Strength Training: How & Why You Should Add Strength Training to Your Cardio Fitness Routine by Johnson Fitness & Wellness
Are busy schedules and a lack of equipment keeping you from getting the benefits of strength training? If you find yourself making excuses rather than making your workouts, it’s time to develop a program that works with you and your schedule. Low-equipment and no-equipment forms of strength training are excellent ways to build muscle and improve your functional movements. Plus, adding in circuit-style strength training to your cardio workouts at home can keep your heart rate up so you don’t have to choose between strength training and cardio when time is short.
From burpees to tuck jumps, there are plenty of equipment-free ways to keep your heart pumping while you build muscle. If adding impact to your workouts seems a bit extreme, you can choose no-impact options such as planks and squats. Body weight strength training will increase your functional capacity, making you stronger for the movements you do (or should be doing) every day.
A great program might start with a warm-up on your treadmill, indoor bike or elliptical, followed by five stations of exercises targeting the chest and/or back, lower body, core, arms or entire body at once. Spend one minute at each station and repeat the entire circuit two to three times depending on your schedule. During the second and third rounds, you can increase the intensity on your fitness equipment to be sure that you keep your heart rate within your cardiovascular training zone. If you’re already in good shape, try to aim for intense intervals during your time on your fitness equipment, as well as during your lower and full body exercises.
If you’re seeking to gain greater muscle definition, visible strength or want to better address muscle imbalances, there’s no need to add expensive equipment to your strength training workouts. Incorporating a few dumbbells and resistance bands isn’t a big investment in time or space, and you can even tuck some into an ottoman or under a bookshelf if you don’t have a lot of space to store equipment. Here are a two inexpensive ways to increase your strength training options:
Snap to it with resistance bands. If you want to see improvement in performance and function, as well as long, lean muscle, resistance tubing is a great alternative to free weights. Tubing also travels well, making it a great way to stick to your workouts on the road. You can begin by adding in lower body challenges or use tubing to target your entire body and core. If you’re looking for inspiration, these resistance band exercises will give you plenty of ways to step up the intensity of your intervals, and increase your power and performance both on and off the sports field.
Add a few free-weights. Dumbbells may give you options for targeting your biceps and back muscles, which tend to be areas we want more growth and definition than can be easily reached through body-weight training. You can also start adding resistance to your lower body and core work by combining upper body dumbbell work with a lower body or core movement, such as a lunging bicep curl or a chest press using a fitness ball.
Adding dumbbells is generally something you may want to do if you’re seeking muscle growth and more power, which means you may want to stick to low or moderate reps (not more than 10) over the three sets you perform. For most women, start with about 10 pounds for working the arms and 15 pounds for the back. Men can generally add 5 pounds to those numbers as a starting point and build from there. To get started with basic dumbbell exercises, try starting with a single leg dumbbell row, or a squat to overhead press. Using dumbbells is a way of targeting almost any body part using these simple weights.
The Squat to Overhead Press (aka Thrusters): This is a great total-body compound exercise that may hit the upper and lower body as well as the core. And, as an extra perk, it also may give your heart rate a run for its money. While the Squat to Overhead Press can be done with a barbell, we suggest you first start off with a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells to get acclimated to the exercise. Here’s how to do one:
- Hold a pair of dumbbells next to your shoulders, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Squat down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
- As you lower yourself, maintain good control and stabilize through the core.
- Push your body up from the squat as you press the dumbbells directly above your shoulders. Your biceps should be by your ears.
- Slowly lower the weights to the start position and repeat.
The Single-Leg Dumbbell Row: This is an excellent way to work the back side of the body (back, glutes, hamstrings), making it a great posture exercise. Plus, with it being a single-leg exercise, it’s going to challenge your body’s ability to balance and stabilize. Keep in mind that the dumbbells you decide to use shouldn’t be so heavy that you’re having trouble balancing at all. If you’re feeling some strain on your lower back during this move, go down a size and see how that feels. Here's how to do one:
- Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at the waist as you position yourself on one leg.
- Slowly bend (hinge) forward at the hips, making sure to keep your back flat.
- Extend your other leg back to help counter-balance yourself.
- Your eyes should focus forward as you keep your chest up.
- Slowly pull (row) the dumbbells up to your rib cage while maintaining balance on your single leg.
- After a brief pause, slowly lower the weigh back down and perform 6-12 reps.
- Repeat on the other leg.
This post is sponsored by Johnson Fitness & Wellness.
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