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The lowdown on resistance training

Want to become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine? Resistance training is the best, most effective way to blast calories, tone up and get an all-over workout. What are you waiting for — it’s time to lift some weights!

woman with dumbells

In the workout world, resistance training is not just a craze — it’s the training method of choice for women who want to get leaner and stronger. Also known as strength training, resistance exercises work the major muscle groups of your body, giving you a full body workout. When combined with cardio workouts a couple of times a week, resistance training can have phenomenal results. Don’t believe us? Read on to find out why and try it for yourself!

What is it, exactly?

Resistance training is all about working your muscles against — you guessed it — some form of resistance, such as a dumbbell or barbell. These exercises build up the strength, endurance and size of skeletal muscles, which leads to a long list of great things including healthy bones, good joint function and excellent bone density. To strengthen your muscles and get a healthy gold star, aim to work all the major muscle groups in your body at least twice a week. Do that for a while and you’ll be firmer, leaner and stronger.

Examples

One of the great things about resistance training is that you can do it just about anywhere, with or without props. These are the most common types of training:

  • Free weights — Classic strength training uses props such as dumbbells and barbells. If you’re unsure how to use these, enlist the help of a personal trainer or join a weights or pump class to learn the ropes.
  • Weight machines — Once the domain of beefy men, weights rooms in gyms all around the country are being taken over by women. Make sure to adjust the seats, handles and weight to a level that you’re comfortable with — don’t overdo it!
  • Resistance bands — Popular in Pilates, these large rubber band-like things provide resistance, making every exercise a little bit harder.
  • Body weight — Of course, your own body weight is one of the best tools you have when it comes to strength training. Try doing planks, push-ups and squats as part of your resistance routine.

The benefits

  • Strong bones — Strength training develops bone density, putting you at less risk of osteoporosis.
  • Blast calories — The more lean muscle you have, the better your body burns calories. So if you like the thought of your body blasting calories all day long (even when you’re sitting down doing nothing), head to the weights room!
  • Build strong muscle — Great muscles not only reduce your chances of injury, but they also help you maintain your flexibility, balance and tone.
  • Boost your endurance — By helping you gain strength, resistance training lifts your stamina and ensures that you don’t get tired easily.
  • Sleep better — Because it exhausts your muscle groups, strength training can help you get a good night’s sleep and leave insomnia behind.
  • Manage other medical conditions — When done in moderation, resistance training can ease and reduce the symptoms of conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and chronic back pain.

Getting started

Learn the technique

When you’re starting out, nothing is more important than getting your technique right. Proper technique will keep you safe and help you achieve all the benefits listed above, while the wrong technique may lead to injury. If you don’t know whether you’re doing an exercise correctly, or if you’ve never done resistance training before, it really is worth splashing some cash on a personal trainer or gym membership — at least until you get the hang of it.

Don’t forget to stretch

Before you start working those lovely lean muscles, make sure your body is warmed up. Around five to 10 minutes of stretching and some light cardio should do the job.

Design a program

When starting a weights routine, just like anything else, it’s best to go slowly and build up over time. Learn how to do 10 exercises that work the major muscle groups and try to do them two or three times a week. As for “reps” (the number of times you do each exercise), start with five and as you get stronger, increase the number!

And finally…

Don’t hold your breath! Many women concentrate so hard on moving the weight that they forget to breathe. But breathing is your body’s way of making everything easier, so exhale at the hardest point of each exercise. For example, with squats, exhale as you push yourself up and inhale on the way down.

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