How do I add resistance training to my workout?

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Strength Training is a very important part of your healthy living plan. 

Here are some basic tips to get started:
1. Start slow
2. Perform a total body exercise routine incorporating 1 exercise/bodypart 2-3x/week
    a. Chest, back, shoulders, legs, arms, abdominals, low back
    b. Perform exercises in a circuit (do one exercise right after the other)
3. Perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions (perform each one slowly)
4. Use proper form and maintain good posture during all exercises
5. Make sure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of water

Note: I recommend that you start with a coach to help you design a safe, effective, and goal-specific plan

Proper posture is so important when it comes to strength training. If you have no prior experience, please do work with a fitness trainer to help you learn the correct posture. You can also review the instructional videos available here on Sharecare, so you can safely and effectively add resistance training to your workout. As others have suggested, 2 days a week is a great start!  Think in terms of body muscles you wish to exercise (chest, bicep) rather than just learning a variety of exercises to do. Pick an exercise for each body part and as suggested by others, perform 2 to 3 sets of the exercise (12 to 15 reps). You can do a total body workout each of those days or you can exercise your upper body one day and lower body the next. For example, if doing resistance on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you could focus on your upper body Tuesday and your lower body Thursday. The important thing is to start!  It’s a great feeling when our muscles begin “waking up” in this way. 

If you want to add resistance training to your workout add 4-5 exercises that target the major muscle groups of the body.  For each exercise, perform 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions. After the first week, you can add a third set if you feel your body is up to it.

Start your workout with your warmup and flexibility exercises, and then proceed with your core and resistance training. If you don’t perform your cardiorespiratory training on separate days, do it after your resistance training, and cool down afterwards.

Most of the time when people think of resistance training, they think of weight lifting. They would be absolutely correct, however, you can also do resistance training using your own body weight.

For example, if you are a walker, you could add some lunges to your walk. If you walk outside and you are on a up hill you could lunge up the hill as oppose to allowing the hill to slow you down or make you want to quit. If you walk on a treadmill you can walk on an incline at a faster speed than you would normally. In either case you could use some ankle weight or wrist weights or even a weighted vest to add some resistance to your body.

If you walk or run on a path or trail you could stop every so often to do some push ups, sit ups, pull ups, mountain climbers, or something like that to incorporate your resistance training.

It’s not hard. You just have to be creative and have fun with it.

From your question I gather that you do not do any resistance now. I assume that your workout consists of running and/or walking. Both are good for cardio and lower body strength. You can increase the intensity of your workout by adding strap-on weights to your ankles and to your wrists. Alternatively you can use dumbbells to not only increase the load on your legs but also to work your arm and shoulder muscles.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Resistance training is the best way to optimize your muscles. To incorporate it into your workout, do each exercise with a higher number of repetitions (say, 15 to 20), and use a lower amount of weight than you'd be able to lift for 10 or 12 repetitions. Make sure that you train to exhaustion so that you really struggle with the last few repetitions. Achieve this goal with either higher weights or lifting them slower so that your muscles are really taxed by the exercises and get the message to build themselves up in preparation for the next battle.

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Great question! Strength Training is a good way to add some variety and intensity to your current workout program. It is always a good idea to consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

  • Utilize the services of a fitness coach/trainer motivation, guidance, and safety
  • Start with a warm-up and go slowly to avoid injury
  • Add once a week up to three times a week of resistance training to your current routine
  • Increase water intake as needed; Take a multivitamin; Follow a healthy diet

I hope this helps and have fun!

Sadie Lincoln

A simple way to add resistance training without having to buy equipment is to do a workout that requires your own body weight as resistance to build muscle mass. Yoga, Mat Pilates, and many functional movement programs such as barre3 use isometric exercises and small controlled weight bearing movement to build a strong and lean body. At barre3 we include resistance training with postures such as lunges for the lower body, Plank Pose for core, and Push-Ups for upper body. If doing push-ups and plank on the floor adds to much stress on your joints, you can try these leaning into a waist high counter top like we do at the ballet barre. All of these are safe and easy to do anywhere.

Sarah Johnson

I love this question - you've realized the importance of resistance training as a key component to your exercise program! If you haven't done any resistance training before, a great way to gradually incorporate some exercises is to perform them in a circuit-style. Assuming you do plenty of cardio, I'd recommend that you shorten the duration of your aerobic workout and use the remaining time to perform 4-5 body weight exercises for 2-3 sets each.

Good examples are: body-weight squats to a bench, pushups on the floor (kneeling or on your toes), plank on the floor held for as long as you can keep good form, "supermans" for your lower back and walking lunges down a hallway. Incorporating these or any other variety of simple resistance exercises will help make your program more well-rounded.

If you are new to resistance training begin by using your body and gravity as your training tools. Body weight training can help you to establish form. Begin by practicing basic strengthening moves using your body as resistance; i.e. squats, lunges, push-ups, dips, etc. After establishing form and building strength with bodyweight exercises slowly increase the weight using dumbbells, resistance bands, and other gym equipment. Always be sure to watch your form, and ask for help if you are unsure of how to properly use a piece of equipment. Start slow, build slow, stay consistent, and you'll get results.

There are a number of ways to add resistance training into your workout. You may start by using your body weight for resistance, perform push ups, pull ups, squats, and lunges with your own body weight. When this becomes easy, try using your weight machines provided by your fitness center. Look on the machine for instructions or ask a personal training to help you. For more advanced training, begin to use dumbbells and barbells for increased resistance on exercises. Try to use medicine balls by throwing them into the wall, or slam them into the floor for resistance training. If you have a pool, water can act as a great resistance training workout. Perform arm circles, kicks, twists, and light jumping followed by swimming. You may incorporate resistance training into your daily routine by doing it all at once, or split it up throughout the day. If you do not use it - you will lose it, so maintain strong muscles and bones by doing resistance training!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.