June 24, 2011

The 411 on Resistance Training

First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I am delighted that more and more people are visiting and leaving comments. Interestingly, out of the 218 posts I have written over the last two years, the most popular has been about the "Fashion; for thin only" it makes me wonder if there is a need for more of this. Anyway, thank you......

Now I promised I would offer a few tips of the trade for effective and efficient resistance training. The following tips are just a few that I feel get overlooked a lot in the gym.

Even Tony and Janet understood
the benefits of weight training.
Although I'm wondering what is
going through Janet's head right now.
I love the socks with dress-shoes look.
Too bad we couldn't bring that back!
Slower is better.
Did you know that the slower you move through an exercise the more muscle fibre you use? Unless you are training specifically for a fast paced sport, there is no need to speed through your resistance workout. As a novice, start with 2 seconds up and down and once that feels comfortable you can always move into 3/3, 4/4, ...etc. It will get harder the slower you move (that's probably why more people race through their chest press exercises) and you won't have to increase the weight as often. Be careful with this "superslow" technique, however, because the slower you move the more intense it becomes and should be reserved for more seasoned lifters.

Compound exercise will get you out of the gym faster!
That's right. The secret to effective and efficient lifting is compound exercise. Those exercises that use more than one muscle and joint are known as compound.  For example, if you are looking for a basic program that will target your larger muscles groups and get you out of the gym in 5-10 minutes (I'm not kidding...it is that quick) try these three exercises....chest press (chest, triceps, front shoulder), seated row (upper back, biceps, back of shoulder), and leg press (bum muscles, quads, and hamstrings). I started with these three to get myself back into it again and then started added a few more once I maintained the habit.

Form is more important than weight.
Don't be concerned with how much you are lifting, just focus on perfect form. If you lift incorrectly, it may lead to injury down the road or you may create more imbalance in strength...leading to injury down the road. Again, as I watch (not in a creepy way) many, if not most, people lifting in the weight room, I see more bad form than good. Generally speaking, people don't know how to lift...they just lift. This includes all the muscle guys that are grunting under their barbells. Perhaps if they lifted properly, they wouldn't be grunting....mmmmmm....interesting thought (did I mention I would have a no grunting policy in MY gym?)

As you can see, the stats aren't good.
Most of the time, people are just buying
really expensive clothes hangers.
 Anything you can do in the weight room you can do at home.
...you just have to be creative. As I mentioned before, socks filled with sand or milk jugs filled with water are two good resistance training tools. Just weigh them and note what you are lifting and add more sand or water as you gain strength (or move slower). You can use your floor, couch, ottoman, coffee table (unless it is glass...not a great idea), stairs, walls (for less intense push ups or just to lean on when you get tired), and other areas of the house as the equipment. In no time, and without extra cost to you, you have created a home gym that won't end up in your garage sale after a month.

Two sets are all you need.
Many people I have talked with can spend up to 2 hours in the gym lifting weights.  Unless you love the gym and are there for other reasons (socializing, posing, winking at cute people...you get the idea) there is no reason to be in there that long (unless you are training to compete in the Mr/Ms Really Really Muscly competition). There is some research suggesting if you train well, you don't need to do more than 2 sets. Lifting slowly and following correct technique can get you further than an extra set can. For those just starting, just do one set for now and work your way to 2 when you feel you are "hooked" on weights. It's about the psychology as much as the physiology.

Here's Marilyn doing a great compound
exercise...in her jeans (nothin' wrong
with that)....and her...bikini top (although,
let's face it, I see less on some women
in the gyms I've gone to). 
Don't take the advice of friends and family.
...unless they are certified personal trainers. I see more women in the gym with their husbands getting training advice that is incorrect or based upon his program (usually something way too intense and crazy for a novice). That's how injuries and bad habits happen. Find a professional or at least pick up a book written by one....I'm sure there are a ton in the second hand book stores.

Don't forget to stretch!
Not only do you have to warm up your muscles before you lift (walking on the spot, around the block, or getting on a stationary bike in the cardio room) it is important to stretch out those muscles after. If you overlook this step, the chances of you getting injured are higher. Stretching is an investment in your future fitness. If you don't do it now, you may not be doing anything when you are older (and that's when you need it the most).

Have you heard the term "gym rat"?
This is a gym hamster...they are rare,
but if you are quiet and still, they do
tend to show themselves (usually
near the teeny tiny weight section in
the gym).  This guy is demonstrating
a tough, overhand grip biceps curl.
I hope that helps a bit (for those of you interested in picking up a weight or two). Again, if you are looking to lose fat, I highly recommend resistance training. If you hate it (hate isn't even strong enough a word for how I feel about resistance training) start really slow. I started by doing only two exercises; chest press and seated row for about 6 months. Then I added the leg press and after a while the inner/outer thigh. These are all I do and I am now at the point where I wouldn't consider not doing it. That is the point you need to get to make it a habit. I guarantee you will feel stronger and stand taller (I believe this is psychological but whatever....you just feel more put together).

That's all I got for now. If you have any questions related to this or another topic, please don't hesitate to comment below...I would love to answer your question.



  1. Hey Kathi,

    Just sittin' here, catching up on your blog and enjoying a cup of decaf before the wonderful craziness of wedding prep begins, and thought I'd comment on this post...love the hamster! Haven't spotted one yet, but I'll keep looking!

    I wanted you to know that I think I'm 'there'…at that place where I look forward to my daily walk and organize my time so I can fit it in when I'm off work and away from my regular routine.

    It's been about 3 weeks since I added resistance trg to my routine,(alternating days 3 times a week), and it hasn't been difficult to incorporate. I'm following your advice and I can get a great upper body workout in under 10 minutes, tops. It may sound crazy, but I'm already feeling the benefits…it's probably a placebo factor, but what the heck, I'm all for anything that makes me feel better! Great cup of coffee, glass of red wine, black licorice, lifesaver wintergreen mints (by the way, did I ever thank you for getting me addicted to those?!).I could go on and on, but you get the idea!!

    Ollie and I just got back from a fabulous 40 min walk along the Valleyview greenpark trail, down to Hurford Hill Nature Park and back again. Since today was my day for upper body, I dug out my old physio band, wrapped it around a door knob and from a seated position, did my resistance trg! It's not quite the same as at the gym, but I have that lovely 'shakey' feeling in my upper body. Of course I followed this with a nice long stretch!

    Anyway, thanks for being a huge motivator in getting me...'there'!


  2. Dear M;
    First of all, thank you soooo much for this fabulous comment. Second....I take no responsiblity for getting you addicted to anything! That said, I'm glad you are finding it easier to get out and do your exercise thang.
    Congrats for sticking with the weights.

    I don't think the way you are feeling is in your head...I'm sure you are feeling stronger. Pretty soon you will be able to lift Ollie right over your head!

    You are a great role model for health and the fact that you walk every day no matter how rainy, windy, or snowy it is out there is a testament to your dedication to your health!

    Way to go M!