To achieve weight loss, you need to increase the number of calories your body burns all day, every day. It’s not just about what you burn when you workout, it’s about how many calories you burn even when you’re sleeping. Yes, sleeping. Guess what burns a TON of calories?? Yep, muscle… long, lean, beautiful muscle. A solid strength routine is the fastest way to a long, lean body.
Strength Routine – Home or Gym?
This question depends on a few things. If you’re new to working out, you can totally start at home. You’ll need some light hand weights, bands, and other inexpensive residence equipment. Your body weight will even challenge you at first if you haven’t been training.
Once you develop some strength, you’ll need heavier weights, especially for the large muscles of the legs and back. At that point you can either upgrade your home gym or join a gym.
I personally do home workouts a few days a week when I can’t make it to the gym, but prefer the gym workout routines for a couple of reasons. They have a variety of strength machines to choose from, which helps avoid plateaus. They also have recovery modalities like the cold pool, sauna, massage guns, and massage chairs. Lastly, I like to be among ‘my people’. Seeing other fitness-minded people motivates me and keeps me focused in a different way than working out on my own.
Strength Routine – Basics
You should strength train your full body, twice a week. Use weights that you can barely lift when you get to 10 or 11 repetitions. If you haven’t life weights before, start with low weight and learn the movements first.
Alternate between upper and lower body exercises if you can. For example, do chest press then squats. It lets your muscles recover between sets and shunts the blood from upper to lower body, bringing more calories.
Do two sets if time allows, it should take no more than 30 minutes. When you can easily complete 12 repetitions, increase the weight.
Include a core routine to keep your abdominal muscles and back strong and stable. That’s the foundation of all strength and stabilizes dynamic movement.
Ladies, it’s a myth that you’ll ‘bulk up’ from strength training. No baby weights.
Strength Routine – Free Personal Training?
If you join a gym, they’ll likely offer you a free session with a personal trainer. They offer these free sessions to try and sell you personal training. If you can afford it, go for it.
If not, this is what you do.
Tell the trainer you want a full-body workout prescription. You need an exercise for each body part, that includes extra weight and machines, not just your bodyweight or light bands. Let them know you want something you can do on your own, to BUILD muscle. They should suggest a weight that makes you really tired after about 8-10 reps.
If you’re de-conditioned or lifting for the first time, you may have to start with bodyweight exercises like modified pushups, bodyweight squats, and bands.
Strength Routine – PROGRESS over time
Once you learn that first workout, you’ll be tempted to stay with those exercises and weights forever. That will cause you to plateau eventually. You MUST progress past that point. Otherwise, you’ll TONE, but not BUILD muscle.
Building muscle is what helps you lose weight. Once you can do an exercise 12 times easily, it’s time to try a new exercise with that muscle or increase the weight, or both. The more you learn the easier this will become. Just be careful not to get complacent.
Strength Routine – Core and Abdominal
One of the most imbalanced areas is our core. You should always train low back and abdominal muscles together. This ensures that the entire ‘core’ musculature is strong, stable, and balanced. The routine linked below will take you through a simple routine I taught hundreds of clients over the years.
You can do it at the beginning or end of your workout, it takes about 7 minutes.
Strength Routine – Note about Intensity
You should strength train your full body, twice a week. Use weights that you can barely lift when you get to 10 or 11 reps. Alternate between upper and lower body exercises if you can. For example, do chest press then leg press. It lets your muscles rest and keeps your heart rate up by requiring the blood to shunt from upper to lower body. Do two sets if time allows, it should take no more than 30 minutes. When the weight gets too easy, increase it.
When to Get a Personal Trainer
If you can afford it, save a little money and find a good, certified personal trainer. Let them know that your goal is to LEARN to train YOURSELF. If they even blink when you say that…. get a different trainer. Good personal trainers are teachers.
There are some basic movements that all other strength exercises are build from. Once you learn these movements you can apply that learning to just about any strength routine. They won’t feel or look sexy… but, to get to the fun stuff you have to be able to move your body properly in space.
Building muscle requires the ability to move your body in space with control, in the right direction again the force, the right amount of resistance, at the right speed, progression, and frequency.
You can Teach yourself
A package of personal training sessions that will teach you enough to get started is about $500. A personal training certification course is about $450. I chose the latter. While the bodybuilders I knew early in my career helped me learn the movements, most of the knowledge about building training plans I learned on my own.
You don’t have to take the certification test but you can learn a lot by just taking the course and studying the materials. Just make sure it’s a national certification, not some weekend course. I studied for about a year to learn enough to train myself and eventually clients. I have used that learning to train myself ever since.
If I could give you a list of equipment I would. Unfortunately, you really need access to weights that progress over time. You really need to join a gym. If finances are truly an issue, the YMCA offers financial assistance. There’s really no excuse.
A good strength workout can cause muscles to contract and relax over and over again. This shortens the muscles over time if you don’t stretch when you’re finished. Click here to see a quick 15 minute stretching routine or here to read more about YOGA as a way to stay loose.