⭐️Benefits of weight training
The benefits of weight training are well documented, I would highly recommend incorporating some kind of strength training into your routine. Benefits include:
- Get stronger – An obvious one, but regular strength training will make you stronger! This will improve your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as lifting and carrying a baby or toddler and carrying things like heavy shopping and getting prams and car seats from the car to the house.
- Improve muscle tone – your muscles will not only get stronger but they will get bigger too, however don’t be put off by this – you aren’t going to turn into the hulk!
- Burns calories – The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest and the faster your metabolism becomes. Meaning, not only do you burn calories during weight training, you’ll also get the ‘afterburn’ effect and will continue to burn calories for a number of hours after your session.
- Improve overall body composition –. By combining fat-burning cardio and strength training, you’ll reduce your body fat percentage and have a more toned physique.
- Improves bone density – regular strength training will improve your bone density, reducing the chances of developing conditions such as brittle bones or osteoarthritis in later life.
- Improves confidence – once you have started strength training on a regular basis and start seeing improvements in your strength and your body composition, this will be a huge confidence boost and will make you want to keep improving.
Many people, particularly women, who are new to fitness associate weight training with muscular body builders or experienced athletes. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Anyone can take part in weight training; everyone has to start somewhere! Most weight training exercises are functional movements, meaning they contribute to improving your everyday life. For example, squats and deadlifts will help you strengthen the muscles in your lower body required for bending down / lifting / carrying.
Also, many upper body exercises such as back rows and chest exercises, are going to strengthen the muscles needed for heavy gardening for example.
Weight training will not make you ‘bulk up’! Women do not have enough of the hormone, testosterone in their bodies to be able to build muscle like men do. Unless you’re doing a serious weight training programme of at least 5 days per week of heavy weights / low reps, then you don’t need to worry about bulking up.
Most women want to ‘tone up’, in which case sticking to weights that you can lift for 12-15 reps will achieve this.
If you want to build more strength, then try heavier weights and reduce to 6-10 reps instead.
⭐️Can I lift weights when pregnant?
Absolutely! As long as you’re cleared to exercise then you’re good to go.
Generally, the same exercise principles apply, just listen to your body and don’t lift too heavy. If you’re used to lifting then continue as normal during the first trimester and aim to reduce the weight by 5-10% each trimester. However, take care with your form and do slow, controlled reps. Also don’t lift to failure- stop once you’re moderately fatigued.
If you aren’t used to lifting weights then take caution and use light weights you can lift for 15-20 reps.
Avoid lifting heavy weights above your head and switch to a seated position instead of standing for exercises such as shoulder presses if you need to.
If weights are a struggle, then stick to bodyweight exercises. You’ll still get a good workout as there are loads of challenging bodyweight exercises out there.
⭐️How about post-partum?
First of all, make sure you’ve had your post-natal check and have been cleared to exercise, this is generally 6 weeks post natural or 10-12 weeks post c-section.
Once you’ve had doctors sign off to resume exercise then you can resume most exercises, however keep in mind that your joints / ligaments are still loose due to the hormone, Relaxin, for at least five months after the birth, longer if you’re breastfeeding. This makes you susceptible to injury.
If you weight trained during your pregnancy, then resume training with the weights you were using at the end of your pregnancy and gradually build back up. If you didn’t weight train during pregnancy and / or are not used to lifting weights, then keep the weights light (aim for 12-15 reps) and take it slowly.
*Check out my Q&A blog posts for more information around Pre & Post Natal exercise guidelines. https://mamaandmefitness.co.uk/blog/
⭐️Where do I start?
There are a vast array of strength exercises you can do, however to start with, make sure that you are working all the major muscle groups to avoid any imbalances. For example, if you are regularly training your biceps then you also need to train your triceps, or if you do lots of chest exercises then you also need to do back exercises etc…
The major muscles to train to get a full body workout would be:
Legs (quads, hamstrings and calves)
Arms (biceps and triceps)
A good place to start is to do a routine of about 8-10 exercises which cover all the muscles above and choose a weight which you can lift for 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps. Experiment with different weights; if 15 reps feels easy then increase the weight. If you’re struggling to even get to 10 reps then decrease the weight.
Remember, even bodyweight strength exercises are effective – if using weights is too much at first then start with bodyweight only and build up slowly.
An example beginner strength training programme might look like this:
Chest press or press ups
Bent over rows
Tricep extensions or dips
Ab curl or other ab exercise
Always start with the big muscle groups first (legs, chest, back) and always do your core exercises at the end. This is because your core is used throughout the whole workout, so you don’t want to tire it out by doing core exercises first.
If you are planning on doing strength training a few times a week then you can split your workouts up, for example you could do legs one day and arms another day. As long as you get a balance of all the muscle groups overall.
If you’re new to strength training and you’re pregnant or early post-natal then I would recommend seeking advice from a ‘Pre & Post Natal Fitness Specialist, to ensure that the advice given is safe and effective for you.
All Mama & Me Fitness workouts incorporate strength / conditioning work, most of which can either be done bodyweight or with weights, so you know you’re getting some strength work into your routine which is both safe and effective. For more information, please get in touch. https://mamaandmefitness.co.uk/contact-me/