We’ve all made it into the gym and feebly picked up a few light-weight dumbbells and given it our half-hearted best while watching TV or listening to our MP3 players. And then, 20 minutes into it, we feel like we did enough.
But, we probably didn’t do enough to even tickle the muscle fibers, let alone work them out sufficiently to give us the boost in metabolism, or burn those extra calories after the workout is over.
Yes, properly done, resistance training will not only boost metabolism but you will also continue to burn up calories, long after you’ve done the last rep. Now, if this alone isn’t reason enough to keep reading, then perhaps the fact that for every pound of muscle you add, you will burn an extra 50 calories a day and lose inches quicker will …
What is resistance training?
Simply put, resistance training is pitting your muscles against an external resistance like dumbbells, bands, gallon milk jugs, aquatics and even your own body.
This forces your muscles to contract and breakdown during the workout. After the workout the muscles repair and rebuild themselves (which is why it’s critical to take in a good source of protein within 30 minutes of resistance training) which requires a larger amount of energy to do, which means greater caloric burn even after the workout ends.
As a woman, it is near impossible to “bulk up” without assistance from hormones or steroids; so, don’t worry, you won’t look like those overly muscled body builders with every muscle fiber visible when you flex your muscles. This fear keeps many women away from the weights in the gym, or if they do use weights, they’re afraid to go beyond 5lb.
Benefits of resistance training
- Increased metabolism and increased caloric burn
- Increased muscle mass and reduced body fat
- Improved balance and stability
- Reduced risk of diabetes, arthritis, osteoarthritis etc
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate, which is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease (although it has been found that if you have high blood pressure, using excessively heavy weight could cause increased blood pressure)
- A lean and toned body
- Increased muscle strength within a short time frame
- Improved self esteem and self-confidence
Examples of resistance training
Does the big bulky guy, who’s always in the gym no matter what hour of the day you’re there; the one who can’t put his arms straight down the sides of his body because he has so much muscle, intimidate you? He shouldn’t! He’s actually a mouse in disguise! Either way, you’re in luck, cable machines although a very effective way for a beginner to do resistance training is certainly not the only way of doing it.
Other methods include:
- Water — low impact, high resistance!
- Ever tried running in water as a kid. Well, strap on a couple of ankle weights and go jogging in the shallow end of the pool.
- Take a water aerobics class. — This class is no longer just for the active geriatric group. Water aerobics has taken on a completely new twist and can give you a run for your money!
- Elastic Bands — this versatile little piece of elastic can be the only piece of equipment you would need to do a full body resistance workout. From bicep curls (step on the band with one foot, and do a curl; increase resistance by stepping on it with both feet slightly apart) to butt toning exercises (step on the band with one foot, place the band on the arch of your second foot and bend it behind you so that the bottom of your foot is looking skyward, bring your foot as far up behind you as you can go, while straightening at the knee and then return to the ground)
- Free weights — If you don’t belong to a gym, and don’t want any gym equipment lying around your home, then raid your pantry and pull out two half gallon or gallon jugs of water and use them as weights. Cans of soup work just as well.
- Your own body — you can use your own body for resistance. Push ups, pull ups, chin ups, chair dips etc.
If you’re really serious, you can buy one of those single pair of dumbbells with add-on metal plates to vary the weight from 5lb all the way to 50lbs each. This will occupy minimal space in your house and you have a versatile piece of equipment to give yourself a full body workout. (exercises for the legs include lunges both stationary and walking with dumbbells in each hand, for the abs – lay on your back with a 5 or 8lb weight in both hands, with your arms stretched straight above you, reaching for the ceiling, bend your knees and raise your upper torso into a crunch)
Adding resistance training to your overall fitness regimens even just twice a week will result in marked improvements.
It is particularly important in women since we start losing bone density after the age of 30. While the jury is still out on whether it can reverse the osteoporosis it can certainly delay its onset. So go ahead, pick up those cans of soup and “use them” before consuming them!