Pump up your fitness routine with resistance training

There are so many different types of workouts to try, you’re certain to find a routine you like. And that’s an important part of sticking with a fitness program. For those especially seeking a way to lose or maintain weight, a workout that involves a lot of cardio — or aerobic — exercise seems to make the most sense. But according to fitness experts, including the American College of Sports Medicine, while all exercise is beneficial, most adults should engage in a fitness routine that involves cardio, resistance (strength training that uses weights as resistance), and flexibility training.

Stretching after working out is simple, but what’s the easiest way to add weight training to your workout?

If you belong to a gym, the answer is easy: Use the weight machines like the leg press or bicep curl. You can schedule an appointment with a personal trainer; most gyms offer one free session to help familiarize you with the equipment. And weight machines also come with printed instructions and diagrams right on the equipment itself. You can just adjust the seat and levers for your size and height and start working out. As you get stronger you can add weight easily, and it’s hard to injure yourself on a weight machine.

Stretching after you work out is simple, but what’s the easiest way to add weight training?

But — and this is good news for those who want to work out at home as well as for gym goers — research shows that working out with free weights like dumbbells, resistance bands or tubing, or even your own body weight, can help build muscle strength more quickly. Training with free weights also allows you free range of motion, and unlike weight machines, if you have a small frame you don’t have to worry about adjusting the machine to your size. Free-weight exercises also require balance, so to stabilize yourself as you do biceps curls, overhead presses, and other moves, you’ll recruit additional muscles. And for a complete resistance workout, you really only need a couple of sets of dumbbells in different weights. If you don’t have a trainer to help you at a gym, then turn to the Web for instructional videos on how to use free weights or resistance bands. Proper alignment is critical to prevent injury.

Another popular form of weight training is called BodyPump, and it’s perfect for those who like to take exercise classes. This weight-based group fitness class was created in 1991 in New Zealand and is now found in health clubs and gyms worldwide.

BodyPump classes are 60 minutes and focus on eight separate muscle groups. Each class is choreographed to specific, heart-pumping songs. The classes use free weights-plates, barbells, and mats for floor work. Though BodyPump was designed to use relatively small weights, participants are free to pump as much as they like to build muscle and burn fat. Major muscle groups are worked via a series of compound and isolation-based exercises, including squats, presses, curls, and dead lifts. The focus is toward muscle endurance using lots of repetitions (about 800 per class). Many San Francisco gyms offer BodyPump classes, including the Presidio YMCA and the Bay Club.

If you just don’t like gyms or weights, you can always use your own body weight to do resistance exercises like push-ups, tricep dips, planks, and sit-ups. As with any new fitness routine, start resistance training slowly. You’ll know when to add more weight, either on a machine or with free weights, when your muscles stop being tired after eight to 12 repetitions.

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