By Christina | September 27, 2009
It is challenging enough to get me to convince people to add resistance training into their exercise programs, let alone convince them of the merits of switching up their resistance workouts for maximum effect. The truth is we are all creatures of habit, but being creatures of habit in fitness is one of the surefire ways to guarantee your body won’t change.
If you are one of those people that only go in the weight room and use the same machines over and over, I am talking to you. If you are one of those people that has been doing the same upper and lower body workout for years with the same 8 pound dumbbells, I’m talking to you, too. Finally, if you are a yoga or mat pilates enthusiast and have relied solely on your body weight for resistance with no weights or machines to supplement your workout, you better listen up too.
The best way to get stronger, leaner, and more defined is to do total body resistance training at least 3 times a week using a variety of fitness equipment. Change in your workout will result in change in your body. No one way to resistance train is better than another. They all have significance and all are needed as part of a comprehensive fitness program.
Using your body’s own weight for resistance is important because it allows you to do exercises that are excellent for sculpting the entire body. Holding a high plank or a low plank, push-ups, squats, lunges, tricep dips, and a host of abdominal exercises are just a few great exercises which work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Weight machines are also a necessary addition to your resistance training workout for several reasons. First, you are more likely to lift heavier weights on the machines than you would using any piece of resistance equipment. For a complete workout program, your body needs to build muscular strength and muscular endurance. In most sculpting classes with dumbbells, you are building muscular endurance which relies on lighter weights with higher reps. Weight machines allow you to go outside your comfort zone and use much heavier resistance than you would otherwise. Heavy weights will make you stronger and build more muscle.
Free weights, such as dumbbells, are just as important as weight machines. Your stabilizer muscles have to be engaged when using free weights in order to ensure proper form. Also, it is difficult to cheat when you use free weights because you can’t compensate for one side of your body being stronger than another to lift the weight. A final reason free weights are important is for building muscular endurance as well as being able to use them on unstable surfaces, like BOSU balls, to elevate the intensity of your training. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that free weights only means dumbbells, either. Weighted body bars, kettle balls, exercise bands, and medicine balls all challenge your muscles differently and should be used regularly.
Cardiovascular training is a vital component of your exercise program, but, resistance training is the differential that is going to change your body for good. Incorporate free weights, weight machines, power yoga, and all of the other resistance equipment you have at your disposal to make you leaner and stronger once and for all.