Amp Up Your Resistance Training in 2016

January 19, 2016

Amp Up Your Resistance Training in 2016

Guest blog: Ayla Donlin, EdD, MS Kinesiology, ACSM-CPT | Director-LifeFit Center @ The Beach | Co-Director-Beach Community Wellness Program | Advisor-Exercise is Medicine On Campus – Long Beach State University


Finding a favorite resistance training routine is an awesome accomplishment that allows us to feel motivated and fulfilled. In fact, we need repetition in our training program in order to adapt to the stresses we place on our body over time. However, mixing up our workouts can provide excitement, motivation and additional challenges that will make us more fit!

Here are a variety of ways for us to add extra variety and intensity to our resistance training workouts in 2016…

group fitness heart rate

Combine Exercises into a Circuit

Circuit training can be a high-intensity, time-efficient, calorie-scorching way to challenge our muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness. Circuit training generally includes performing several exercises back-to-back with little-to-no rest between exercises. We can create circuits in numerous ways, but a good rule of thumb to get the most out of your workout is to select exercises that will challenge major muscle groups. An example total-body circuit using resistance exercises is as follows: box squats, pushups, single-leg deadlifts, bent-over rows, lateral lunges, overhead dumbbell press, hip bridges, and plank.

*When performing circuit training, we should expect to see a sustained increase in heart rate (think in the green or yellow zone) due to the higher demands on our cardiorespiratory system with continuous exercise.

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Change Foot or Hand Placement

Altering the position of our feet and hands can change the muscles activated and, ultimately, the purpose of the exercise. Additionally, it can be a simple way to modify or progress an exercise. For example, we can progress a pushup in the following way: knees on ground  feet on ground  feet on an elevated surface (higher than hands). For a plank, increase the challenge for your abdominals by placing your hands more forward of your feet. Experiment with your foot or hand placement during exercises to feel how your body reacts to changes position. 

*Use your MyZone heart rate monitor to see if certain foot or hand placements cause an increase in your heart rate – this may indicate that they are more challenging!

group fitness heart rate

Try Bilateral and Unilateral Exercises

To train our bodies for functionality, it is important to perform unilateral exercises (using one arm or leg) as well as bilateral exercises (using two hands or legs). After all, you aren’t always going to be able to perform every movement of daily living with both limbs, right (think about picking up a heavy bag of groceries in one hand while holding your toddler in another)? While bilateral exercises allow us to produce more force to build strength, unilateral exercises emphasize form and core stability. Here are some simple ways to integrate unilateral exercises into your workouts:

Perform a box squat while standing on only one leg. Notice the balance challenge when your body wants to sway toward the side of your standing leg.

Perform a single-arm cable chest press – feel that burn in your abs as they stabilize your torso?!

Emphasize the push and pull of one leg during your next indoor cycling class. Does one leg feel fatigued more quickly than the other?

Try an upper-body rotational device (such as the Krankcycle®) using one arm at a time – do you feel that proper form is more difficult to maintain when you use your right or left arm?

*Use your MyZone belt to track your heart rate when performing unilateral and bilateral exercises. Since bilateral exercises utilize more muscle mass, they tend to elicit a higher heart rate.

group fitness heart rate

Use a Combination of Free Weights and Machines

Variety is the spice of life, and using free weights and machine weights is one way to take advantage of all that is available to us as exercisers! Machine weights provide balance and stability for us, so they tend to require less activation of stabilizing muscles. That built-in stability can allow us to lift greater loads and teach us basic movement patterns. On the flip side, free weights provide less support and require us to stabilize our bodies and maintain balance. They also tend to incorporate more major muscle groups and offer us more variety in movement. When beginning an exercise program, machine weights may be a better choice as we learn the movements. Be sure to progress to free weights and continue to supplement with occasional machine weight to keep things fresh!

*Keep an eye on your heart rate – you’ll normally see that it is higher when using free weights.

Share how you’re amping up your 2016 resistance training workouts by using the hashtags #myzonemoves, #effortrewarded, and #keepmovingforward when you post to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

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