Simply Strengthening

If you’re anything like me, you want to get into shape in as simple of a way as possible. This does not mean cutting corners or skipping workouts-or doing some sort of quick fix diet. It means sticking to something effective, but straightforward. There are countless exercise blogs or articles-and of course magazines (my favorite does happen to be Runner’s World) that will give you many different ways to strengthen your core, or tone your glutes (for example). I have tried some of these exercise ideas for toning, and I’ve found that just trying to figure out the diagram and instructions to even begin the exercise is enough of a challenge, that I feel exhausted before I have even begun! This is a classic case where, if something is not broken, don’t fix it! So, I go back to my trusty Body Pump class at my local gym, which, after nearly 10 years of doing this class, is a very simple way for me to get stronger.

I have mentioned body pump in the past, but I really have not gone into detail regarding it. So this blog entry, I will go into it in a little more detail. But first, I want to mention my experience from today. I went to body pump class for the first time since Wednesday of last week. Last week I successfully went Monday and Wednesday, with every intention of going again on Saturday or Sunday-but then Saturday I got busy, and I wasn’t feeling well on Sunday. Monday was a holiday where I work, so my normal class at the gym over lunch wasn’t one I wanted to drive across town to go to. I was off work and looking forward to spending some quality time with my husband (it was, after all, the 14 year anniversary of our first date). So, we went to the gym close to our house and I knocked out 2 miles of running on the dreadmill. Thus, the next body pump class was today.

What I noticed after last week was that I had literally no soreness in the day following each class. A good thing, right? Well, not necessarily. If I want to gain muscle, I do need to challenge my muscles-clearly, they weren’t being challenged. By Friday morning of last week, after Monday and Wednesday going to Body Pump, I had no sore muscles. I’m not talking about barely being able to walk or lift my arms either. I’m talking about that feeling in your muscles that you get when you know you had a successful workout that challenged your body and will result in a stronger body over time (a little bit of tightness maybe, though not painful). Those of you familiar with weightlifting can understand what I am talking about. That feeling did not exist, so clearly I needed to make a modification to my Body Pump class.

Today, I increased my weight in all exercises-AND I FELT CHALLENGED! But it also wasn’t horribly unbearable, which tells me I should probably have done this awhile ago. However, I’m a very cautious person, and do NOT want to get injured. More specifically, I don’t want to injure myself so that it will impede my ability to continue running. So, while I will push myself to the limits when I’m running, I’m not very good at doing this when lifting. What I need to realize is, I can go outside my comfort zone when lifting, and as long as I’m using proper form and doing weight increases gradually, it can work. Especially when I’m doing a familiar weightlifting routine.

Of course, I don’t know yet how it’s going to feel tomorrow, or Friday-but I do feel as though I made some progress in class because I increased my weights, and felt challenged, but it didn’t feel impossible. That tells me that I’m going in the right direction.

So getting to how Body Pump class works. Every workout in Body Pump is broken down into strengthening specific areas and includes a fun and motivating musical track to lift to. You start out with a warm up, which typically includes a moderate weight-this warm-up is usually your lightest weight of the class, and goes about 3 minutes. The instructor will walk you through different movements to focus on the entire body because, well, it’s a warm-up.

From there you go to squats, which will be your heaviest weight in the one hour class. This track can go anywhere from 3-5 minutes and is very challenging. I can say I probably easily do at least 100 squats during this track.

After the squats, you do the chest track, which typically involves laying down on a bench and using the bar to lift weight from your chest straight up, keeping your back flat on the bench and your elbows cannot go lower than the bench when you lower your bar during an interval. My arms tend to be weaker than my legs, so this winds up being a pretty challenging workout-but I don’t lift the same weight as I do with the squat track (typically I lower the weight to the same that I use for my warm-up).

After the chest track is the back track, which involves standing up, with a weight that is heavier than the chest track, but not as heavy as the squat track, and doing a combination of dead lifts, clean and presses, and power presses. Once you’ve completed the back track, you go on to triceps.

The triceps exercise portion is one that I never really know what will happen until the instructor tells us-sometimes we lay on the bench and use our bar to lift, other times we use small dumbbells, and other times a combination of dumbbells, bar, triceps push-ups, and triceps dips. I tend to prefer the combination track, as it seems to go by much faster and feel less excruciating, though either way, it’s challenging!

Then onto the biceps workout. For whatever reason, this particular part of body pump makes me feel tough. Why? When I’m standing in front of the mirror doing the workout, and I see my biceps moving to the reps I feel buff! It’s not like I am, but I feel that way when I’m doing the biceps workout. Yes, I’m standing in front of a mirror-they recommend that in Body Pump so that you are keeping an eye on proper form.  I typically use my warm up weight for the biceps workout because, let’s face it, I know my limits! 😉 I am pretty excited by how toned my arm muscles have gotten, though!

Following the biceps track is the lunge track. I don’t care how long you’ve done lunges in your life, or how much running you’ve done, lunges are challenging, period. You can be in the best shape of your life, and lunges will challenge you. There are just so many things you need to remember to do properly when lunging. I love this part of the class because it truly challenges me but also reminds me how helpful it is that I run on a regular basis. 🙂 With this exercise, sometimes the instructor suggests we hold dumbbells, and sometimes squats are included for a portion of the track, with or without weights.

The last workout that typically involves using your bar or dumbbells is the shoulders workout. This is a tough one-and it really tones your shoulders! Once that rather excruciating track is finished, there is an ab track where the instructor typically has you do crunches, planks, sit-ups, or a combination of these during a 3 minute song. That adds up to a lot of ab exercises! I sometimes modify what I do during this track because I’ve had three children and my ab muscles cannot always handle the same type of crunches as a 20 year old’s ab muscles, and therefore sometimes they will spasm in the middle of the exercise-a very painful feeling!

To end the class, there is stretching, which is really relaxing, if you choose to stick around for it (the class will often clear out at that point).

Body Pump is not for everyone. There are people I know that lift as their primary form of exercise and feel Body Pump is too challenging for them. I think it has to do with the fact that you are going from one body part concentration to the other in a very short amount of time (we are given about 1-2 minutes between tracks), so there is definitely a cardio component. However, as someone that runs on a regular basis for her cardio, Body Pump is definitely for me. I honestly feel like this is the best form of strength training for me that also feels like I’m really getting an effective workout.

If you haven’t tried Body Pump, I strongly encourage it. Most gyms offer that as a group exercise option. It’s a great way to challenge yourself while also being able to get guidance on proper form while lifting. Let’s face it, if you can’t even figure out what the diagram is trying to tell you when doing a new workout, how can you be doing an effective one? Body Pump has been very effective for me!

Essentially, I don’t see the point in following every new idea for strengthening your arms, legs, or abs, because if what I’m already doing works, and I know how to do it, I’m going to continue to do it. Of course, if you’re looking for variety, feel free to look at all those new ideas for strength training, because they are great ideas. However, I will be the first to admit that I am not the most coordinated, so trying a new creative way to complete ab exercises (for example) just isn’t for me!

I did find an interesting article on the Mapmyrun blog, however, that might be worth looking at: http://blog.mapmyrun.com/5-must-do-glute-exercises-for-runners-and-cyclists/

Keep in mind, though, the articles with the workouts on them in which you have to do 3-4 reps of each really don’t do quite as an effective job as an hour of body pump class, in my opinion!

Maybe I should become a Body Pump instructor…but that would require me to have some sort of rhythm (you need to have this to follow the music with each lifting rep). 🙂

4 thoughts on “Simply Strengthening

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