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The Simple Life Healthy Lifestyle Plan Exercise Basics: Get Lean And Strong With Resistance Training

Pullups are a great resistance training exercise.
Pullups are a great resistance training exercise.

Resistance Training: Bulking Up Versus Toning Up

Resistance training is sometimes referred to as strength training or weight training. This type of exercise increases your muscular strength with weights (resistance) such as a dumbbell, barbell, resistance bands, or your own body weight.

Resistance training can increase muscle strength and bone density as well as produce denser, stronger muscles. This is not to knock aerobic exercise; it is also very important. However, many people underestimate the value of incorporating resistance training into their workouts, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake. The bottom line is that you will get the best results when you combine both aerobic and resistance training for a synergistic training effect.

Many people often mistakenly think that only bodybuilders should lift heavy weights. Time and time again, new gym-goers say, “I don’t want to lift weights or do resistance training because it will make me look bulky.” Women especially have this fear, since many of them want to have a more streamlined athletic look.

Resistance bands are a cheap and easy home gym solution.
Resistance bands are a cheap and easy home gym solution.

However, the belief that lifting weights automatically leads to bulky muscles is a complete myth, particularly in the case of women. Creating the muscular look of a bodybuilder takes years and years of intense physical training, a great deal of dedication, protein and supplements, and a deep understanding of human biochemistry. Nobody looks like that without years of extremely intense, multi-hour, daily workouts. Working out with weights three to four times per week will not turn you into a hulking green superhero running around in shredded pants, I promise you!

You will, however, look slimmer and more toned and feel much stronger and more energetic. Resistance training is an essential part of efficient weight loss and the maintenance of a balanced, healthy body.

Weight Training Boosts Your Metabolism

A study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that after six months of lifting weights three days a week, subjects increased the number of calories they burned maintaining their bodily functions at rest (i.e., their resting metabolic rate) by seven percent.

Workout Words: Sets, Reps, and Intensity

A repetition (rep) is one complete movement of an exercise, such as a single bicep curl. A set is the total number of repetitions you perform for that exercise. The last rep of any set should feel very difficult to do, but still be at a level of intensity that allows you to perform the exercise with the correct technique.

Key Concept: A rep: one repetition of a resistance exercise, A set: a given number of reps.

Once you feel comfortable with the workouts and have a solid resistance training routine, try performing 8 to 12 reps for each set of a given exercise. The time frame of how soon this happens varies from person to person. For beginners, it usually takes about four to six weeks. Remember it is not only your muscles that need to adapt to exercise, but also your joints, tendons and ligaments. Be patient with yourself and remember moderation is the key.

Once you are ready to work in the 8 to 12 rep range, boost your exercise intensity by increasing the amount of weight you lift; you can use an exercise band or tube and increase the intensity of the resistance by shortening the length of the band.

Remember to never sacrifice technique and proper form for intensity or amount of weight lifted. That way, you’ll get the maximum amount of benefit from an exercise without exposing yourself to unnecessary risk of injury or joint pain.

Key Concept: Increasing the intensity of the resistance you use while simultaneously decreasing the number of reps in a set helps to stimulate the development of your strength and improve the density of your muscles.

The intensity of your exercise should match your experience. For beginners, I don’t recommend exercising for more than 30 to 45 minutes, per workout, in the beginning – but you will need to work up to at least this amount. For those hoping to get enough exercise (and real results) by following a fad-based, 10-minute-a-day workout to “get ripped,” save your money. The human body was designed to move and be active for more than 10 minutes per day; I don’t care how intense the exercise is. Purported “miracle” quickie workouts are just fantasies playing into people’s understandable desires for a quick fix. That is not to say doing a quick workout when time is tight is a bad thing; it should just never be the core of any workout program or routine.

Rest Days: Taking a Break in Intensity

You will note that the recommended exercise routines that follow include days reserved for rest. One “rest” day, in workout terms, doesn’t involve sitting still and doing nothing. Rather, it means that you shouldn’t do any resistance training or any challenging cardio such as running or sprinting on that day.

You can, however, still do light, low-intensity movement on a rest day. I recommend going for a short bike ride or a walk, as long as this is a low-intensity activity for you. Try to do so after dinner if possible, to help relieve the stress of the day and assist with digestion. Once your body becomes more adapted to exercise you can take on more challenging cardiovascular activities on your rest days, but keep it basic and easy for now.

Key Concept: Remember, your body needs time to repair itself. This can only be accomplished by giving it enough rest time to rebuild the muscle you have broken down during exercise. Ensure you incorporate rest days into your workout plan.

It is essential that you understand the principle of proper rest. Don’t perform resistance training for more than two days in a row without taking a day off. Some people are so enthusiastic and think that performing resistance training every day will lead to better and faster results. This is usually not the case. Doing too much, too soon (over-training) can lead to chronic fatigue, irritability, headaches, muscle aches, joint pain and insomnia… to say nothing of poor training results.

You may be concerned that if you rest for a day, you won’t see results. Don’t worry; it takes more than a day to lose the training benefits of yesterday’s workout.

In fact, rest days are essential to your long-term improvements in strength. It is during the “rests” between your workouts that your body can get to the important business of repairing and strengthening muscles and replenishing essential energy stores. It is the proper balance of the right intensity of work (exercise) followed by restful activities that will give you the best results.

