The thought of starting a new exercise program that involves weights, resistance bands, calisthenics or exercise machines can be daunting at first. I know that I was a bit nervous the first time I walked into a gym. It can be intimidating. But after seeing the benefits that come from this practice, and looking back on the whole process to find the easiest (and least-intimidating) way to get started, I thought it would be a useful piece of information to share.
Why Resistance Training?
There are many great reasons to include resistance training in your life. Among the plethora of physical and mental health benefits are:
-An increase in both muscle strength and tone, which leads to greater protection from joint injuries.
-Flexibility and balance come from participating properly in a resistance program.
-Achieving greater independence as we age, and maintained mobility.
-An improved muscle-to-fat ratio, and lean muscle increases the calories burned through maintenance.
-Added protection from cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
- It boosts your mood by releasing endorphins (the “feel good” chemicals in your body).
-Stamina increases with muscular strength, as tasks get easier.
-Improved protection from chronic conditions such as: diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, depression, and obesity.
-As your resistance training progresses it will help to improve posture, decrease injury risk, and increase bone density and strength. This helps to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
-Improved sleep, self-confidence, and enhanced self-efficacy are three other benefits from this type of training.
-Everything from carrying your groceries, to getting the car out of the snow gets easier.
What Do We Need To Know?
To begin with, there are several terms that are used when it comes to resistance training:
-Program: Your overall fitness program that might include your aerobic, flexibility, and resistance training.
-Weight: The resistance used to exercise with. For example, 5 lb dumbbells would be a weight, but it could also refer to body weight when doing body-weight exercises.
-Exercise: The movement that is used to train a certain part of the body. For example, calf raises would train your calf muscles.
-Repetitions or Reps: The number of times an exercise is repeated without rest.
-Rest: A break that is taken between sets that is necessary when exercising properly, and will vary depending on the intensity of the exercise.
-Sets: A group of reps that is separated by either a rest period or a different exercise.
-Form: A specific way of performing an exercise that decreases the risk of injury and ensures the proper muscles are targeted.
-Recovery: Muscles need time to repair. A good recovery period is 48 hours, this gives the muscles enough time to be ready to work again. If your muscles are sore, they still need more time to recover.
***It’s important to connect with your exercise professional or healthcare provider to make sure that starting a new resistance training program is something that’s right for you at the time***
What Does a Proper Resistance Training Program Include?
Well, first of all, it starts off small. You don’t jump into resistance training like you might going for a run. It takes little steps to build your way up without causing an injury. A good place to start is 1 to 2 days per week of a full body program (this means it hits each major muscle group: back, shoulders, legs, and chest).
For example, if you were doing a bodyweight program it might look like this:
-20 Bodyweight Squats
-20 Walking Lunges
-10 Dumbbell Rows
-30 Jumping Jacks
Repeat 2-3 times and then cool down!
If this sounds easy to you, give it a couple of tries before you move on. Remember, your initial program is something that you can build on and upgrade. You don’t want to start ahead of your current ability.
A quality resistance program also includes a good warmup and cool down. For your warmup, around 10 minutes on a stationary bike, elliptical machine, or even just walking around and getting mobile (depending on your fitness level). After that it’s good to do some dynamic (mobile) stretching, to get your joints ready.
After the workout is finished, I like to do about 5-10 minutes of light exercise and do about 10 minutes of stretching, making sure I stretch each muscle I’ve worked, to make sure I’m not too tight the next day. If you can get into a steam room or sauna for a few minutes it can help with muscle soreness as well.
It’s a good idea to find a training partner that’s at your level and has a similar schedule to you. This way, you can use each other for motivation and accountability.
The great thing about resistance training, is that it doesn’t have to take forever to get a great workout. 30-45 minutes, 2 times per week is more than enough when you’re starting out. If you have any questions, you can always contact me here by email at firstname.lastname@example.org I enjoy resistance training, whether it’s talking about it or taking part in it, and I hope you do as well!
***Ensure you work with a certified exercise professional when starting out. This will limit injuries from poor form. As always, consult a healthcare professional prior to making any changes in your exercise routine***