My first observation, in reviewing the habits of my most successful clients, was not a surprise. It was something that had been the cornerstone of my own transformation and still is the foundation of my workouts, both personal and professional. Their results only reinforced what I already knew.
The Fit Truth: You Must Strength Train
The 1st Key to Real Fitness is committing to a challenging strength training program as the foundation of your fat loss and fitness routine.
I won’t lie; there are lots of ways you can lose weight. But do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose fat? Losing weight isn’t the same as reshaping your body so you fill out your jeans and have tank top ready arms. Losing weight just means being a smaller version of your squishy self. What makes the difference between just losing weight or having a fit body is a focused, appropriate and challenging strength training program.
Focused: Your strength program should be efficient and designed to maximize results. If you’re program contains a lot of isolation moves (like concentration curls) or machines (like leg extensions) then you may not be getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Appropriate: No one walks into my studio and starts doing dead lifts and single leg squats on the first day. Your strength program should meet you where you are. If you’ve never lifted a weight in your life, your program should start with learning proper form and how to move your own body. It should also be designed with your goals in mind. A fat loss program looks different than a sports specific or body building program. Any prior injuries or muscle imbalances should be taken into consideration.
Challenging: Please don’t take appropriate to mean easy. If someone has never lifted weights before a body weight squat can be very challenging. At the same time, endless repetitions with 3 lbs dumbbells will not shape the body you want. If you can do 50 crunches on the stability ball then you need to increase the intensity. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
My most successful clients embrace their strength programs. When push comes to shove, they will do their strength homework instead of cardio. I want you to do the same. You can raise your heart rate with strength training but it’s harder to build muscle by riding the stationary bike.
Your Action Steps:
- Strength train 3 days a week minimum. No excuses.
- If your goal is fat loss, your movements should be designed to use as many muscles as safely as possible and to keep your heart rate up. Keep the movements big and rest periods small.
- Make sure you can do a basic squat, a basic lunge, a push up (whatever modification makes sense for your fitness level), a bent over row and a plank hold with perfect form. You must master basic foundational moves before progressing to more challenging versions and combinations.
- Keep a training log. Document all strength sessions with reps and weights done. Have a plan for progression that matches your goal.
Don’t worry, we don’t leave cardio completely out. It is important for good health and it can help you burn more calories. But many of you are going about it the wrong way. Next week, I’ll tell you how cardio fits into your program.
See all articles in the series The Fit Truth.