining a specific muscle group.
A word about functional movement; also unlike body-builders, we’re looking to strengthen the muscles that will help us be stronger doing everyday movements (think, lifting heavy boxes without wrenching your back). This type of strength training is smart not only in terms of weight loss, but also because it helps with balance and mobility as we get older.
Finally, be mindful of your form. It’s always better to do fewer reps with proper form than to swing the dumbbell around using momentum because it’s too heavy for you to control (Pet peeve of mine; ahem, teenagers at gym.)
Alright, on to the workout! These moves can be performed with minimal equipment (mat, dumbbells – say 10 lbs for women 15s for men) at home.
Your Strength Training Workout
Squats (works quads and glutes) – start with 12 x 2 sets, build up to 20 x 3 sets.
Lunges (works quads and glutes) – start with 12 on each leg, alternating back and forth x 2 sets.
Glute Bridges (works glutes and hamstrings) – do 15 x 2 sets, then try single leg!
Airplanes (works hamstrings) – hinge forward from hips until back leg and upper body are both parallel to the floor (or the beach, in her case). Do 15 x 2 sets, alternating legs.
Push ups (works chest and triceps) – even the basic version is hard, so modify to your knees as necessary. Always keep your hips in line with your shoulders (i.e. don’t stick your butt up! It’s easier, but completely defeats the purpose!)
Chest press (works chest and triceps) – now you’re going to need your dumbbells. Start with arms directly overhead and lower to 90-degree angle. Try using 10s and do 12 x 2 sets. You can do it on a bench or on the floor, but a stability ball is a great home gym addition, so think about it if you’ve got room.
Bent over row (works latissimus dorsi, trapezius and rhomboid muscles – these are all in your mid to upper back) – try 12 x 2 sets and build to 15 x 3 sets.
Prone rows (works trapezius, rhomboids and latissimus dorsi) – start with a lighter weight, say 5s. Get in a push up position with a dumbbell in each hand. This is challenging but you will get stronger quickly. Do 12 x 2 sets, alternating one arm then the other.
Bicep curls (works … um, biceps) – try 12 x 2 sets at whatever you can lift comfortably. You can alternate arms or do both arms simultaneously. Just be careful not to rock back and forth, and do them slowly. The slower the better.
Tricep extensions (works triceps and trapezius) – lots of ways to do this but to start, bend at the waist and extend the weight behind you, keeping the upper arm stationary and using the elbow like a hinge. Do 12 x 2 sets with a lighter weight to start, 5-8 pounds.
Dips (works triceps and deltoids) – gorgeous arms are coming your way! Use a chair or a bench, with legs bent at first then straight out as you get stronger. 20 x 2 sets.
Plank (works core and deltoids) – there is no way you can go wrong doing plank. Just like push ups there are a bazillion variations and they’re all good. Hold a basic forearm plank for 30 seconds at first and build from there. And get your butt down!
Supermans (works spine, glutes and trapezius) – so important to keep your back strong. Raise arms and legs off the ground simultaneously and hold for 10 seconds. 12 x 2 sets.
And that’s it! I like to run through the whole set and repeat, that way I can squeeze out a few more reps rather than just do consecutive sets. I can’t do that many push-ups in a row, but if I break up the sets I can do more!
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You’re gonna get strong doing this. Not only that, as you gain strength your confidence soars and you get hungry to push harder. When you continue this regimen it becomes easier to make good food choices too; this is the “virtuous cycle” that I talk about.
I love this stuff. The difference between how I feel now (strong, confident, accomplished) vs. how I felt before I lost weight (fearful, out-of-control) is night and day. It is how I know I’ll never gain the weight back again. Why would I want to miss out on all of this?!?!
Losing weight is hard. But it gets easier when you tap into your inner-athlete. He/she is in there; I just know it! And you’re so damn worth it!
Let’s go get it!