Remember when you were a kid and claimed that your dog ate your homework, when really you just didn't get around to writing your book report? Of course, your teacher knew you were fibbing. While most of us are past blaming the dog instead of taking responsibility for our actions, this doesn't mean that we're beyond using excuses—whether we realize it or not.
As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I've heard almost every reason under the sun for why people "can't" be active, let alone do something specific like lifting weights for the recommended 20 to 30 minutes twice a week. However, outside of an actual health condition and a doctor's note saying that strength training isn't recommended, lifting weights is so beneficial to the majority of people that all excuses are busted pretty quickly.
The benefits of weight training are numerous, including increased muscle strength, balance, bone density, lean muscle mass, insulin sensitivity and cardio endurance—not to mention that strong, lean muscles simply look better! So if you've been making excuses and opting out of weight training, read on to get the (nice) kick in the workout pants that you need to start benefiting from regular strength training.
Excuse #1: Strength training is boring. If you get bored easily or like activities that are a little more fast-paced and engaging, then strength training really is for you—the sky is the limit! From group classes that pair lifting weights to fun music, to suspension training with the TRX, workout DVDs, free weights, kettlebells, circuit training (more on that below) and even using your own body weight at home while watching TV, the options are endless—and certainly not boring.
Excuse #2: I don't have time for strength and cardio. The best thing about strength training is that it can double as cardio if you do it the right way! There are three basic ways to do this. First, you can add some cardio moves, such as mountain climbers or jumping jacks or marching in place, between different strength exercises to get your heart rate up and keep it elevated through your entire workout. Second, you can do a circuit-training type format where you have no rest between exercises and perform moves that work major muscle groups (such as lunges, squats and push-ups which target multiple muscles). This also keeps your heart rate elevated, giving you a high calorie burn and working your cardiovascular system. Third, you can do strength moves that work the lower body with the upper body (for example a lunge with a bicep curl), to really get your heart pumping.
xcuse #3: I don't know what to do. You didn't think you'd get away with that excuse did you? SparkPeople is all about teaching you what you need to know! Brush up your knowledge on the principles of strength training, then read this primer on what exercises you should include. Knowledge is power!
Excuse #4: I'm intimidated by the gym. The gym can be intimidating at first, but it doesn't have to be. Any health club staff or personal trainer should be more than happy to show you around the gym, teaching you how the different strength equipment works. And even if that sounds pretty scary, you can always get your strength training on at home! In fact, you don't need any gear to get in a good strength workout at home.
Excuse #5: I'm afraid of bulking up. Man or woman, lifting weights for 30 minutes a few times a week will not bulk you up. In order to get "beefy," men have to lift very heavy weights for multiple times a week (the big body builders spend hours a day in the gym). Women do not even have enough testosterone to build huge muscles unless they very carefully control their diet and spend hours and hours in the gym (and possibly take unhealthy supplements and illegal drugs, as well). For the everyday person, lifting weights a few times a week will definitely not bulk you up, so don't let that stop you from reaping all of the benefits of lifting weights!
Excuse #6: I don't want to get hurt. Moving your body in new ways and lifting weights can certainly make you more susceptible to injury. But, if you warm up properly, lift weights using proper form, understand the difference between soreness and pain and really listen to your body (not pushing it too hard, especially in the beginning), the benefits of strength training far outweigh the risks.
7. I'm trying to lose weight, so cardio is more important. When it comes to weight loss, a calorie burned is a calorie burned, no matter how you go about it. And the whole idea behind losing weight is cutting calories through both diet and exercise—not just cardio exercise either. In fact, many strength workouts like bootcamps, kettlebell training and circuit training can count as cardio (see excuse #2 above) and help you burn more calories than easy- to moderate-intensity cardio does. In addition, strength training adds muscle to your body, which boosts your metabolism, as muscle burns more calories per ounce than fat. It can also help to reshape and tighten your body.
If you're using excuses to keep you from lifting weights, it's time to drop the nay-saying and just try it. Strength training is an essential activity for overall health that will help your body composition, thereby making weight-loss easier. So don't delay; try strength training today!