The Three Pillars of Fitness: Strength Training

Strength training. Not just for Olympic powerlifters anymore. (Image courtesy FreeDigitalImages.com)
Strength training. Not just for Olympic powerlifters anymore. (Image courtesy FreeDigitalImages.com)

It’s Three Pillars of Fitness week. Yesterday I gave you the overview: don’t skimp on any one of these three key fitness categories – cardiovascular training, strength training, and flexibility training. Now, the deeper dives…today I’ll go with…

Strength Training

Otherwise known as:

“The workout most likely to make you feel like an Official Badass in the shortest possible time.”

First, let’s get the silly stuff out of the way: strength training is not powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, Crossfit (though Crossfit offers a lot of strength-based workout programs, including learning Olympic lifts), chugging protein shakes, or eating chicken breasts and salad greens to the detriment of every other decent food group out there. It’s simply this: using resistance – either your body’s own resistance, or the resistance derived from weights (machines, or free-standing dumbbells or barbells) – to develop your muscular strength, and the strength of the surrounding tendons, and even your bones. Here’s the thing: you feel super-awesome right there when you’re doing it. And then you feel super-awesome afterwards. For hours afterwards. It’s just one of those things that makes us feel energized and great. So many benefits. And it doesn’t take much time at all to get going.

How to get started

I’ve done strength training a bunch of ways: with bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, and lunges at home…in a weight training class at my gym (BodyPump, which I taught a bunch of years ago, is one of many versions of a weight-training class set to music)…with free weights…with machines…and in combination with bursts of aerobic activity in circuit-training workouts. The way to figure out what works for you is to ask two questions: 1. Which of these approaches is fun? 2. Which of these approaches will I actually do on a regular basis? And then you need to figure out when to fit them into your schedule, and do them.  (That’s always the big important part…to actually do them.)

Here’s a quick, portable workout to try.

I wrote this up when I was trying to think up an easy way to get in a quick strength workout during busy times. It’s neither comprehensive nor perfect…but it covers the bases, and it takes ten minutes. Do each exercise for one minute:

  • Squat
  • Push-up
  • Lunge (30 seconds each side)
  • Bent-over row with an exercise band
  • Bicep curls with an exercise band
  • Ab crunches
  • Shoulder press with an exercise band
  • Calf Raises (30 seconds) + Toe Taps (exactly what it sounds like: tap your toe quickly on the floor, for your shins and lower legs) – 15 seconds each foot
  • Tricep Dips
  • Plank

See? Super-simple. These are all basic exercises so if you’re wondering how to do them, a quick YouTube search will get you where you want to go. It’s just one idea of how to get in a quick but effective strength workout when you’ve got way too many other things going on. I plan to do this 10-minute workout every other day for a little while and see if it feels like “enough” strength training. Otherwise, I’ll tweak. Good recipe for figuring out all things. Onward! Tomorrow…we’ll talk strrrrrrrretching.

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