I spent the better part of my 20’s doing long cardio workouts, dedicating hours to the treadmill, getting my heart rate up up up, thinking it was the direct way to the fit physique I wanted.
Boy, was I disappointed (and quite frankly, always exhausted from running myself ragged.)
I hadn’t yet learned how exactly cardio works, so in addition to pushing myself too hard at the gym, I was also constantly feeling like I was falling short. Not fun.
I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of walking into the weights and machines section of the gym – it had always felt intimidating. But that was just because I wasn’t familiar with how to use my body with the equipment available – or how to even use my own body and gravity for resistance yet.
Resistance (or strength) training is any exercise that uses some kind of resistance to increase muscle strength and endurance.
You can do resistance training just about ANYWHERE – the versatility reaches from the gym to the comfort of your very own home, and either way, I’ve got you covered.
Not only is resistance training a lot of fun, there are many ways to do it. And it’s an essential part of your strength!
Benefits of Resistance Training
Resistance training is when your body is working against a force or a weight in order to increase muscle strength.
When working against a force, your body elicits the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which is essential for muscle growth and strength. HGH, otherwise known as the “fitness hormone”, also plays a vital role in cell regeneration, maintaining healthy tissues and optimizing metabolic function (1, 2).
Regular strength training is also one of the best ways to define and sculpt a fit physique (6). While a pound of fat and a pound of muscle both weigh 1 pound, their structure and density are quite different and as a result they take up very different amounts of space in your body.
This volume difference between fat and muscle is exactly why you don’t need to worry about the myth of “bulking up”.
Muscle takes up 4 times less volume than fat, which is why when you add muscle and lose body fat you look and feel more compact — even if the number on the scale doesn’t move.
This is Susan W. from one of my challenge groups and clearly illustrates this concept!
If you really want to monitor progress, you’re far better off taking progress pictures at regular intervals or using how your clothes fit as a way to keep track of progress.
You – and your beauty – can’t be reduced to a single number.
What are Different Ways to Add Resistance?
1. Bodyweight Exercise
Your body is a portable gym. No machine, no added weight, only you and gravity; think push-ups, lunges, squats, etc.
Bodyweight movements allow us to train functionally, meaning these exercises simulate common movements we encounter in daily living (i.e. walking up stairs, reaching, bending/squatting down, etc) and strengthen our ability to carry those out.
Being able to effectively strength train with your own body is like having a gym everywhere you go, which is exactly why I use this method in the 90 day challenge. You get a total body workout with no equipment at all.
One of the keys to staying consistent is having a workout you can do in any situation, which makes bodyweight workouts so awesome.
There are many ways to spice up your bodyweight workouts as well:
a. Swiss balls, also known as “stability balls”, add a destabilization aspect to your training, which recruits many intrinsic accessory muscles and forces you do engage smaller muscles for a great result.
One well-known fitness strap that you may have heard of that falls into this category is the TRX – a super versatile piece of training equipment that you can use to train virtually every part of your body. It’s challenging and fun and you can take it with you anywhere!
a. Dumbbells and barbells are a great way to add load to the body for greater challenge and allow for a deeper contraction to help tone and strengthen the muscles. Dumbbells especially help increase the body’s balance and stabilizer strength.
If you’re brand new to using hand held weights, don’t be shy to watch some videos on Youtube or work with a trainer at the gym to learn all the equipment that’s available. I provide follow-along video guides for every move in both Lioness and Home Workout Domination, so be sure to access those programs for a plan and step by step demonstrations.
b. Weight Machines provide resistance for specific parts of the body by allowing you to isolate specific muscle groups and are also excellent for rehabilitation where you want to isolate a muscle group.
One size does not fit all and while machines come with a lot of adjustments, it’s easy to get injured or strain yourself too far in the wrong direction.
Just as with other weight training techniques, to ensure your safety, I encourage you to work closely with a professional until you are confident!
Training Tips from the Pro’s
The coaches from Team Betty Rocker and I combined our best training tips to help you get the most out of your workout!
1. Warm up
This can be as much mentally beneficial as it is physical. It can be a transition from what you were doing before your workout to getting psyched about your session.
Lifting weights on stiff or “cold” joints and muscles will make it harder to move, and you’ll increase the risk of injury. An increased blood flow to your muscles means they’ll respond and recover much quicker (7).
Focus on the areas of your body you’re going to train but also warm up the entire body as well – so if it’s upper body day, get your arms moving to wake up the shoulder joints, do some elevated upper body push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.
If you’re bodyweight training you can do a “warm up” set of the same moves you’re planning to do for your workout at a lower intensity or with modifications, then go full out when you’re warmer.
In the workouts I teach, I often use the first set as a warm up, either by going over the form more deliberately, going more slowly and doing some of the moves with different levels of intensity. I always do this whether I’m teaching or working out by myself and I think it’s a huge part of why I don’t get injured. If you find yourself getting impatient with the instructions use that time to do some movement. If you are feeling impatient because the workout isn’t starting fast enough, slow down. Let yourself get into your body and your form.
