What type of exercise should I be doing?
Any exercise is the right answer in simplistic terms! Anything which gets your heart pumping, is a winner in my eyes. There are so many ways to train, so many different methods and styles of training that it’s easy to get confused on what we should be focusing on. I’m going to tell you about the most efficient way that you can use resistance training to get healthy, get fit and gain confidence. If you can’t wait to get started here is your free workout guide packed full of resistance exercises. Also if you would prefer to watch a video subject I’ve got one right here on YouTube.
What is your goal?
- If your goal is to be healthier, be more active or you need to improve your heart health on doctor’s orders then I would recommend some Low – Moderate Intensity Steady State cardio. Try fast walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, group exercise classes or dancing to name a few. If this is your goal I highly recommend finding something you love and have fun doing. The more you try and the more variety you have, the more likely you are to be active on a regular basis.
- If your goal is to complete an endurance challenge e.g. half marathon, marathon, long-distance bike ride, triathlon then you’ll need to put in some serious hours practicing your chosen sport, as well as building up strength in the most used body part with resistance training. So keep reading to learn all about the types of training to work into the race preparation.
- If your goal is fat loss then resistance training is for you! If like me you lead a busy life, and need your workouts to be as efficient as possible, focusing on resistance training will give you the most out of your training time.
What is resistance training?
“Any exercise where you move your body against resistance can be considered resistance or strength training. Resistance is any force that makes the movement harder to perform.” (1)
You can practice resistance training using:
- Free weights / Medicine Balls
- Resistance machines
- Resistance bands
If you practice resistance training repeatedly and consistently your muscles will become stronger, and bigger. By building lean muscle your body becomes much more efficient at burning calories – even when resting. The more muscle we have the more calories we burn each day going about our every day lives.
But wait, I don’t want to get bulky! Ladies, I promise by starting resistance training you will not turn into the incredible hulk, you will become a leaner, more shapely version of yourself. Sounds amazing right? Women don’t produce enough testosterone to build muscle easily, it takes a lot of heavy lifting and consuming a large amount of food to get that bodybuilder physique. So rest assured you won’t get bulky. Muscle takes up less space than fat, which is why you’ll see everything tighten up and get that ‘toned’ look most ladies are working towards.
Now you understand why resistance training is so awesome. It builds lean muscle, having more lean muscle means you burn more calories and everything becomes a bit tighter. “OK SIGN ME UP” I hear you say.
Top 3 benefits of resistance training
1. You can do it at home – either when you’re starting out, or need the flexibility of training at home around family life – or you can do it in the gym once you’ve perfected the form and are ready to take it to the next level by adding weights.
2. You can train with friends – you need to rest between sets so why not let a friend do her sets, while you rest and vice versa. Just don’t get caught up chatting, keep an eye on the clock for each other so you’re optimising your workout.
3. It’s great for the mind – you need to focus on your workout and putting everything into your sets (the last 2-3 reps of each set should be a real challenge). There’s no room to be thinking about anything other than what you’re doing in that very moment, which means you’re present and the other things that are going on in your life need to take a back seat.
Types of resistance training
There are different ways to practice resistance training and again it correlates with your goals. If you’re training for strength, muscle hypertrophy (size) or endurance you will perform a different number of repetitions, and a different number of sets.
Below shows the different reps matched with the goal. 1RM stands for 1 Rep Max – that’s the maximum amount of weight you can lift and you can only do 1 rep so if you’re doing 10 reps you would practice with 75% of your 1RM.
e.g. Squat 1RM = 70kg
10 reps = 52.5kg
For strength training you will typically have longer rest periods between sets (2-3mins), and carry out more sets. Then at the opposite end of the scale for endurance you will have minimal rest (30 secs) and only do 3 sets. Don’t worry if this boggles your mind, that’s where I help by writing a personalised training program for you based on your goals.
Putting it into action
Here’s an example of a Lower Body program with single sets, working at the top rep range for Power.
- Do 3 sets of 12 reps for each of the exercises below.
- Do all 3 sets then move on to the next exercise, do 3 sets, and so on.
- Choose a level of resistance, which is challenging for reps 10-12.
2. Reverse Lunge (12 reps each leg)
3. Bench Step Ups
4. Leg Extension
5. Leg Curl
6. Glute Bridge
The above is a great program to do in the gym using a combination of free weights and resistance machines. These exercises work your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, recruiting all the big muscles in your lower body to burn as many calories as possible, and build lean muscle.
Note: I recommend you do a dynamic warm up like 5 mins of fast walking, skipping or using any cardio machine in a gym. Warming up is very important so you prepare the body for a training session. I believe in dynamic warming up as this helps to improve the range of motion around your joints, and this will help reduce the chances of injury.
Equally as important as the warm up, is cooling down and stretching the muscles you’ve just trained. Bring your heart rate down with a walk on the treadmill then stretch on a mat.
Breaking down the Squat
OK so let’s talk about a woman’s best friend! A Squat is a compound movement which means it works multiple muscles and joints, so you’re getting a LOT of bang for your buck with this exercise. You really need to master this move.
Squats work the entire lower body, specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and the muscles that make up the calves. When doing squats, foot placement makes a big difference. A wide stance and/or the toes point out brings the inner thighs more into play, whereas a closer stance brings the outer thigh more into play.
The progression of a Squat:
- Add a weight to counter balance
- Add a Barbell across your back, and increase the plates on each side as you progress.
How to Squat
- Stand with feet wider than hip width apart, neutral spine, shoulder back & down
- Push your bum back as if you’re sitting in a chair
- Squat as low as you can without your heels lifting off the ground
- Keep chest lifted
- If doing a Bodyweight Squat use arms to counter balance (as shown above). If using DB’s or a Barbell really concentrate on keeping your chest proud.
“You will really work the muscles better if you can get low. Try taking a light weight and work on your form. Eventually, you’ll be getting parallel and even below parallel. But remember, do what’s comfortable and don’t push yourself too hard. With squats, get the form, and then get the weight. Go slowly, and your whole lower body will start growing.”(2)
That’s your big move, spend time practicing it, mastering it, loving it and improving it. Above is just one example of a Lower Body program for the gym, if you would like more resistance training programs which you can do in the gym or at home, click here to sign up for your free workout guide.
If you only take 1 thing from this article let it be this…
More muscle, more calorie expenditure
As you increase strength and lean muscle mass, your body uses calories more efficiently. Your body uses more calories to maintain muscle than it does maintaining fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will naturally burn each day on its own.
Once this starts happening and you train consistently, your body will start shaping up before your very own eyes. Also worth noting is that Resistance Training is most effective when partnered with Cardio, and with all my Client’s I plan a weekly overview incorporating both styles of training. I’ll talk about Cardio in an article soon!
Enjoy the process, and enjoy your results!
Sources: (1) = www.verywell.com (2) = www.bodybuilding.com