EVER SINCE I BEGAN RESISTANCE TRAINING I’ve had more energy, more confidence and more courage to start living the life that I want for myself. However, part of living a life that I love involves travel and living on isolated beaches with no access to an English-speaking cafe, let alone weight training gym… for 6 months out of the year.
I make due with my environment, and I keep a flexible (but consistent) workout regiment. I love resistance training because it allows me to maintain my strength and agility, to think clearly, look good, but most importantly feel good.
Throughout the year, I use various workout regiments from body weight training and hiking mountains to sprinting up sand dunes and resistance band work to training for triathlons and heavy lifting at the gym. I’ll be sharing many of these routines at the end of this article… so stay tuned.
Why Should You Start Training?
I bet you’d choose to have a flat lean stomach over a flabby one. But why?
Yes, having a lower body mass index (BMI) means you are at lower risk of having diabetes, heart disease or a stroke, but that’s not our initial motivator to get in shape (even though we tell others this).
Your true goals are more emotional than living without disease. Everyone’s reasons are different. For you, being healthy might mean:
- Liking your body and yourself more
- Feeling comfortable wearing a tight top or bikini
- Not feeling guilty for eating an extra helping of pie
- Being able to play with your child or grandchildren
- Being called “sexy” and not “cute” or “chubby”
- Or having the confidence to ask a girl out to coffee
The numbers on a scale, waist measurement or BMI doesn’t translate to your health status, rather your personal judgments. It either gives you permission to be hard on yourself, or reward yourself.
How YOU Read Your BMI?
- < 18.5 => My body doesn't look as good as it should
- 18.5 - 24.9 => It's okay but I could be better
- 25 - 29.9 => I feel gross
- ≥ 30 => I don't want to talk about it
*Note that BMI is not an accurate measurement for highly athletic and muscular people.
On the other hand, having a flat stomach and a BMI of 19 doesn’t mean you’re healthy either. The amount of body fat can be an indicator of disease risk, but it doesn’t reflect your quality of life nor your mental and emotional health.
There is more to life than your weight, pant size and calories eaten. <– Click to Tweet.
Sometimes it can consume your every waking thought. But don’t let your emotions drive your life.
When I choose to exercise and eat nutritiously it’s for the immediate satisfaction of feeling sexy in a bikini, having my boyfriend gush over my body and having the choice to enjoy a piece of chocolate once in a while.
What’s your motivating force that gets you out of bed or off the couch, instead of walking towards the cupboard for a snack? It might be an immediate or short-term reward or a long-term gain. Hopefully it’s both.
Why is it Important to Exercise Regularly?
We all know exercise is one of the best medicines and preventative activities for most metabolic, cardiovascular, hormonal and mental health conditions.
The WHO estimates overweight and obesity accounts for 3 million annual deaths and 6% of total global deaths are due to physical inactivity. Obesity is a risk factor the same conditions that can be prevented with physical activity, even conditions you are genetically predisposed to:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure high triglycerides and low HDL [good] cholesterol)
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Heart disease and stroke (ischaemic heart disease, coronary heart disease)
- Many cancers (breast, prostate, colon, uterus, cervix, endometrium, ovaries, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney)
- Breathing disorders (sleep apnea, asthma)
- Gynecological disorders (infertility, dysmenohrea)
- Sexual health issues (erectile dysfunction)
- Poor immune function
- Hormonal imbalances (adrenal, thyroid, insulin, sex, neurotransmitter hormones)
- Depression and low self-worth
Childhood obesity is a major concern these days. It is associated with similar health hazards such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, orthopedic problems, and low self-esteem. Childhood obesity can track into adulthood and reduce life expectancy by 2-5 years.
Not only does physical activity prevent obesity and the associated risk factors, it can improve bone mineral density, decrease risk of injury, increase sweating and detoxification pathways, increase stamina, improve mental acuity, improves sleep.
Note: if you suffer or are predisposed to any of the above conditions, please check with your primary care physician before starting any exercise regiment.
What is Resistance Training?
What is it? – Machines exercises, barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands, any weight or resistance, body weight exercises with a trainer, workout partner or by yourself.
This is for you if:
- Your focus is on fat loss, muscle gain and stress reduction
- You want to improve your bone density for preventative or current osteoporosis
- You enjoy challenging your body to improve and get stronger
- You are willing to have a personal trainer access your current fitness level, technique and safety before lifting heavy weights
- You enjoy external motivators, such as a trainer or program to guide you
- You are training for an event (ie. wedding) or athletic competition
- You have access to a gym or basic exercise equipment
- Or you have no equipment, time or money to spend on exercise… there’s plenty of body weight exercises you can do at home without needing to buy any equipment… see below for an example routine.
But I Thought Weight Training Makes You “Bulky”
If your definition of “bulky” is having muscles then yes, any strength training will make your muscles stronger and more visible. But they again, it will also allow you to be active in life, live a healthier life and lose more fat (if that’s your goal).
