How to Add Resistance Training to a Routine You Already Love

By Amber Thome

Are you an avid yogi or runner? Maybe you’re really into Zumba, cycling, rowing or Barre classes. It seems like there are endless options when it comes to fitness, and chances are, you might be interested in adding resistance training to your weekly routine.

Resistance training has gained a lot of traction in recent years, especially among women, and for good reason. Resistance training involves training in a way that challenges the musculature through resistance created by weights, bands, machines, or body weight.

Among its many benefits, resistance training:

  • Improves muscular function.
  • Increases bone density and metabolism.
  • Slows age-related decline.
  • Can reduce lower back pain and risk of injury, and more.

Many women report feeling empowered and notice a significant increase in confidence and self-esteem after taking up resistance training.

At Girls Gone Strong, we love when women resistance train, but understand that every woman’s goals are her own, and that resistance training isn’t as much of a priority as other types of training for some.

So if you’ve got a weekly training routine that you absolutely love, but don’t have much extra time to add resistance training, is it possible to add resistance training without totally disrupting what you have going on? Absolutely!

You might assume that you must have a dedicated resistance training program, or do a full workout in order to gain benefits of resistance training. Fortunately for you, this isn’t true and we’re here to help you add resistance training to your existing routine without requiring tons of extra time.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Training

The first step is to look at your current weekly training schedule to see where you can squeeze in some additional resistance training. Yes, I did just mention that this won’t require a lot of extra time, so for now, we’re just trying to find windows of time where it makes sense for you to add some resistance training.

Where can you make some room? I see a couple of options.

  1. You could do some resistance training on a different day than when you have a scheduled exercise class or workout. This window of time could be whenever you have extra time such as in the before work, on your a break at work, in the evening, or on the weekend.
  2. Or, you could do some resistance training on the same day of a scheduled exercise class or workout, immediately before or after class.

To find your pockets of time, write out your current weekly training like the example below, so you have a bird’s eye view of what your routine typically looks like.

Next, think about which days it makes the most sense for you to add some resistance training, and how much time you would like to dedicate specifically to resistance training. This will help you figure out how many exercises and sets you’ll have time for.

We typically recommend resistance training two to four times per week, which is often enough for women to experience the benefits listed above. Training this frequently allows most women to feel rested and recovered enough for each training session, and to feel energetic and generally good in their everyday life.

With that in mind, let’s use the example schedule above to figure out when it would be best for you to add some resistance training.

Option 1:
If you like the first option of doing some resistance training on your days off from exercise, you could start by adding some training on Tuesday or Friday. If you’re tempted to add resistance training to both days, our only caution is to make sure that you have enough time off from exercise each week to make sure your body feels well-recovered from all of your exercise. We usually recommend having at least one day of rest each week.

Option 2:
If you prefer the second option of stacking your resistance training onto one of your existing exercise sessions (for yoga, spinning, Barre, or running), think about how much time you have either before or after your class or run.

In this example, let’s say that you finish with work around 5 p.m., have other obligations on Tuesday and Friday, and prefer to have those as your “off” days from exercise. You know that it takes you roughly 15–20 minutes to drive to the gym from work before your 6 p.m. spin or Barre class, and it usually takes you another 10–15 minutes to change and get ready. That leaves roughly 25–35 minutes to squeeze in some resistance training, which is really plenty of time to get some quality training in.

Step 2: Determine How Much You Can Do With the Time You Have

Once you’ve decided when you’d like to do your resistance training, the amount of time you can commit will determine how many exercises and sets of each exercise you’ll have time for.

If you have less time to resistance train on more days each week, you’ll be able to do fewer exercises and sets each day, but can do more sessions each week.

This option may work well for the example above where you’d stack some resistance training with your existing spinning or Barre classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. If you’d like to spend 5–10 minutes before or after class doing some resistance training, you might be able to do a few sets of 2–3 exercises.

If you have more time to resistance train on fewer days each week, you’ll be able to do more exercises and sets of each exercise per session.

This option would make sense if you decide to resistance train on your day off from other exercise, on Tuesday or Friday. If you could dedicate 10–30 minutes, you’d likely have time to do a few sets of 5–8 exercises.

Step 3: Choose the Right Exercises

If you’re new to resistance training, this article outlines everything you need to know about strength training for beginners.

When choosing the exercises you’d like to perform, think about your current exercise routine, and if it focuses on any particular body parts or muscle groups. If you find that your current classes or workouts focus on just a few body parts or major muscle groups, it may be beneficial to spend the time you have for resistance training working the areas that you don’t focus on during your classes.

For example, if your Barre class includes lots of moves that are muscularly challenging on your lower body, and you’re very limited on the time you have for resistance training, it might be best to focus on adding upper body resistance training exercises.

If you have more time for resistance training, you may choose a variety of exercises that work major movements and muscle groups for your whole body.

The major compound movements that involve multiple joints and large muscle groups help you develop coordination and great exercise technique, and make your resistance training efforts more efficient. Start with the largest movements first.

These include:

  • Squat — a movement with a lot of hip and knee bend (i.e., bodyweight squats)
  • Hinge — a movement with a lot of hip bend, less knee bend (i.e., Romanian deadlifts)
  • Push — pushing away from you: horizontal, angled and or vertical (i.e., push-ups)
  • Pull — pulling towards you: horizontal, angled and or vertical (i.e., one-arm dumbbell row)

What Else Should I Do Before I Start Adding Resistance Training to My Routine?

  1. Have a go-to list of exercises for the movements you’d like to train, and note which equipment you will use for each one. (For more exercise ideas, check out our YouTube channel.)
  2. Take inventory of the equipment you have access to. If you have access to a gym or equipment you have at home, that’s great. Most resistance training exercises can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, machines, medicine balls, barbells, weight plates, or just bodyweight. And if you need to add resistance by getting creative with whatever equipment you have; old milk jugs filled with water or sand and backpacks filled with books work well too!
  3. If you’ll be adding some resistance training immediately before or after an exercise class, be sure to talk to your instructor. They might have some great suggestions for exercises that could compliment what you’ll be doing in class. They may also let you know if you might be able to use their studio space and equipment for your additional training.

There you have it: simple steps for adding some resistance training to the routine you already love!

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About the author:  Amber Thome

Amber Leonard-Thome is a coach, curriculum developer, and contributor for GGS. Since 2008, she has held multiple positions in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, wellness and nutrition coach, a university lecturer, and managed a fitness and sports performance facility. Amber holds a M.S. in Kinesiology, a B.S. in Exercise Science, and is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified.

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