If you haven’t jumped onto the strength-training bandwagon yet, now is your chance to get off that unending loop of treadmills and stair climbers. Cardio is a great way to keep your heart healthy and lose weight, but if it isn’t supplemented with other types of exercise, namely resistance or strength training, you might not be doing yourself a lot of good. In fact, by adding more resistance or weight into the mix, you’re more likely to get fit, toned and healthy!
Adding resistance to your workout serves you in a variety of ways. Women and men can increase bone mass through strength training, decreasing the chance of developing osteoporosis later in life. It also helps you build long, lean and strong muscles, which increases your metabolism and decreases body fat. Stabilizing workouts that involve strength training or weight lifting are also great for protecting the joints from injury.
Is it just about weightlifting?
Although many people associate strength training with weightlifting, there are a wide range of ways to add the benefits of resistance into your workout. Pilates is a great method for using body weight to build long and lean muscles while also stabilizing the core. If you get into a Pilates class that uses what is called a “reformer”—a machine built to provide resistance while exercising—you’ll up your strength-building factor even more. Yoga is helpful for building strength as well as flexibility. Swimming, circuit training, water aerobics, and bicycling are other great ways to build muscle and strength.
If you don’t plan on attending classes at your local wellness center, you can create your own workout space at home with a few props and a set of weights. Kettlebells seem to be all the rage right now, especially for those who want to lift weights. They are a different shape than dumbbells, having a spherical weight attached to a handle. Dumbbells, however, are easier to use and have a bit more stability. Which you choose will depend on your workout as well as your individual preference. It’s best to follow the guidance of a personal trainer with these, as he or she can guide you to the safest and most effective route for your needs.
Resistance bands are another great addition to any home gym. These are a versatile and easy way to introduce yourself to the world of strength training. If you’re recovering from an injury or trying to build up your strength before tackling a set of weights, these are your best bet. If you don’t have access to a personal trainer, there are a number of videos on YouTube that will guide you through workouts of varying lengths and intensity.
Easy ways to get started
To begin, try out some easy exercises using simple body weight as resistance. The classic ones you learned in your middle school gym class are probably the most effective. Think push-ups, squats, side planks, sit-ups and mountain climbers. Make sure to stretch well, both before and after any strength-training workout to reduce your chances of injury. Once you have gained some strength and know how to position your body, you can move on to resistance bands, performing exercises such as bicep curls, triceps extensions and high-plank leg lifts. Kettlebells or dumbbells can be added in for even more resistance and are great for a wide variety of movements and exercises.
Whether you decide to attend a weekly Pilates class, purchase a set of weights, or take up swimming, adding strength training to your workout routine will help you feel better and stronger. By stabilizing muscles and joints, decreasing chances of injury, and increasing your metabolism, you’ll be good to go for that early morning treadmill jog.