Resistance training. Strength training. Weight training. Whatever you want to call it, we've all heard it's a must add to our exercise programs — for weight loss, increasing muscle mass, heart health, reducing blood pressure — especially as we age. But the thought of walking into a gym surrounded by dumbbells and barbells and machines and overly fit people with bulging biceps can be intimidating.
According to Move Ya Brass's group fitness instructor Shanda Domango it doesn't have to be. Resistance training is really just adding something a little extra to your workout.
"When I say resistance training," Domango explained, "I mean anything as far as using a machine, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands… anything that's outside of your body weight."
It also doesn't have to be body builder levels of weight. Something as little as three-pounds can make a difference by just "pushing the body a little bit harder than it would when it's dealing with itself."
To help get us started, Domango provided some insight into resistance training.
Use Your Body as a Tool
You don't have to go to a weight room or spend a lot of money on a home gym. Your own weight will do just fine.
"Any bodyweight exercise is almost as effective as doing resistance," Domango stated. Push-ups and triceps dips are two prime examples of such exercises.
Modifications can be incorporated by doing push-ups on your knees. If that's not an option, lean into a wall or a chair and try to progressively go lower.
To avoid injury, Domango stressed a few key things when performing resistance training exercises:
Chest up shoulders down: "Especially if it's anything involving the shoulders – because it's a smaller muscle group – [like] an overhead press."
For exercises like lunges, squats, and deadlifts your knees should not go past your toes, your weight should be in your heels, and your hips shifted back.
Put a chair behind you when doing a squat and act like you are about to sit down. “What that does is it forces you to shift your weight back into your heels. So, that helps you get that master squat form."
Don't Forget the Cardio
Since the body can get used to doing a regular routine, pushing yourself harder when it comes to cardio is important too. This can include adding hills or stairs to your outdoor runs. Or, for indoor runners, using the weight loss or fat burning programs on elliptical and treadmill machines instead of just pressing quick start and running it manually.
“What it does is it pushes up the resistance and incline for you so now your body has to change up what it's used to," Domango pointed out.
She also suggested switching apparatuses throughout one workout to help "trick the body" into not feeling so adjusted. For example, if you're doing a 30-minute workout, hit the treadmill for 15 minutes then the elliptical for the last 15 minutes.
Cardio and resistance training don't have to exist separately. Per Domango, combining the two is an ideal way to workout. "As you're losing weight, we're also chiseling out muscle that we're building at the same time," she explained. "Rather than have you lose a whole bunch of weight [with just cardio] and now you're like, 'Now I want some definition.' … we can kind of achieve both things at the same time and help you enjoy looking good in the process."
Personal training might not be in everyone's budget, but Domango suggested meeting with a certified fitness professional at least once. Getting a fitness assessment from a professional will highlight muscular imbalances and indicate which areas you need to strengthen. It is also an opportunity to learn proper form to avoid injury.
Domango offers a one-time package where she'll write up a training program specific to a client's needs and go over proper technique for each exercise. For those who want more help building a resistance training program, she provides personal and group training, as well a six-week Women's Weight Room Group. Go to Domango Training for more information and keep an eye out for her upcoming video series.
Resistance training doesn't have to be about losing a ton of weight. It can just be about maintaining your health and feeling good.
"It may not be, 'Oh, my gosh, I lost 60 pounds,' Domango pointed out. "It may just be, ' Wow my clothes fit different. I feel stronger and I just feel good.'"
- Lori Wilson