Feel the Resistance

Resistance training is crucial for optimal function and cardiometabolic health. I ALWAYS recommend it for my patients. Twice a week is the goal. That’s it! The trouble is, there are too many resources out there and it quickly becomes overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple. Below, I outline how to get into it.

If you are new to resistance exercise or want to get back into it, you might be wondering how to start. Resistance exercise is any type of exercise that involves working your muscles against some form of resistance, such as your own body weight, bands, or dumbbells. Resistance exercise can help you build strength, improve your posture, and prevent injuries.

One way to start with resistance exercise is to do two sessions per week, one focusing on your upper body and one on your lower body. This way, you can give your muscles enough time to recover and grow between sessions. You can also vary the exercises you do to target different muscle groups and avoid boredom.

For each session, you should aim for a volume and intensity that challenges your muscles but does not cause pain or excessive fatigue. A good guideline is to do 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions (reps) for each exercise, with a short rest between sets (1-2 minutes). You should choose a resistance level that makes the last few reps of each set feel hard but not impossible. This is called the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and it can range from 1 (very easy) to 10 (very hard). For resistance exercise, you should aim for an RPE of 7 to 8, which means you are working at a high intensity but still have some gas left in the tank. As in, you could still do another 2-3 reps if you had to.

You can do resistance exercise with different types of equipment, depending on what you have access to and what you prefer. For example, you can use your own body weight to do exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and bridges. You can also use bands to add resistance to these exercises or to do other exercises like bicep curls, shoulder presses, or lateral raises. Bands are cheap, portable, and versatile, and they come in different colors and thicknesses that indicate their resistance level. Finally, you can use dumbbells to do a variety of exercises that work your upper and lower body. Dumbbells are more expensive and bulky than bands, but they allow you to adjust the weight more precisely and work each side of your body independently.

To give you an idea of what a resistance exercise session might look like, here is an example of an upper body workout that you can do with bands or dumbbells:

  • Warm up for 5 minutes with some light cardio (e.g., jogging, skipping, cycling) and dynamic stretches (e.g., arm circles, shoulder rolls, neck rotations).
  • Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of each of the following exercises, resting for 60 seconds between sets:
  • Chest press: Lie on your back on a bench or on the floor with a band or a dumbbell in each hand. Bring your arms up over your chest with your palms facing away from you and your elbows slightly bent. Slowly lower your arms until they are parallel to the floor, then press them back up to the starting position. (A bodyweight variation would be push-ups from your knees, or against an elevated surface like a table or wall.)
  • Row: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a band or a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from your hips, keeping your back straight and your core engaged. Let your arms hang down in front of you with your palms facing each other. Pull your elbows back until they are in line with your torso, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Lateral raise: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a band or a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms straight and your palms facing down. Raise your arms out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor, then lower them back down.
  • Tricep extension: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold one end of a band or a dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms over your head with your palms facing each other and your elbows close to your ears. Bend your elbows and lower the band or the dumbbell behind your head until your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Straighten your arms and return to the starting position.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes with some light cardio (e.g., walking, jogging) and static stretches (e.g., chest stretch, shoulder stretch, tricep stretch).

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the resistance level as you get stronger. Listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort. Consult a doctor before starting any new exercise program if you have any medical conditions or injuries. And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the benefits of resistance exercise!

If you don’t know how to do any exercise, simply search for a video online. There are a ton of examples out there. If you really aren’t sure where to begin, or if you have previous injuries or functional limitations, two or three personal training sessions may be the ticket.


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