Finally, if you are feeling really run down or are coming down with a cold, you should take a break and get some rest. Your body will thank you and be revived for your next exercise session.

How Stress Can Make You Fat

When your body is over-trained, your cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase. Cortisol causes the breakdown of muscle tissue and is linked to the storage of belly fat.

A note on overeating and rest days: If you get off track with your nutrition and indulge in large amounts of carbohydrates or sugars on a particular day, then you must exercise on that same day. You will not be able to stop the initial insulin spike. However, you will be able to burn off some of the excess glucose that will be flowing through your body. This will help curb the conversion of the excess carbs or sugars into fat and mitigate some of the effects of overeating.

Exercise Sequencing

There are several theories as to what is the optimal combination and sequence of targeted resistance exercises. However, we’ll leave that discussion to the realms of bodybuilders and elite athletes. To get you going on a basic and healthy routine, I have provided you with some starter workouts that are safe, achievable and effective.

Exercises will be performed in groups according to parts of the body. Thus we will target the following muscles, one at a time:

  • Biceps (bi’s)
  • Triceps (tri’s)
  • Legs, including your calves. (You will also mix in calves on other workout days.)
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Abdominals (abs)

Stretching and Warming Up

The primary reasons to warm up and stretch at the beginning of each workout are to prevent injury and prepare the muscles for physical activity. Warming up and stretching properly boosts blood circulation and elongates muscles in preparation for your activity.

New exercisers often jump right in and start working out without first warming up or stretching because they mistakenly feel these preparatory steps are unnecessary. Once their main, higher-intensity activity is complete, they typically don’t cool down. However, I urge you not to make this novice mistake! Whether it is a low-impact or intense workouts, it is important to warm up, cool down and stretch.

An example of a good warm-up, stretch, and cool-down routine is as follows. Warm up with some cardio and then perform ten to fifteen minutes of stretching before beginning your resistance training. Performing your cardio first like this is a great way to warm up and get some aerobic training in at one time

After you have completed your resistance training, perform five to ten minutes of light cardio (as a cool-down) and then another five to ten minutes of stretching. This type of routine helps avoid injuries.

Key Concept: To prevent injuries, always include a warm-up, cool-down, and some stretches in every workout.

A special note on abs: I recommend including abdominal or core exercises in your workout routine a minimum of two to three times per week. Then over time, as you build up strength, try to include abdominals in every workout. But remember, you cannot “spot reduce” fat from your stomach area by doing abdominal exercises. Only a proper diet combined with exercise can give you a six-pack!

Below are two sample exercise routines. The first one is recommended for those of you just starting out. The second one is for those already at a more advanced fitness level, or who are stuck on a pound-loss plateau. Remember the more lean dense muscle composition you have, the faster your metabolism will be.

Resistance Training Examples

I highly recommend you get outside to get your exercise when you can.
I highly recommend you get outside to get your exercise when you can.

Workout #1: True Beginners

Day 1

Bi’s, back, tri’s and calves. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps per set, 30 to 45 seconds of rest between each set. 15-20 minutes of cardio.

A note on cardio: If you haven’t exercised in years, or have never participated in a workout program, start with a maximum of 10-15 minutes of cardio per workout day.

Day 2

Rest day

Day 3

Chest, shoulders, legs and abs. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 30 to 45 seconds of rest between each set. 15-20 minutes of cardio (or 10-15 for true beginners).

Day 4

Rest day

Day 5

Bi’s, back, tri’s and calves. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 30 to 45 seconds of rest between each set. 15-20 minutes of cardio (or 10-15 for true beginners).

Day 6

Rest day

Day 7

Chest, shoulders, legs and abs. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 30 to 45 seconds of rest between each set. 15-20 minutes of cardio (or 10-15 for true beginners).

Workout #2: A More Advanced Routine

Day 1

Bi’s, back and calves. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 15 to 30 seconds of rest between each set. 20-30 minutes of cardio, such as speed walking, running, bike riding, or using other cardio equipment if you belong to a gym.

Day 2

Chest, tri’s and abs. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 15 to 30 seconds of rest between each set. 20-30 minutes of cardio.

Day 3

Rest day

Day 4

Legs, shoulders and calves. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 15 to 30 seconds of rest between each set. 20-30 minutes of cardio.

Day 5

Bi’s, back and calves. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 15 to 30 seconds of rest between each set. 20-30 minutes of cardio.

Day 6

Chest, tri’s and abs. Two to three sets of each, 12-20 reps, 15 to 30 seconds of rest between each set. 20-30 minutes of cardio.

Day 7

Rest day

I hope this gives you a good idea of what resistance training consists of, and how to incorporate into your exercise routine. Remember living The Simple Life is not just about following a healthy type diet, you also need to have a solid exercise program for optimal health. For more information like this get my book The Simple Life Guide To Optimal Health: How to Get Healthy, Lose Weight, Reverse Disease and Feel Better Than Ever.

 

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Gary Collins, MS

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this great article. I think that many people will benefit if you could also share some of the exercises that you use for each muscle group. People that are just starting will really appreciate such information. Personally, I am interested in the resistance band exercises that you use.

    Thanks.

    1. Hey Milan, thanks for the feedback! It is on my list of things to get done, and plan to do some videos showing some of my exercise routines. I’m currently working on an article outlining what I do for a week, as far as diet and exercise goes. I will put it on my blog when it is done, and will be a free download.

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