You’ve ditched the junk and stepped up your activity levels, but you’re still not seeing weight shift, so now what?
If you want to achieve permanent fat loss, avoid osteoporosis and boost your cardiovascular health, you need to include a long-term strategy for strength training. This will help build muscle endurance and cardiovascular health as you increase your lean muscle mass.
The good news is that you don’t have to splash out on an expensive gym membership to do this. You can exercise, using your own body weight, and all you need is some clear space in your living room, plus a chair.
Resistance is not futile
This easy programme will rev up your metabolism, resulting in more calories burned compared to traditional resistance and cardiovascular programmes. And, by mixing strength training with cardiovascular training, you’ll burn fat more efficiently. The exercises are fast and constantly changing and target the body in a way that provides all-round conditioning.
Before you start
Do each of the exercises illustrated for 30 seconds, then quickly move on to the next exercise until the entire circuit is complete. Rest for 15 seconds when all the exercises are completed then repeat the circuit four more times, to reach the full 10 minutes.
Do three of these workouts every week and gradually build up to three 10-minute workouts a day, three times a week.
And don’t be surprised if you find that you’re breathing heavily throughout these moves. Ten minutes of body weight training can leave you more puffed out than the same time spent doing cardiovascular training.
The box press up
Great for: Shoulders, back, biceps, core, triceps.
Rest your knees on the floor and make a box shape with your arms, body, thighs and the floor. Bend elbows and lower chest to within two inches of the floor – you’re aiming to make a right angle with your arms. (The closer your hands are together, the more the exercise will work your triceps; the further apart they are, the more they work the chest.) Keep your back straight and try not to put your bottom in the air.
Work it: Do one more each time.
Great for: Core, abs.
The most basic plank exercise is with the use of the elbows and forearms. Place hands directly beneath shoulders with arms fully extended. Bend arms at the elbows, lowering the chest until it is two inches above the floor and elbows are at 90 degrees. Keep bottom lowered.
Work it: Lift a leg off the floor.
Great for: Thighs, glutes, legs, core.
Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart, back straight and stomach sucked in. Keeping your back as straight as possible, slowly start to lower your torso, as you bend your knees, until you are almost in a sitting position. Make sure that your knees do not go further forward than your toes. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Work it: Hold squat for 30 seconds.
Great for: Thighs, glutes, legs, core
Stand with your legs together and then lunge forward with your left leg so that your leg is in front of you. As you are lunging, bend your right knee and flex your hip so that your rear leg is almost in contact with the floor. Make sure you land on the heel of your front foot first and then bring the front of your foot down. Finally, return to your starting position by extending the hip and knee of the left leg. Now try it starting with your right leg lunging and repeat for 30 seconds.
Work it: Weights in each hand.
Great for: Triceps, biceps.
Begin by standing in front of a chair or bench with your back to it. Place your hands on the chair with palms down and knuckles facing forward. (Hands should be slightly closer than shoulder-width apart.) By bending at the kness, your legs should be at a 90-degree angle. Now, keeping your body close to chair, lower it by bending at the elbow, and exhale as you go. Then, straighten your arms out, as this will push your body back up.
Work it: Add a weight on your lap.
Does it work?
In a fat-loss test, the strength training group came top…
In a study looking at the effects of strength training, researchers compared three groups: a diet-only group, a diet-plus-aerobic-exercise group, and a diet-plus-aerobic-training-plus-strength-training group.
After 12 weeks, the diet group had lost 14.6lb of fat, the aerobic group had lost 15.6lb of fat and the resistance training group lost 21.1lb of fat. The inclusion of resistance training resulted in a far greater fat loss than diet alone.
More significantly, the aerobic group only lost 1lb more than the diet alone group – not a great return for a significant amount of aerobic exercise.
Dr Chris says… ‘Weight loss is best achieved by increasing exercise, which will also help you tone up. In particular, strength training using your own body weight will build muscle and reduce fat.’
This article was first published in at home’s ’Ask the Doctor with Dr Chris Steele’ in April 2011.
Illustrations: iStock, Stella Kwok