But, you are not a body builder. And if you were, you’d have to dedicate your entire day to working out, eating and taking the proper supplements. “Bulking up” is not easy and you won’t accidentally do it exercising 1 hour a day.
Your ability to put on more muscle than another person comes down to hormones and genetics. If you are the type that easily puts on muscle, you need to embrace your body. Being fit, active and strong is more beneficial than trying to change your body to be socially accepted. Surround yourself with positive people who accept you as you are and try the Love Your Body Challenge.
You may think you look more “man-ish” when you start working out because you aren’t used to it. I remember my family making comments about how “built” I was, and it made me feel self-conscious, but inevitably I didn’t only gain more muscle and strength, but also confidence. I liked how I felt and looked, and that’s what counts. Read my story here at Girls Gone Strong.
My favorite exercises
–Click each linked title to read the full description of the exercise, including benefits, myths, mistakes, and tons of variations and videos.
- Straight back, lifting chest, eyes forward
- Knees following over your 2nd toe (no matter if your feet are straight or turned out)
- Shoulders down and core activated (find out how to activate your core in an upcoming post)
- Square feet, hips and shoulders (all 6 points should create 3 parallel lines to the front)
- Heels (and toes) pressing into the floor
- Begin with a shoulder width stance whereby both knees create a 90˚ angles at the bottom of the lunge and maintain that position with each repetition before switching legs
- Straight back, lifting chest, eyes forward
- Front knee following over your 2nd toe
- Shoulders down and core activated (find out how to activate your core)
- Forward-facing feet, hips and shoulders
- Weight distributed evenly between the front heel (and toes) and back toe pressing into the floor with the back heel off the ground
- Back knee lightly touching the ground at the bottom of the lunge
Glute Thrust your way to nice buns – watch the video of Molly and me.
- Laying on your back with a neutral or flat spine (not arched) and eyes looking straight up
- Feet parallel or slightly turned out (knees follow the width of your feet)
- Feet 2-4 inches away from your bottom (without changing the position of your spine)
- Hands on your hips or on the floor beside you for more stability
- Inhale as you engage your core (if you don’t know what this means, try laughing or coughing with your hands on your abdomen and feel it tense up)
- Exhale as you raise your hips up. Make a straight line from knees to hips to shoulders (your weight should be in your heels and back remains stable)
- Hold for 3 seconds and squeeze your glutes as if there was a $100 bill between your cheeks and slight extend the hips higher (with a stable back and core)
- Continue to contract your glutes as you slowly lower your hips
- As you reach the floor, don’t rest. Lift straight back up for another repetition.
Deadlifting lifes natural butt-lifter -This exercise is a bit more complex. So make sure you have a skilled trainer assess your form first.
Basic Barbell Deadlift – watch the video below for proper instructions
- Stand directly behind the bar (without weight and elevated off the ground for beginners) with it lightly touching your shins
- Begin with a shoulder width stance with feet facing forward or slightly turned out
- As you bend down to grab the bar, make sure your back is straight back, chest is lifting, eyes forward and your body is hinging forward at the hips
- Your hips should stay higher than the height of your knees (or else this will be more of a squat pattern)
- Keep your knees following over top of your 2nd toes
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip just outside of your knees
- Before you pick up the bar, press your shoulders down and back while activating your core and maintaining a flat back
- Hold the bar tightly and keep your elbows stiff with a natural bend (this is your STARTING POSITION)
- As you stand up, the bar should graze along the path of your shins with your weight pressing into your heels
- Push your hips forward, exhale, and finish standing straight up with your butt squeezing tightly
- Hold the top for 2 seconds before pressing your hips backwards and hinging at the hips to lower the bar to the ground with control
- Gently touch the bar to the ground, while keeping tension on the posterior chain of your legs before repeating
Beginner Level 1: Practice this step for the first few days whenever you can– sitting at work, lying down in bed, or standing at the bus stop.
- Laying on your back with a neutral or flat spine (not arched), eyes looking straight up, knees bent and feet flat.
- Begin with coughing a few times with your hands beside your belly button to feel your core engage (coughing, laughing or imagining you are bracing for a punch will engage the same muscles – don’t suck in)
- Once you understand how to engage your core, practice holding a strong core while breathing normally. Try taking 5 slow deep breaths before relaxing.
See Level 2 and 3 HERE.
- Hands are placed under the shoulders, fingers splayed and turned slightly outwards
- Eyes looking between the fingers, feet pointing forward, up on toes with knees straight
- Flat back and neck (slight double chin) with a straight line from heel to shoulders
- Engage your core and squeeze your bum
- Mid-back is pulling your scapula down and towards the midline in the starting position and holding stiff (like you’re trying to pinch a pen between your shoulder blades)
- Your shoulders should follow over-top of your wrists as you lower your body towards the ground in a single unit
- Elbows point directly opposite to your fingers, close to your body
- Keep your body a single unit as you slowly lower to the ground. Your chest should be the first thing to touch the floor (and not your chin, nose or forehead)
- Press back up with the same form and control. — I like to tell people to imaging their back is a table and there is a full glass of red wine sitting on their back, so you better not spill one drop!
