In Western Society, it’s all about a “lean and mean” physique, especially for the ladies. As a result, most women avoid weights and strength training in fear of putting extra bulk on their frames. Cardio based workouts tend to be more popular amongst women, resulting in a serious neglect of the important strength building aspect of exercise. The trick is to find a balance between cardio and strength building by combining the two in one fluid form of exercise. Here are a couple of ways you can use your own body weight and movement to condition and strengthen muscles, and improve cardiovascular strength and endurance.
HIIT/ Circuit Training
People often think that we have to use intimidating strength building machines or lift weights to build muscle, but this is a common misconception. Using your body weight and movement to achieve this actually provides a much better and more balanced workout. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is rapidly increasing in popularity, especially amongst the ladies, as it provides an intense, full body workout by using just your own body weight in a strategic series of fluid movements. HIIT by definition means working out at a moderate intensity for two minutes and then pushing your body to the limit for one, then repeating with little rest between movements. Circuit training is a great combo of cardio and strength training, as opposed to singular weight training which only targets certain areas to build isolated strength. (Ex. Bicep curls, bench pressing, lat pull-downs, etc.) Also, as there is no machinery involved in HIIT, you can transition more rapidly from one movement to another.
HIIT entails progressing through a series of movements such as squats, lunges and knee lifts. Often people use props such as kettle bells and ropes in their circuit training as well to continue pushing their boundaries. This fluid range of motion not only helps with flexibility (allowing your joints to move more freely) but it builds core strength, helps with posture, back strength, endurance, and burns fat like crazy! You will also develop better balance through control and awareness of your body. The best part about this form of exercise is that there is a ton of variety in the movements and exercises you can do. You can always switch it up which helps keep you motivated to push your boundaries and break plateaus. Oh, and since it’s free and can be done anywhere, there’s little room for excuses! Check out this article by Shape magazine for some more in depth instructions on HIIT.
TRX (Suspension) Training.
This form of exercise also doesn’t involve any heavy duty machinery, and can be done anywhere, anytime. TRX exercises use gravity and your body weight to build strength, flexibility, core stability and balance. There are hundreds of exercises you can do with this portable equipment, to strengthen and condition all parts of the body. You can attach the TRX ropes to any anchor point (monkey bars, a door frame, etc.) but you can also usually find them attached to the wall somewhere at your local gym. For more info on TRX training or to order the equipment, check out their site. https://www.trxtraining.com/suspension-training
So don’t be afraid of a little muscle! Now you have all the tools you need to build up your strength, and maintain that lean physique you’ve worked so hard to achieve! After all, strong is the new skinny. ;)