Getting comfortable with a steady cardio routine is definitely a great accomplishment and something to be proud of, but if you are doing cardio day in, day out then it might be time for you to mix it up a little bit. I would recommend throwing in some form of strength training, not only will you see some amazing physiological benefits such as a decrease in body fat and weight loss, you will also see a massive improvement in your running/ swimming/ biking (or whatever cardio) performance as well.
Strength or resistance training can be a little intimidating at first if you don’t know where the hell to start but understanding the basics will help you feel more confident in the weights room.
Now whilst cardio is definitely an important part of your fitness, the benefits of resistance training is massive too. Strength training helps build muscle, and more lean muscle means more fat and calories burned. It also helps strengthen bones and joints, decreases the risk of injury and improves muscular endurance.
With the benefits or resistance training being so important, I am going to share with you so tips to help you get started with your strength training.
You can start with your body weight – Put simply, strength training means using resistance to create work for your muscles. For many people when we talk about strength training they immediately think of hardcore machines and barbells, however you can create resistance using minimal or no equipment what so ever. Body weight workouts can be incredibly effective and is something I personally proscribe clients that can’t always get to the gym or haven’t got access to the gym. You can also use tools like kettlebells, barbells, TRX, dumbbells etc.
Begin with a 2 day a week routine and build up – Start with two days for 3 to 4 weeks then add a third. Ideally you should strength train 3 days a week minimum but build this up, we all need to start somewhere. For a three-day split routine please feel free to contact us for a periodised programme. Aim to complete a 20 minute resistance session to begin with then increase this to 45-60 minutes a few months down the line. This doesn’t mean you should skip cardio, 150 minutes of light to moderate cardio or 75 minutes of high intensity cardio per week is perfect and a great mix.
Prep your muscles before you start – A proper warm up is important, start by foam rolling to wake the muscles up. This loosens up tight muscles so they can work the way they are designed to. A dynamic warm up is also important too and helps with range of motion. Increasing ROM will help you get deeper in your squats and other big lifts. I know from personal experience that if I don’t mobilise and warm up properly, particularly on important movements like squats and deadlifts my movement isn’t as effective as it should be.
Pair upper and lower body movements together – You have probably heard a lot of experienced lifters talking about split routines or “today is leg day”… but when it comes to beginners strength workouts that is only a few days a week, a full body routine is the way to go. Full body workouts maximise your calorie burn and work all your muscles every session. I would recommend doing an upper body exercise followed by a lower body exercise. Aim for a balance between push and pull movements too, this will give you a great balance of exercises and a complete workout.
Aim for three sets of 15 reps – When you are starting out try to keep things simple. Performing 15 repetitions of a particular movement for 3 sets is a great place to start. 15 reps is a great way to get your muscles working and start to build some muscle endurance without putting too much stress and strain in joints, ligaments and tendons. Using this rep ranges allows you to perform correct movement as well as you are not going too heavy. Once you get used to the exercises and rep ranges then you can start to change the ranges to 8-12 to build more muscle as well as strength.
Select the correct weight – Different exercises will require different weights, but there are some markers that can help guide you towards the right resistance. I recommend going for a weight that feels heavy enough to challenge you, but not so heavy that you sacrifice form. For example, if you are doing 15 reps you should feel pretty fatigued by the time you have finished, if you feel like you can manage a lot more than 15 repetitions then the weight is to light, so put it up.
Fit in a post workout stretch – Stretch out at the end of your resistance workout. Stretching whilst the muscles are warm can improve flexibility and reduce the onset of DOMS. A light cooldown is a great way to calm the nervous system, a light static stretch should be done at this time for each major muscle group, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
Refuel – After a great workout it is important to rehydrate your body so drink plenty of water. A balanced post workout snack is also a great idea. Go for one that has a good source of carbohydrate and protein to help replenish glycogen stores as well as helping to build and repair your muscles. If weight loss is one of your goals it is still important to keep calories in mind, a post workout snack shouldn’t be anymore than 150 – 200 calories.
Finally take rest days – YES, that’s right rest days are just as important as the workout itself. Its ok for your muscles to feel a little sore the day after your workout, this is called DOMS or delayed onset of muscle soreness. When you strength train you will cause some microscopic tissue damage that will be repaired and get stronger. If you are constantly breaking down muscle without any recovery, then you won’t give your muscle tissues any time to repair. I schedule in rest days but listen to your body and how you feel. For a beginner I would recommend training a full body resistance split on non-consecutive days for example a Monday/Wednesday/Friday routine would be perfect.
I hope this helps you get started with your resistance and strength routine. If you require some assistance with structure and periodisation of a resistance training plan the please feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE consultation to discuss your fitness goals with one of our experienced trainers and take your fitness to the next level.