The basic standing row using bands (see image below)
- Loop your band around a stable post or pole
- Hold the band shoulder width apart
- With your arms extended, step backwards until enough tension is on the band (you can alter the resistance as you go)
- Feet and eyes should be facing forward with square shoulders and hips.
- Stand in a stable posture with your knees slightly bent, your back upright and core engaged.
- Pull your shoulder blades down and back together BEFORE you start to bend your elbows (This is your starting position for beginners)
- Keep your back and core engaged as you bring your hands to the sides of your ribcage
- Exhale and hold for a moment before slowly extending your arms back to the starting position in step 5 and repeat
- Continue for 8-15 repetitions and 3-6 sets, or work it into your circuit. Your last 2 repetitions should be very difficult. If they are too easy, take an additional step backwards to create more tension.
What kind of Resistance Training Should I do?
The amount and kind of exercise you engage in is determined by your fitness goals, personal preferences and current life situation.
If you are training for a triathlon, a specific resistance and cardiovascular training regiment is required.
If you are a social person, hiring a personal trainer and attending group classes is more advantageous than trying to workout on your own.
If you’re a single mom of 4, playing a Wii video game and lifting your children up and down may get you moving more often than a personalized gym workout.
When deciding what type of resistance training to start out with, it’s important to keep in mind your fitness goals, accessibility to a trainer, workout buddy and gym, and your life situation (aka. how much time can you dedicate on a weekly basis?):
Training buddies and support:
- One-on-one personal training
- Group personal training
- With a partner or small group
- On your own
Type of facility
- At home body weight training (chair, table, step, heavy objects at home- ie. bag of rice, potatoes, onions, jug of water)
- Basic equipment resistance training (resistance bands, mat, heavy objects)
- Basic weights resistance training
- Full-gym weight training
- Hotel room or gym for the traveling sort
- Outdoors/ nature
- 10 minutes a day, 7 days a week
- 20-30 min, 5 days a week
- 30-60 min, 3 days a week
- Weekend warrior (1-2 hours only on the weekends)
Depending on what you have available to you, try using one of these templates to guide your workout. If you are brand new to weight training I highly recommend getting a personal trainer for at least 4 sessions to assess your form, technique and safety when moving. You may need some rehabilitation for old injuries or physical compensations that could be aggravated with intense exercise.
Click the links to download the workout pdf’s:
- Interval Training for Body Weight Exercises – 10 min, 7 days a week (beginners)
- Interval Training for Static Cardio Machines – 20 min, 3-5 days a week (beginners)
- Full Body Circuit training for Basic Equipment – 30-45 min, 3 days a week (intermediate)
- Strength training for full gym equipment – 60 min, 4-day split (advanced)
The Fitness Experts
Dr. Alison Chen, ND: Strong & Sexy in 6 – A 6-week holistic approach to looking good and feeling even better. I take you through the 6 modalities of health so that you are not only strengthening your muscles, immune system and detoxification system, but nourishing your adrenals and improving your state of mind to feel sexy and confident. You deserve an extraordinary life.
The PTDC: beginner workout program – The Focus System is a simple, straightforward system specifically designed to create effective workouts for beginner exerciser. Hint: even trainers use this system for their clients.
Girls Gone Strong: The Modern Women’s Guide to Strength Training – A progressive approach for getting stronger and leaner, training the way you are meant to train. This is a program designed by women for women who want to get strong, lean, and feel amazing.
Neghar Fonooni: Lean and Lovely – My new Lean & Lovely program helps you lose fat, gain strength, develop confidence and cultivate your radiance–all while maintaining the true essence of your femininity. Written by a fiercely feminine woman, Lean & Lovely is my debut kick-ass training program designed specifically for women.
Jen Sinkler: Lift Weights Faster 2 – Lifting weights faster — can burn more fat, build more muscle, rev your metabolism, and improve your work capacity better than typical aerobic exercise sessions (which often take much, much longer and deliver less of a payoff). In other words, strength training is pretty unapologetically awesome.
Bret Contreras: Strong Curves – A woman’s guide to getting a better butt and body. Bret is the Glute Guy. This is not your run-of-the-mill fitness book. Developed by world-renowned gluteal expert Bret Contreras, Strong Curves offers an extensive fitness and nutrition guide for women seeking to improve their physique, function, strength, and mobility.
Jessie Mundell: To Pregnancy and Beyond – To Pregnancy & Beyond will teach you a new way to exercise. A new way to eat. A new and beautiful way to think about your body.
SIMILAR BLOG POSTS
- The Best Type of Exercise for YOU
- Squat like a champ
- Love your Lunges
- Glute Thrust your way to nice buns
- Activate Your Core with the Deadbug
- Proper Posture to Build Confidence
- The Push-up: Building upper body strength
- The Row: Building upper body strength
- Liking your body and yourself more