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Tips for Adding Resistance Training

Natalie
Stein
July 11, 2022
Tips for Adding Resistance Training
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In this article: 

  • Resistance training or muscle-strengthening can help with weight loss and health. It can also help prevent injuries. Most adults should do resistance training exercises at least two days per week.
  • You can use weights or other equipment, such as resistance bands or household objects. You can also do bodyweight exercises with no equipment.
  • Aim to hit every major muscle group. You should be fatigued by the end of the session. 
  • For safety, it's best to ask an expert to help with proper form. Start with light weights and include a warm-up and cool-down, too.
  • Lark can help you keep track of your activity and your other healthy choices. The more you use Lark, the more personalized coaching you can get for weight loss and health.

There are many reasons to do resistance training, but it may be hard to get started if you haven't done it before. Unlike, say, walking, most people haven't been doing resistance training daily since they were toddlers. But don't worry. Here are some tips for adding resistance training so you can start to get the benefits.

What Is Resistance Training? 

Resistance training is also known as muscle strengthening. You might also think of it as weight lifting, though you don't need weights. 

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say that adults of all ages should do muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. "Activities that make your muscles work harder than usual" count. Muscle-strengthening exercises can be part of an exercise program, such as at a gym or in a class. Or they can be part of daily life, such as carrying a baby or pushing a heavy wheelbarrow.

Benefits of Resistance Training for Weight Loss and Health

Resistance training has more benefits than many people think. Some people avoid resistance training because they think it'll make them bulk up automatically. But that's not the case. Instead, it can slim you down. Here's how strengthening your muscles may affect your weight and physique.

  • Burns calories. You'll burn calories while doing resistance training, just like you do when you do any physical activity. That helps with weight loss.
  • Speeds metabolism. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. That means it burns calories while you're not moving. In contrast, body fat doesn't burn many calories.
  • Tones muscles. You may start to see some muscle definition if you build muscle and burn fat.

Resistance training can also be good for health. 

  • The American Diabetes Association says resistance training can help prevent diabetes if you have prediabetes. It can help lower blood sugar and improve quality of life if you have diabetes.
  • The American Heart Association says it can lower blood pressure.
  • Cleveland Clinic describes a study that looked at heart-related events, such as heart attacks, in 12,591 people. Participants who did 1 to 3 days of resistance training per week had a 40 to 70% lower risk of having a cardiovascular event during the study.

Resistance training can strengthen muscles. This can lower your risk of getting injured in daily life or while doing other physical activity. Balance can also improve.

Equipment for Resistance Training

There's no need to put off strength training because you don't go to a gym. You don't even need weights, though you can definitely use them. Here are some types of equipment you can use.

  • Weight machines
  • Dumbbells or barbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Resistance bands
  • Cable machines
  • Medicine balls

You don't have to use this type of specialized equipment if you don't have access to it or don't want to. You can use household objects, such as a gallon of water, a 5-lb bag of flour, and water bottles or soup cans, for weights. 

You can even skip the equipment entirely and use your body weight to provide resistance. Examples of exercises with body weight include the following.

  • Front and side planks
  • Pull-ups
  • Knee or toe push-ups
  • Squats and one-legged squats
  • Calf raises
  • Side, front, and back lunges
  • Crunches
  • Bird dog
  • Back extensions

A meta-analysis in Frontiers in Physiology compared resistance bands, body weight, and free weights. It turns out that they all lowered body fat and improved muscle mass and strength.

If you do want to invest in a minimal amount of equipment, resistance bands can be a good choice. Cleveland Clinic says that besides being effective, they have these benefits.

  • They are inexpensive.
  • They can be appropriate for any level of fitness, from beginners to to advanced. They often come in sets with each band in the set having a different level of resistance.
  • They're compact and portable. You can work out anywhere, from home to the office to a park to a hotel. 

Resistance Training Exercises to Do

The American Heart Association says to hit every major muscle group at least twice a week. These are the major muscle groups.

  • Legs
  • Hips
  • Arms
  • Back
  • Chest
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Shoulders

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has over 100 exercises to try. You can search by muscle group or specific muscle, as well as by level of experience and equipment needed.

How to Add Resistance Training to Your Schedule

Now, when should you do your resistance training? Be sure you have at least two days between sessions. You can advance to 3 days weekly when you are ready.

In a session, a "repetition" or "rep" is one complete exercise that starts and finishes in the same position. For example, if you are doing a bicep curl, a "rep" starts with the weights down. Then you bend your elbows to raise the weights. Then you lower the weights back to the starting position. That is one "rep."

A "set" is a group of "reps" that you do without stopping or resting. The goal is to get fatigued by the end of a set. One set is 8 to 12 reps (lifts or complete movements) or until that muscle is struggling to do another rep but with good form. You might start with one set when you are starting out with your resistance training program. Eventually, you might do two to three reps of each exercise in a session.

Safe and Effective Resistance Training

Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, including adding resistance training to your schedule. 

Whenever you exercise, it's safest to start with a warm-up. A 5 to 10-minute walk can be a good way to get your heart rate up and warm up your muscles. Finish with a cool-down. Some light stretching can feel good and support flexibility.

It is critical to do exercises with proper form. This can help you avoid injury and get the most benefits. American Council on Exercise (ACE) has photos, descriptions, and videos. You can also hire a personal trainer or ask a professional at a gym or other fitness center to demonstrate exercises and correct your form. Group fitness class instructors can also help.

It is important to start with light weights. This can help prevent injury and allow you to do the exercises with proper form. You have plenty of time to increase the weight or amount of resistance. Don't rush it and risk being sidelined!

Getting physically active is one of the most impactful choices you can make for your health. It can help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure and blood sugar. It can be challenging to hit exercise recommendations or be consistent with a program, but Lark can help.

Lark offers personalized coaching designed to help you make choices to support weight loss and health. With Lark, you can work towards physical activity goals by providing information, reminders, and feedback when you log your activity or other health information.  Lark is available 24/7 through your smartphone to help you succeed.

You may be eligible to join Lark at no cost to you if your health insurer offers it as a covered benefit. Just click here to get started in finding out!

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