Monday, February 8, 2010

Strength Training - Doing it at home

So, early in January, when I discussed my plan, I committed to reconsidering strength training on February 1. Well, it's now February 8, but I held true to my commitment; I'm just blogging about it now.

If I were to picture an ideal physique that I'd like to have, I would be slender, curvy and muscular. My genetics have given me curves (even while thin), weight loss will give me the slender part, and it's up to me to work on the muscular part. For that, I'm turning to weight lifting.

Cardio is great. It contributes to burning calories and is good for your heart. But, when you are looking to reshape your body, strength training is key. Muscles not only look good, but a pound of muscle is smaller then a pound of fat and burns more calories. Forget the fear of bulking up as a woman. Most experts are now saying that is basically impossible for the average woman unless she is taking steroids.

I don't have a gym membership, but I do have a fair bit of equipment in my house, so I will be working out at home. I'm going to talk about what I think you need to do it at home. I am not a personal trainer, so I won't be talking about technique, but rather equipment and general guidelines. In my opinion, I think you need: knowledge, equipment, and awareness.

1. Knowledge is key. In an ideal world, I would have a personal trainer that would always be there to check my form for me and teach me new exercises. In a real world, I have a background working out with trainers (back when I had gym memberships) and a couple good books. I'm not going to recommend the main book I'm using. I think the pictures and information on technique and form are great. I'm not as fond of the rest of the information in the book, such as the recommendation to work out on an empty stomach in the morning.

In choosing literature to help you, make sure the technique is explained fully and there are clear pictures so you can see what the proper form is.

2. You need some equipment. I'm lucky because back in our "double income, no kids" days, my husband and I made the decision to stop buying gym memberships and purchase home equipment.

At a minimum, I think you need dumbbells in progressively heavier weights. I have some fixed weight dumbbells that were given to me as well as a couple adjustable dumbbells with plate weights. Being able to grab the fixed weight dumbbells is handy because it's quick and I don't have to fiddle with changing the plate weights. If they weren't given to me though, I'd probably make do with the plate weights. I also can use them on a barbell, so they do double duty. If money were no object, I'd go for something like powerblocks. They give you the range of weights without taking up the space of fixed weight dumbbells and without taking up the time of plate weight dumbbells. Having said that, since I already have the other 2, I'd spend the money on other things before buying powerblocks anyways.

The other key piece of equipment you need is a mirror. I have a full length mirror in my workout area. It is really important to be able to check your form, and if you don't have a mirror, you can't do that. In an ideal world, I'd have more then one mirror, so that I could see myself from multiple angles, but I can make do with one.

Other equipment I have includes a weight bench, a barbell (with plate weights), an exercise ball, and squat racks. I don't think any of these are absolutely necessary, but they are very nice to have - particularly the weight bench.

It would be nice to have a cable system as well, but then I'm getting out of the realm of what equipment I want to have taking up room in my home.

3. Finally you need to have awareness when you are lifting free weights. As I said, I'm not qualified to give advice on how to lift, but I can say this: It is very important to lift with proper form. For this reason, I think it's a good idea to start with lighter weights until you are sure your form is correct. Constantly check yourself in your mirror(s) and make sure you're aware of what muscle you should be working. If you're feeling it somewhere else, it may mean that you need to adjust your technique.

So, for now, the strength training aspect of my workout plan includes weight lifting 3 times a week. Once I shed the layers of fat on my arms, I want to see the muscle definition that lies beneath.


  1. Cardio has always been my "go to" exercise, but now that I have an ankle injury I'm focusing on strength training as well.

  2. Hi Deb...

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog...

    I strength train 3x per week with a trainer who happens to be a good friend of mine. I love weights...hate cardio. Now, I need to get rid of the layer of fat that is over the muscle!!