A client of mine came to my Strength Training class for the first time last week and her words afterwards were... "I feel like this is the missing piece of the puzzle with all the other training I've been doing". Spot on! If you're exercising regularly then go you! No matter what you're choosing to do, if you're moving and working your body a few times a week then that's awesome! In saying that, I would recommend that everyone be doing at least two strength training workouts a week to maximise the benefits of exercise. If you're new to strength training or if you just want to make sure your focusing on the right things when you're lifting weights then check out my '10 tips for getting the most out of Strength Training'...
1. Use the best exercises for your body. We are all so different and our ability to perform certain exercises can vary greatly. For example, not everyone has the mobility to perform a Deadlift correctly so as a trainer, I would get that person to perform some hamstring curls or reverse hyperextensions instead and we would gradually work on Deadlift technique and mobility. Don't get me wrong, it's important to work on our weaknesses but not if it's unsafe.
2. Make sure you're using the right weight. A good way to tell if the weight you're lifting is too heavy or too light is to assess how hard the last two repetitions (reps) feel. The last two reps should be challenging (to overload the muscle) but if you are supposed to do a set of ten reps and you can't get to seven then you might need to downsize the weight. If you smash out an easy ten reps without breaking a sweat then you might want to pick up a bigger dumbbell.
3. Be sensible about your recovery between sets. Don't get distracted between sets by the conversation you're having with the guy on the bench next to you (no matter how cute he is ;-) ). In saying that, you do need to allow adequate recovery time between sets when you're lifting heavy weights to maximise the benefits. My suggestion is to check the clock after your last rep or have a timer set and work in a specific time frame, Between one and two minutes rest is about right for a strength training set unless you are performing less than five repetitions at a super heavy weight in which you may need between 3 and 5 minutes rest between sets.
4. Quality over Quantity. Always! As a trainer I would rather see 5 push ups done well than 15 done poorly. Practice good technique and use a lighter weight if your form is compromised.
5. You don't need to spend more than an hour lifting weights. Time is not an excuse for missing a session. If you think that 30 minutes of strength training isn't worth it then you're wrong! You can get so much done in 30 minutes and I promise you that you'll still be sore tomorrow. Less weight, more reps, less recovery and you've got a heart rate raising, strength and cardio workout that will send you home tired and sweaty. Try doing your strength exercises in a circuit format with 8=10 upper and lower body exercises; 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off for 3 rounds.
6. You don't have to kill yourself every session. Overloading the muscles is important to get stronger but sometimes you just need to move for it to be beneficial. Not being able to walk after leg day is not always a marker of success. Like I said, it's good to be sore but work towards improvement not towards soreness. There are a lot of variances in working out including the amount of sleep you got the night before, nutrition, fatigue from a previous workout etc. Keep track of your weights and work within your limits on days when you aren't feeling your best.
7. Don't do too much too early on. Yes we want to get tight buns and defined tricep muscles in the first two weeks of our strength training program but it just isn't realistic. Your body takes time to adapt physically and neurologically to the different muscles being used and it will take time to see significant improvement. Work on getting the technique correct first and then you can gradually increase your weights. Don't forget that the majority of sports athletes train from a young age to be at the level they're at today.
8. Consistency is key. I know I say it a lot but it's honestly the way forward no matter what type of training you are doing. Two times a week, five times a week, whatever works for you and whatever you can maintain. It will take a while to see results and the only way to keep that momentum is to keep showing up.
9. Don't be goal obsessed. Have a goal by all means. It's great to work towards something and you'll find a real sense of achievement when you get there but don't beat yourself up when you have a set back or feel like you aren't moving forward fast enough. These things take time!
10. Be flexible and adapt. Life can get crazy and probably will at some points along the way so you need to be prepared to adapt if you want to stay consistent. Not everyone is lucky to have the same routine all year round and sometimes it takes a little flexibility to get your exercise in every week. Travelling for work? Most hotels have a gym with a few dumbbells and a treadmill. Do the best with what you've got. Stuck at home with sick kids? Flick on a movie and do a thirty minute bodyweight circuit with squats, push up and sit ups. Just use what you've got and do your best. You'll feel so much better for it.
I love strength training and I love what it does for my body and my mind so give it a go and maybe you'll love it to. There are a lot of benefits to throwing some dumbbells or kettlebells into your weekly workouts so if you'd like a strength training program then shoot me a message and I'll write one up that is suitable and sustainable for your lifestyle.
Here's to a happy, healthy and strong you!