As a former two-job-working, full time student and now as a current full time employee with a rambunctious, exhausting puppy and never ending chores and errands waiting for me when I get home in the evenings, I completely empathize with what seems to be the biggest offenders to our desire to workout: time + energy. But as I learned in my weight management class I took last year, simply doing one set of resistance exercises is enough to see acute health benefits such as stress reduction and increased energy.
Frankly, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding muscle strengthening exercise, like the fact that we’ve probably all (at some point) been under the impression that it has to be a big, showy, hours-long ordeal in the middle of the gym that involves massive pools of sweat and lots of yelling. Or, if you’re a girl, that it would make you lose your girlish figure.
But let me break these stereotypes for you. As I’ve already stated, it doesn’t have to be a forever-long workout. You can do some simple, at-home exercises for about 10 minutes and go on with the rest of your day if you don’t have the time for a full workout and still see some positive effects. As far as your figure, resistance training is what you make it. All resistance exercise is, is exerting outside force on your muscles, which means you can use 10 or 15 pound weights and still build strength without the bulging biceps. Ultimately, increasing muscle mass will increase metabolism and decrease body fat composition, which will decrease risk of cardiovascular disease (and so much more, but I think y’all are seeing my point – it’s good for so much more than becoming a bodybuilder).
So in this world where we feel like working out has to be 3 sets of 25 reps of each exercise using the max amount of weight our body can handle, where do we start when it comes to making a strength work out less intimidating to do and to fit into our crazy schedules?
The ACSM recommendation for everyone is 2 days a week, minimum.
I won’t get super technical on you because the recommended intensities aren’t going to mean much to you unless you know your 1 rep max. This might not be a super “professional” recommendation, but in all honesty, you know whether you’re going for a light workout or a hard one – go with what feels comfortable. Make sure you feel challenged, but also know your limits. You will hurt yourself if you go too hardcore too fast. If you’re having to swing your entire body to do that bicep curl, quit it. Focus on actually feeling the burn with proper technique – it’ll be much more worth it.
A good resistance workout will hit all major muscle groups. What are these muscle groups, and how are some ways that you work them?
- Quads (front thigh)
- Hamstrings (back thigh)
- Triceps, Biceps, and Forearms
Something I learned in class (that feels so obvious that I felt ridiculous for never really thinking of it this way before) is to time resistance exercise in terms of sets and reps, rather than “I’ll go to the gym for an hour.” It just makes it seem for eventful and structured, and probably more effective. The recommendation is 2-4 sets of however many reps that corresponds with your training goals
Head into your workout with a plan. Determine what you want to do and how much you feel is appropriate/enough. I found that it really helped me feel more accomplished because I got everything done, and I knew exactly when I was done.
If you find yourself struggling with finding that last bout of motivation to get to the gym, incentivize it a little bit. Last year, challenged myself to workout at least two times a week for four weeks before I bought myself the Powerbeats I had been eyeing for a while. For you, it might be a new outfit (for working out or for a night out!), a fitness tracker, new eyeshadow palette, or whatever it is that you find worthy of rewarding yourself with after completing a goal. There’s nothing wrong with a little “treat yo’self”
Make sure you keep your workouts interesting. If you get bored with the routine, the more likely you’ll be to follow through with working out. If you need new ideas, you can always look on YouTube or FabFitFunTV (for members only; affiliate link) to get new ideas, or to have guidance if you don’t feel like creating your own workout. These are good alternatives if you prefer working out in the comfort of your own home instead of the gym. It also takes the guesswork out of building your own workouts if that’s something that makes you shy away from
If you want too look into the guidelines more for yourself, you can reference the ACSM guidelines.