Four easy ways to add resistance training to your workout

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Toby doing a pushup

Let’s play a word association game. When I say “exercise,” what are the first things that pop into your mind? I bet they are visions of running, elliptical training, and getting sweaty and out of breath — you know, cardio.

OK, next word: “resistance training” (dang, that was two words). Does your mind turn to Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mr. Olympia in the 1970s, not California governor in the 2000s)? Or how about athletes hitting the weight room to be game ready on the field?

When it comes to exercise, most of the general non-athlete, non-bodybuilder public primarily think of aerobic activities. When we think of working out, we most often think of heart health and activities such as walking, running, cycling, swimming — moderate intensity activities that raise the heart rate that are performed for longer periods of time, say 20-45 minutes.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity guidelines, all adults need resistance training in addition to aerobic exercise. Resistance training is not just for athletes or bodybuilders; it’s for everyone.

Resistance training is critical for men and women of all ages to strengthen muscles, bones, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce the risk of falls, increase the chances of living independently as we age, and improve quality of life. Resistance training = life training.

But most Americans aren’t meeting the guidelines when it comes to resistance training. According to the CDC, fewer than 25% of us are doing it at least twice per week. And I get it. Aerobic exercise can seem a heck of a lot more convenient; I mean what’s more convenient than walking?

But resistance training, that’s way less convenient. You need gym access, heavy weights, machines and most inconvenient of all, you have to know what you’re doing.

Yes, resistance training can be intimidating and inconvenient, but it doesn’t have to be!

Follow these strategies from Mercer Wellness:

  • Start small — The guidelines tell us we need “at least two days of weekly muscle strengthening activities.” I recommend starting your resistance training program with two days a week, not six. We’re training for life here, not the Olympics. And let’s not go crazy with time, either. An effective resistance plan can be 15-20 minutes, no need for hours in the gym.
  • No equipment, no problem — Resistance training doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or using a lot of weights or machines. An effective training program can be based on body weight exercises such as squats, pushups and lunges, and if you buy a resistance band (a $15-$20 investment), the sky is nearly the limit when it comes to options.
  • Stick with the fundamentals — There are a lot of complicated, highly technical exercises out there, most of which involve an Instagram account or a YouTube video. Stick with the basics because the basics work. Squats, bench presses, pullups, rows, overhead presses, lunges, planks. Arnold did them, athletes do them and you should do them.
  • Work out your whole body — To reap the benefits of resistance training, you need to work all major muscle groups: legs, back, arms/shoulders, abdominals and chest. Most people spend way too much time doing abs (ineffectively, I might add) and thousands of bicep curls (the least effective way to build bigger arms). Spend more time on exercises that work the legs, back, shoulders and chest — these exercises have the benefit of working the abs and arms as well.

Need some advice about starting an organized and effective resistance training program? Contact me and let me help.

 

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Rachel Woodson is director of employee wellness at Mercer University.