Strength training came later in my life. In the beginning of my fitness career, I taught the traditional aerobics classes: Step, Double Step, and Low / High Impact. I loved them. About five years into teaching, however, I was asked to teach a Body Pump class. This was my introduction to Strength Training. I quickly fell in love with the class, and found myself continuing with the workout after I decided to stop teaching. The benefits were undeniable:
I felt stronger
I looked leaner and more defined
It was easier to maintain a healthy weight, even with the occasional indulgences
I didn’t suffer as much from overuse of muscles
And my clothes fit more nicely
The typical fear of “gaining weight” from strength training, I learned, was a myth. The downsides were non-existent. When I speak to people, women especially, they often complain that they don’t like lifting weights. They are afraid of becoming “ bulky .” What they often don’t realize, however, is that there are a lot of great ways to gain strength without lifting weights. Yet, you can still reap many of the benefits mentioned. If you shy away from the weight room consider some of the following options to get some more strength training into your workout regimen, without the dumbbell approach:
Circuit / Interval Training: Type of training where strength exercises are combined with endurance/aerobic exercises, giving you all the benefits of both a cardiovascular and strength training workout. The workout focuses on muscle endurance and maximizing your workout to include strength, cardio and flexibility training in one workout. Classes to Consider: Bootcamp; Military Training , Cross Fit
Resistance Training: Through resistance (being pushed, squeezed, stretched or bent) of an opposing force, your muscles are strengthened. Resistance training can be done in water (with floaties, cylinders or your body), with elastic or resistance bands, and yes, with weights too. This workout focuses on general overall muscular strength. Classes to Consider: Boxing, Water Aerobics, Resistance Band Training, Martial Arts, Rebounding
Isometrics: If weights don’t bother you, but you’d like a new approach, you might want to consider isometrics. Isometrics requires that you work a muscle by holding positions or using resistance in one position, with very little to no movement, for several seconds. Isometrics focus on targeted strength training and strengthening muscle at specific joint angle at which the exercise occurs. Classes to Consider: Yoga , Pilates, Qi Gong, Barre Method, Tai Chi
Plyometrics: Muscles are strengthened through bursts of energy such as hops, bounds, and jumps. During plyometrics, muscles are shortened and then are immediately lengthened. This combination of dynamic muscle action is believed to use more than the usual number of motor units. Plyometrics forms part of the training programs for most sprinters, jumpers, and throwers. Focuses on increased speed, strength and explosive power. Classes to Consider: Bootcamps, Rebounding, Cross Fit
Core Training: Strengthens the muscle groups that stabilize your ‘ core ‘ or skeletal structure (the lower back and abdominals). Weak core muscles contribute to many problems in the body, especially lower back pain. Strengthening the muscles that help support the spine improves posture which can dramatically decrease the symptoms of lower back pain. These muscle groups generally are the ‘platform’ from which your arms and legs work. A strong core ensures proper posture for other physical activity. Core training focuses on strengthening and stabilizing all the muscles in your abdominal and lower back areas. Classes to Consider: Pilates, Gyrotonic, Yoga and Gyro Kinesis
Even typical weight training classes have become a bit more interesting with classes such as Kettlebells.
Integrating some type of strength training into your fitness regimen is important. That said, whatever type of strength training you choose, be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness regimen.