Strength training balances cardio. It makes muscles stronger, more endurant, and makes the body leaner.
Its best to start strength training using your own body weight. If you can’t lift your own body weight with both arms, don’t touch free weights or weight machines.
Weight machines and free-weight exercises isolate specific muscle groups. If one doesn’t have the basis of muscle strength to begin with, weight training can be detrimental. Body weight training utilises multiple muscle groups in natural movements, unlike weight training which focuses on isolating muscles and unnatural movements.
Much like with expending short bursts of energy in cardio, we’ve evolved carrying mainly our own body weight. Weight training without basic muscle strength can damage muscles and training without proper knowledge of balancing muscle groups can lead to overdeveloped muscles in some areas and underdeveloped in others (like the guy who overworks his biceps and chest and underworks his back and legs).
Balance is key.
Bodyweight training is simple to get started. Perform chin-ups, tricep dips, press ups and squats. They’re also quick. 10 chin-ups, 10 dips, 20 press ups and 20 squats takes less than 10 minutes. Do that everyday and the results after a month can be astounding.
The hardest of these is the chin up. If you can’t do one yet, get yourself a power tower or bar, and hang off with both hands first. Then jump up, grab it with both hands and hold yourself there. Then once you’re comfortable there, start to slowly lower yourself down. You’ll find your strength increases day after day until you can pull yourself up from standing, and then from hanging.
Stretching and Balance
I cannot stress how important these both are.
Stretching effectively prevents injury. Consult a physiotherapist, osteopath or the plethora of YouTube videos out there. Stretch before and after working out, warm your muscles up before using them and lightly stretch them out afterwards.
Stretch your shoulders, triceps, hamstrings and hip flexors as basics. You’ll find plenty of stretches from a quick internet search.
Yoga is brilliant for stretching. Not only does it stretch your muscles but it also focuses on breathing, which has a calming effect. It’s best to do Yoga as its own session or a light session after a workout.
Balance is incredibly important for fitness. There was a time when I solely focused on strength training and cardio and completely cut balance workouts out of my regime. I began to see the definition on my stomach evaporating into nothing, and I was baffled as to why.
I was getting stronger and sweating buckets in cardio, where was the definition on my abs going?!
I realised it was the balance exercises which kept my core strong and muscles defined.
Balance focuses on the core of the body (abdominals, dorsal muscles), which is incredibly important for all other fitness. Cardio and strength rely on the strength of the core. Balance exercises strengthen the core.
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Pilates is the best thing for this. Slow, controlled holds like planking and squat sitting. YouTube ‘Pilates Workout’ for an almost never ending selection of workouts which will strengthen your core.
No matter what you do, stretch and balance must be included in your workout.
This is why I did Insanity. I’m lazy, I don’t like to think too much. Insanity combines all of them; cardio, strength, stretch and balance. I just put the DVD on and follow what they do, and soon enough, I was fit.