…and we’re talking “pop” as in, Sha-zaaam! Paddow! Ka-boom! Behold my back muscles. I took this picture yesterday. Things are coming along nicely. Strength training is so dang important, so I invited the muscle-loving queen that is Suzanne from Workout Nirvana (she has a freaking awesome site) to break down the importance of weight/strength training for the Bikini Body Challenge AND for your health.
It’s Time To Make Those Muscles Pop
Losing weight takes time, patience, and focus, especially if your goal is to get fit by bikini season. So you may not be feeling the love for strength training – doesn’t it cut into your cardio time? And shouldn’t you lose the weight first?
The truth is, combined with good cardiovascular workouts, strength training can actually help you lose weight and help you to keep it off. And that’s just the beginning.
Strength Training Burns Fat Longer
Unlike cardio exercise, intense strength training has been shown to burn calories during and after exercising for up to 24-36 hours. When you take short rest periods between exercises and get your heart rate up, continuous fat burning is significant. Two ways to get your heart rate up during weight lifting is by doing circuits and supersets (two exercises back to back without rest).
Muscle also burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long.
Care for a Little Protection?
If you can imagine yourself with very little muscle tone and rapidly decreasing bone density, then you can imagine yourself as an older woman with a frail and rigid body.
If you don’t protect yourself by strengthening your muscles, you might find that this is you later in life. Women start losing bone density early in life and at a high rate after menopause. If you have a high bone mass early in adult life, your risk of getting osteoporosis is decreased.
One more thing about aging and muscles: According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a drop in your muscle mass means your metabolic rate can drop 2 to 3 percent. What does that mean? Gaining more weight as you age.
Outer Hotness, Meet Inner Hotness
You simply can’t underestimate the self confidence strength training can give you. Taking chances by learning something new, heaving weights while you push yourself to the limit, and seeing defined muscles emerge can give you a special type of confidence I call inner hotness. You know your strength; you know you’re strong.
You may even decide you want to own the weight room, not just get away with as little as possible. Women belong in the weight room, and as you’ve seen, can benefit even more than men. But you can easily start off lifting weights at home, too.
Your Weights Workout
So if you’re convinced you should add weight training to your routine, let’s get started. It’s important to start slowly – you’ll still get plenty of benefits. If you try to lift too much or go too fast you could injure yourself – and get discouraged.
Follow these guidelines for maximum fat loss benefits and safety. What you do will depend on your experience level.
- Most experts recommend three full-body strength-training sessions per week, lasting less than 45 minutes per session.
- Rest for 30 seconds between exercises in a set and 60 seconds between sets.
- Do 12-15 repetitions to start for one to three sets (a set is a group of repetitions).
- If you’re a beginner, use light resistance to start and gradually work your way up to heavier weights. Your muscles should feel fatigued by the last few repetitions. If you can do more than 12-15 reps, increase the weight. If you can’t do 12-15 reps, decrease the weight.
- For the best fat-burning benefits, do two exercises back to back without rest (called supersets).
- Also for fat-burning, do 15-20 minutes of intervals or sprints at the end of the workout. This is optional depending on your fitness level and routine.
Be sure to warm up before strength training by doing 5-10 minutes of light cardio. Cool down by gently stretching your muscles. And don’t forget to refuel with a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates and protein after your workout (for example, 40g carbs and 20g protein).
Suzanne is a health/fitness fanatic and technical writer who is currently working on her NASM certification for personal training. She blogs about all things weight training at WorkoutNirvana.com. Check her out up close and personal on Twitter @WorkoutNirvana and on Facebook.