Start Your Weight Training & Strength Program with These Three Simple Exercises
“Remember this: your body is your slave; it works for you.” – Jack LaLanne
As a fitness instructor, I often have friends, family, and clients approach me asking how they can really lose weight for good. When I ask them what they are doing, they often tell me they are eating clean, which is absolutely necessary to shed unwanted pounds. They then tell me they’re exercising, too. But this is where everyone from my sister to my neighbor is often misled: you won’t lose weight with cardio alone. Weight training is essential for building strength, bone mass, and overall fitness.
I’m always shocked when I go to the gym and see women spending an hour on the treadmill or elliptical and calling it a night. Weight training is not only important, but VITAL to achieving your fitness goals! It helps to shrink you, tone you, and even prevents injury and disease.
Benefits of Strength Training
As a Bootcamp coach for CorePower Yoga, I have found that many women fear working with weights as they do not want to “bulk up”. This is one of the biggest myths in fitness, as lifting weights will actually make women smaller, not bulkier! While the number on the scale might go up a few pounds after committing to a regular strength-training regimen, women usually find that they lose inches off of their thighs, waist, or biceps. They get tinier, but more toned! I love the results weight training gives me, and when I go a bit without it, it is apparent in my appearance right away.
Men are usually more eager to lift weights to build their muscle definition and appear as strong as they can. However, weight training has more than just superficial benefits for men and women alike. In the Huffington Post article 13 Reasons to Start Lifting Weights, it points out that if you’re an athlete, strength training has been proven to improve performance by correcting muscle imbalances that stifle your form. Beyond the physical benefits, strength training has also proven to provide mental and emotional benefits as it builds confidence and reduces stress levels.
Strength training is just as important for older adults, too, as it is for powerful athletes. The New York Times article, Lifting Weights Twice a Week, May Aid the Brain, shared earlier this year that the brain is shrinking all the time as we age. Resistance training can slow down this process! The Wall Street Journal in The Benefits of Pumping Iron Later in Life also reported this year that lifting weights can lift brainpower, as well as help aging men and women to preserve bone mass.
Where to Begin
It is quite easy to incorporate strength training into your week. All you truly need to begin is your own bodyweight and a few dumbbells that can be purchased at any sporting goods store. Below I have provided a few simple exercises to get you started that can be performed right in your own living room. I have chosen exercises that strengthen those muscles that aren’t as often worked in daily activity.
- SQUATS WITH A BICEP CURL
Begin with one heavy weight in each hand (your biceps can handle a lot!) and bend your knees to enter a squat position. Allow your arms to lengthen long by your sides as Grace is doing above.
As you exhale, stand and straighten your legs while curling your dumbbells to your shoulders (see photo below). Be cautious to not lock out your legs completely at the top to protect your joints and avoid swinging your weights to ensure your biceps are really working and that you aren’t relying on momentum. Go slowly at first to maintain proper form.
Inhale, lower back into your squat and repeat. Complete 12 reps up to three sets, three times a week to build stronger quadriceps, glutes, and bicep muscles.
I find that many of my clients love working their abdominals to keep a flat, toned tummy but forget to work their backs. Having a strong back is crucial to attaining a truly powerful core as your core muscles include both your front and your back.
One of the most effective exercises for strengthening the back is the deadlift. Begin with a heavy weight in each hand and lower the weights in front of you to shin-height. Notice how Grace is bending her knees in the photo below to keep her back flat. A flat back is your goal!
As you exhale, lift the weights back up with a flat back. Inhale, lower the weights back to shin-height and repeat. Complete 12 reps up to three sets, three times a week to build a stronger back and therefore an overall stronger core.
- TRICEP EXTENSIONS
If you’re a yogi looking to strengthen your practice, turn to weight lifting! Tricep extensions help to build the back of your arms, and this results in more effective chaturangas. Tricep extensions also reduce less-than-desired arm “flab”.
Begin with a light dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms up overhead and click the weights to touch. Inhale and bend your elbows to 90 degrees so that your forearms are parallel to the floor. Exhale and straighten your arms again and SQUEEZE the backs of your arms as you do. Be cautious of locking out your arms completely at the top; this can put unwanted stress on your joints.
Inhale and bend your elbows again. Complete 12 reps up to three sets, three times a week to tone your arms.
As with any fitness routine, consult your physician before starting to strength train. If you’re ready to begin or are already lifting weights and have questions about your form, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Already training with weights? How do you like it? What other exercises would you recommend to those just starting?!