I hope you’re now into the swing of regularly doing the lunges that I described in my previous post. As I said in Part 1, this programme is going to be a quick and simple way to get a full-body workout, which will burn the unwanted fat and tone up your legs, arms and core. This simple, but effective programme should be tried by anyone who is trying to lose that post pregnancy weight and is ready to start exercising again.
This exercise is one of the simplest as it requires no equipment and it is so effective. It is possibly one of the most under-rated and under-utilised exercises that exists. That’s why I love it so much! The press-up really is a great exercise for toning up your upper body, arms and core. Another great facet is that you can vary it and adapt it in so many different ways to make is easier or more difficult, or to work the muscles in different ways.
The press-up predominantly works the chest muscles (pectorals) and triceps, but additionally the shoulders (deltoids) and all the core muscles. The core is required to work hard to keep the body held in a flat ‘plank’ position throughout the exercise.
Exercise #2 – The Press-up
Lie flat on your belly and place your hands flat on the floor, by your side, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your body perfectly flat, push against the ground with your hands and straighten your elbows. Keep your head in a neutral position to reduce any strain on your neck. Lower yourself back down to the ground, but do not rest. Repeat the first movement of lifting yourself up. It is the arms that do the work of moving your body weight. Don’t be tempted to use your butt, stomach or the lower half of your body to heave yourself up.
If this movement is too difficult to start with, try an adapted press-up on your knees. For this exercise, place your knees on the floor and position your body weight forwards and over your arms. In this way, your knees take some of the weight, however there is still enough weight over your arms to make it challenging. Extend your arms and lower yourself back down in the same manner as a full press-up.
Start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions with your knees on the ground. Once this gets easy, move to 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions of full press-ups. As with the lunges, you should start by doing this 2 times per week and aim to hit a rhythm of maintaining this on a regular basis 2-3 times per week. You will notice it gets easier the 2nd or 3rd time but you’ll see drastic improvements after 6 weeks!
Enjoy it, and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment!
I would like to introduce some of the key benefits of lifting weights, and to use this post as a bit of an introduction for some other great posts I have lined up on weight training.
I also want to take this opportunity to dispel some myths about training with weights, and to give you some reasons why, as a busy mum with kids, you should be adding weights to your “fitness regime”.
Myth #1 – Lifting weights will make me big and manly
Lifting weights will not make you big! If it does, you are probably eating too much. It is extremely difficult to gain large amounts of lean body mass (muscle) and this takes a LOT of hard work. It simply will not happen unless you want it to, as it requires you to take all the right steps to train and eat in such a way that develops this. Furthermore, women have much lower amounts of free testosterone than men, and therefore are not inclined to gain large amounts of muscle mass. Evidently, it’s even really hard for men to gain large amounts of muscle mass, and that’s why so many products and magazines are aimed at giving men the best solutions on ‘how to get big’.
Lets consider sporty women – have you ever seen a large, muscly high jumper? No! Yet women high jumpers lift extremely heavy weights on a regular basis, and train much harder than you or I will ever have time to train (it’s their full-time job to train!), yet they do not get big. Why? Because they train and eat in the right way. In fact, lifting weights will make you thin and toned, so read on to find out how and why.
Myth #2 – It’s bad for my back, knees, hips…or whatever other excuses you can think of…
Many people think that lifting weights will somehow injure their joints. It’s true that if you attempt to lift really heavy weights on day 1, and you do not know what you’re doing, you probably will get hurt. That’s the same with anything. If you ride a bike as fast as you can on the first day you learnt to ride, you will probably get hurt. This does not mean that riding a bike is dangerous and will cause many injuries!
With weights, you have to progress slowly, increasing weight as your technique improves and your strength increases. (This is of paramount importance if you do have a long term injury). In this way you will actually strengthen your joints as opposed to injuring them. Your back, knees, hips and other joints will become stronger and more resistant to the stresses of everyday life and sport, if this is something you are involved in. Thus you will be protecting yourself from injury by lifting weights, not causing injury, as some would have you believe. So if you have a weak back or weak knees, maybe now is the time to start lifting weights as this could alleviate your pain and enable you to enjoy life more.
Myth #3 – Lifting weights will make me tight and stiff
Let’s first define tight as “losing range of motion in your joints and becoming inflexible”; and stiff as “the feeling of muscle soreness that you can get after exercise”. If you were to take up bodybuilding and gained a huge amount of muscle mass, then you may possibly lose range of motion in your joints and feel tight. This is a loss of flexibility. However, if you lift weights in the right way, and don’t gain a huge amount of muscle (and as I explained earlier it is extremely difficult to do this) you will actually improve your range of motion. Working your muscles groups through a full range of motion will actually improve your flexibility and strengthen you in the more extreme ranges. One big advantage of this is that you are less likely to hurt yourself if you slip or fall!
You may feel stiff a day or two after training. This is because you have worked your muscles, causing micro tears in the fibres. They simply need a little time to heal and to grow stronger. This is quite normal and shows that you have actually done some work! Great! This feeling lasts 24-48 hours in extreme cases and is not dangerous. Don’t panic, you are not injured, you’ve just asked your muscles to do some work that they’re not used to. Once you are used to your weight training exercises, you will not get this feeling to the same extent.
Myth #4 – I’m too old to lift weights
This is the worst excuse ever! There is plenty of research that has been done that shows the benefits of weight training for all age groups of people, even the elderly. Weight training has been shown to improve daily activities like stair climbing, standing up out of a chair, and other daily body functions and movements. I know I don’t want to grow old and not be able to bend down to tie my shoelaces, or lift my future grandchildren. And I know that weight training exercises will improve my body function in many everyday tasks and movements, thus making me more mobile and able to live life to the full.
One study carried out with 142 older people aged 60-80 years old (!) showed that lifting weights improved stair climbing, treadmill walking endurance, cycling power output and leg strength, when compared with those who carried on doing normal daily activities.1
As a result, it is quite clear that lifting weights properly is neither dangerous nor detrimental to health and function in any way.
Myth #5 – My main aim is weight loss not weight gain so lifting weights will not achieve that
It’s a well-known fact that muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat, so people immediately jump to the conclusion that they are going to gain weight by lifting weights instead of lose weight. There are 2 important factors to consider here:
1. Weight loss is not the same as fat loss. In fact, weight is not directly linked to health so the number that you see when you stand on the scales means nothing. Body fat, however, is linked to health, so if you have too much body fat, you are unhealthy. Furthermore, you look overweight if you carry too much body fat, as it is stored in unkind places, and so has a direct impact on your body shape. Therefore, your goal should be to lose fat, and not necessarily weight. Lifting weights will not make you fat, therefore, it is not unhealthy for you.
2. Lifting weights burns calories and drastically increases your metabolism. You will therefore most likely burn more fat in comparison to the amount of muscle that you gain. As a result, you are likely to lose weight anyway, and will probably shrink in dress-size. So, you will definitely lose body fat and size, and most likely lose weight as a result of lifting weights!
I hope I have successfully given you a number of reasons to add weight training to your list of activities to go get in shape, as well as blowing away some of the myths that exist. Keep checking my blogs for more information and guidance in this area!
Now go lift something xx