There are two primary versions of basic exercise: Cardiovascular training (aerobic exercise) and strength training.
Cardio workouts are pretty straightforward — a repetitive activity that elevates your heart rate. Typical examples are jogging, elliptical trainer, swimming, cycling, or jumping rope.
Strength training involves flexing your muscles against resistance, at a level of difficulty that only allows you to complete a small number of repetitions. Your personal trainer will design a strength training workout that is customized to the level of difficulty you need.
When you’re strength training, you can use a variety of different things for resistance: barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, boulders, exercise tubing, or even simply your own body weight.
Benefits of strength training workouts
Strength training (also called weight training or “lifting weights”) gives you a whole host of great benefits:
- Build muscle: Strength training gets you muscles, and let’s face it, being buff is something that just about everyone would like.
- Strength training makes you strong. It also helps you retain your muscle tissue if you’re eating a caloric deficit to lose weight.
- Burn fat: Strength training helps you lose body fat by elevating your metabolism. When you finish a weight training workout, your metabolism (how many calories you burn) is boosted for up to 72 hours after your workout.
- Strength training can help speed up your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is because it takes your body more calories to maintain muscle than it does to maintain fat. Estimates are that for every pound of muscle you gain, your RMR goes up 30-50 calories!
- Health benefits: Strength training improves bone density, builds a stronger heart, reduces your resting blood pressure, improves blood flow, helps control blood sugar, improves mental function, improves cholesterol levels, and improves your balance and coordination. If you want a workout that gives you maximum health benefits for your time and efforts, strength training is it!
Additional benefits of strength training:
Exercising earlier in the day has been proven to help prevent both sleep apnea and insomnia.
Strength training can improve your posture and make you look taller!
Fight off heart disease: Strength training helps correct issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and inactivity – all factors for heart disease. (Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.)
Strength training has also been proven to help manage and improve the quality of life for people who have arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Down Syndrome, Lymphedema, fibromyalgia, and clinical depression. Strength training improves the day-to-day lives of those who have recently had a stroke or survived cancer.
How to do strength training workouts
There are two main paths you can choose when it comes to putting together a strength training workout:
• Training at home with just bodyweight
• Training in a gym with equipment (barbells, dumbbells, and machines)
Simplest advice: Pick the path that makes you the least scared to attempt! We all have to start somewhere, and by doing something, we get past the mental hurdles and confusion around beginning a long journey. Once you get a little momentum, you’ll start to feel great and be less awkward.
Using your own bodyweight as resistance in your quest to get stronger requires zero equipment, and you can train anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, in a hotel room, at a playground, in your office at work, or on Space X’s first mission to Mars — as long as you have enough space to move around, you can get your workout done and fit it into your busy schedule.
Bodyweight training is a perfect place to start, since you’ll begin learning the basics of moving your own body correctly.
Even as you get stronger and start to venture into lifting weights, you’ll always have these basics in your routine:
Basic bodyweight exercises
• Bodyweight squats
The only downside to a bodyweight exercise program is that you will need to consistently modify the difficulty of each exercise as you get stronger. This requires a little more knowledge and creativity than just adding more weight to a barbell! Your personal trainer will teach you how to modify the difficulty of the bodyweight exercises in your program.
Training in a gym with equipment
When you’re working out with weights, either in a commercial gym or in your own garage or workout room, you’re going to be using some type of strength training equipment:
• Strength machines (plate-loaded and/or pin-selector)
• Exercise tubing
• Medicine balls
Dumbbells are a great way to start out with weighted strength training for a few reasons. First, most workout rooms will have a variety of dumbbells, even if it’s a basic gym in your apartment complex or the exercise room in a hotel. If you want to train at home, you can pick up a few different-sized dumbbells from a sporting goods store or a (probably little-used) assortment from Craigslist.
The biggest downside to dumbbells? You may quickly outgrow whatever size you purchase. But consider it a reward — congratulations, you’ve graduated to a bigger set of weights!
Barbell exercises are some of the most basic strength moves you can do. Barbells are required if you need to lift heavy (pick up lots of weight), especially for lower body movements like squats and deadlifts.
The downside to barbell training at home is that you need to have a squat rack, a barbell, a bench, and an adequate assortment of weight plates in your house or garage.
If not, you definitely will be needing a gym membership: see the chapter in this guide about joining the right gym!
What kind of strength training is best?
The best strength workout is the one that you will actually do! You’ll probably go through phases as you work out that will have you mixing and matching bodyweight training, weight training, and maybe some cardio. Your Basics and Beyond personal trainer can be with you through every step of this process.
Choose the type of workout that makes the most sense for your specific situation.
There’s no substitute for some heavy barbell squats and deadlifts, but if you can’t see yourself going to the gym a couple days each week, you should look at some of the other options.
Likewise, bodyweight training at home might seem convenient, but if you aren’t good at motivating yourself, you may be better off in a gym with other people. One of the big benefits of working with a personal trainer is the built-in consistency and motivation!
Once you get a little experience under your belt, you can pick the right workout to match any situation. When you’re traveling, you can do bodyweight workouts since you don’t have gym equipment available. If you’re in your exercise room at home, you can use the equipment you’ve got on hand. And when you need some extra motivation or some new ideas, call your trainer.
A mix of all these options will build a well-balanced, functional body. But regardless of whether you’re training at home or at a gym, you need a game plan to follow!
Get with a quality personal trainer from Basics and Beyond fitness & nutrition. You don’t want to waste your time and effort on a routine that doesn’t produce results. Don’t be that person who wanders around the exercise room, sits at a machine and does a few repetitions, and then wanders onto the next machine. Unless killing time is your goal, this will not get you the results you’re after!
Assuming you made it all the way to the gym, or you got dressed to train at home, you might as well follow a good plan!
Starting a strength training program
Most exercise beginners will be best served by choosing a full-body strength training routine done three times per week (giving you a day to rest in between each workout). Follow the 6 fundamental strength training moves.
Here’s some basic weight training terminology:
Repetitions (“Reps” for short): The number of times you performed an exercise move without stopping. 10 reps of lunges means you did 10 lunges in a row.
Sets: A block of repetitions. If you did 3 sets of 10 reps of bench press, this means you did 10 bench presses in a row, recovered for a few minutes, did another 10 bench presses in a row, recovered for a few minutes, and then did another 10 bench presses in a row.
The Basics of Sets and Reps
When it comes to programming your strength training workout, your personal trainer will adjust how much weight you work with, and how many reps per set you should be targeting. These are all based on your fitness goals:
Reps in the 1-5 range build raw strength (the fancy term is called myofibrillar hypertrophy).
Reps in the 6-12 range build somewhat equal amounts of muscular strength, size, and muscular endurance. Good general fitness workout. So if your goal is to “tone up”, this is where you’ll spend most of your workout.
Reps in the 15-30 range build muscular endurance, (and less strength).
If you are just getting started, begin with lighter weights and higher reps so you can practice your form. Build a base of physical ability and skill, then work towards using heavier weights and more difficult exercise variations.
One very important point: How you eat will account for most of your success or failure with your exercise program. No matter how many sets or reps you do, how you eat will determine how your body responds to your training.
Your main goal should be to build some momentum and consistency. This way you will be continuously getting stronger, healthier, leaner, and more physically capable.
You’ve got lots of options for strength training programs you can start with. But the most important thing is that you start!
Contact Basics and Beyond and tell us about your goals and your situation. We’ll probably have a great solution for you!