2. Pay Attention to Your Form
Be especially mindful of your form anytime you add weights to your routine. It’s better to do less reps with excellent form than more reps poorly. Listen to your body, and use a mirror whenever you get the chance so you can check your position – are your joints aligned? Are you engaging your core? Are your hips square?
Be sure you’re stretching regularly (here are all of the parts to stretch in mini videos), and whenever you have the opportunity, work with a trainer, physical therapist, chiropractor or structural integrationist who can help keep your bones and muscles working together with proper alignment.
Your form in setting down and picking up weights or getting on and off of equipment is just as important as the way you’re performing the exercise. Be mindful of your body and alignment in any movement you do.
3. Choose An Appropriate Amount of Weight For YOU (if you’re using weights)
Knowing what amount of weight to choose depends on where you’re starting and where you want to go. Using a rep range of 12-15 or greater will train your muscles for more endurance while choosing shorter rep ranges of 1-8 will improve short term strength.
A study done in 2016 showed that increasing reps or increasing weight both resulted in greater strength. So as long as you are varying your workouts, reps, and weight and reaching fatigue, you will increase muscle strength (8). This is the exact formula I use in Lioness to help you sculpt lean muscle and gain strength with progressive overload – and you can apply this principle in any training program as you get stronger.
Blending resistance training with HIIT blasts fat, sculpts muscles, and gives me both the strong body and toned, sleek physique I want – which is my favorite way to train for maximum benefits in the shortest amount of time (6). Check out Home Workout Domination for a great program that puts it all together!
Safety first: It’s exciting to start a new program, but pace yourself in the beginning as you build strength.
Doing too much too fast puts you on the fast track to getting hurt, so think steady and consistent, and allow yourself time to get into a new program or training style, especially if you’re brand new to lifting weights.
4. Take Adequate Rest
Muscle grows when you rest – not during your training. The fitness hormone, HGH is most powerfully produced while you’re sleeping (9). If you’re lacking quality and quantity in your sleep, your body will miss the valuable time it takes to repair and will result in decreased strength and increased fat (10).
So while the number of rest days depends on your training, taking your rest days is an essential piece to reaching your goals, no matter what they are. As always, pay attention to what your body is telling you.
5. FUEL YOUR BODY
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the food you eat makes or breaks your muscle growth and how much fat you gain or lose. If you want to get leaner and stronger, start with the inside first, because you are exactly what you eat.
In order for your cells and tissues to function at their best, you need to fuel your body with nutrient-dense, whole food. Eating junk will not only make you feel like crap, but you’ll see a dramatic decline in your muscle growth as well.
Here is my 3 Day Eating Guide (complete with recipes) to help you get moving and start fueling your body the right way!
This is not a quick fix – it’s about learning what your body needs and working to level up your lifestyle for the long term.
BONUS PRO TIP…..Be Patient.
Results happen, but not overnight. I know waiting to see progress when you want it right NOW can be tough, but it’s so worth it, and the discipline and consistency you apply to your training can be a practice that you apply to many other aspects of your life as well.
Transform your physique by adding regular resistance training – bodyweight style, with weights or machines – and uncover those strong, lean muscles.
And do yourself a favor by giving your body the quality nutrients and energy it requires to perform at its best and get everything you can out of your workout.
When you combine proper nutrition with your workouts, the results are unbelievable. It’s SO WORTH IT.
For further reading:
- How to Sleep for a Leaner, Longer, Healthier Life
- Top 5 Ways to Beat Stress and Get More From Your Workouts
- 3 Day Easy Eating Guide
Looking for a great plan to follow that you can do at home OR in the gym? I recommend Home Workout Domination – it combines resistance training and explosive cardio to tone, tighten, and shred your body – minimal equipment needed!
- American Physiological Society. “Varying Weight Training Intensity Increases Growth Hormone In Women”. Science Daily. Web. Dec 2006. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061201105951.htm
- Ayyar, Vageesh S. “History of growth hormone therapy.” Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism. Web. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183530/
- Kovaceniv A, et al. “The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials”. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Web. June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28919335
- Wayne L. Westcott. “Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health”. Current Sports Medicine Report.Web. 2012 Jul. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22777332
- Strickland, Justin C, and Mark A Smith. “The anxiolytic effects of resistance exercise.” Frontiers in psychology. Web. July 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4090891/
- Willis, Leslie H et al. “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults.” Journal of applied physiology. Web. Dec 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23019316
- F. G. Shellock, W. E. Prentice. “Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries”. Journal of Sports Medicine. Web. July 1985. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3849057
- Robert W. Morton, et al. “Neither load nor systemic hormones determine resistance training-mediated hypertrophy or strength gains in resistance-trained young men.” Web. July 2016. Journal of Applied Physiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27174923
- Richard J. Godfrey, Zahra Madgwick, Gregory P. Whyte. “The exercise-induced growth hormone response in athletes”. Journal of Sports Medicine. Web. 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12797841
- E. Van Cauter, L. Plat. “Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep”. Journal of Pediatrics. Web. May 1996. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8627466