Muscles are the metabolic engine for your body. The more muscle you have, the higher your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) - which is a measure of how many calories your body burns at rest. In other words, the more active and trained those muscles are, the more fat you burn, 24 hours a day!
Your BMR goes up once you are finish a workout. This effect is highest after a strength work-out, even higher than cardio. Remember this: you will burn more calories all day after a strength workout in the morning.
When I was preparing the Canadian Synchronized Swimming team for the 2004 Olympics, our goal was long lean bodies that would be strong but not bulky since synchro is an aesthetically judged sport.
While the majority of women and models shy away from strength training from a misguided belief they will be bulky, this is without question the most important part of your exercise program:
We had to be doing exercises that built strength, but kept a long physique - a lot like a ballet dancer. We designed a program that produced the best 'bod' Canadian team in years!
I promise you if you train correctly you won't build bulk.
When should you do strength workouts? How often?
Again, it is always better when I can design an individualized plan for you, based on your body type and your goals. Though I am writing mostly about the female body, if you are a male and would like individual advice, please contact me, as there are some different considerations.
Here are some general guidelines regarding strength workouts:
Strength workouts are most effective when you do them in the morning; two to four times per week. You need to challenge muscles in specific ways, and frequently to stimulate them to change.
You can do your strength workouts on opposite days that you do your cardio or you can do your cardio after you do weights.
Recovery is important between strength training sessions, make sure you rest at least one day between strength training workouts. Imagine you are knocking down a wall during the workout, it takes your body at least a day to rebuild this wall. If you train before you are recovered, the wall never gets rebuilt fully.
A lot of people make the mistake of doing cardio first and then doing weights. This is less than ideal for two reasons:
By the time you are done your cardio you have less energy to do your weights properly, and you may not lift as much or you might bail out early. Sound familiar?
You burn less calories in your total workout by doing cardio first. This is true especially if you bail on weights after finishing your cardio! Do your weights first, your body will be warmed up and will start burning calories more quickly when you switch to your cardio workout.
What workouts should you do for strength training?
PILATES: I have taken private Pilates classes from Canada's top instructors and I can tell you this counts as strength training, as long as it is a fairly difficult session. Pilates builds long lean muscles and its effectiveness has won over many dedicated fans, including Gisele.
YOGA: Also be a great strength builder, depending on the type of yoga and again on the effort you put into each session.
WEIGHTS, EXERCISE BALLS & RESISTANCE BANDS: This is also very effective for building muscles and you will burn the most calories with this type of training.
Because models require long, lean muscles, I recommend doing 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions for your strength programs. You will not bulk up, doing this number of repetitions!
Remember physical fitness, like anything, is a process. You cannot get in shape by doing a few crazy workouts. Attempting to do so will lead to injury, fatigue, and disillusionment. Your eventual goal is to push hard during every workout. The harder you work, and the cleaner your diet, the better your results will be!
I'll provide you with some specific strength training workouts in my next article.
If you have any questions, please send me an email.
Part FIVE Part SEVEN