By Eleanor Baranofsky
So, you’ve spent hours on the elliptical, bike, treadmill and even exercising in place time and time again with little to show for it.
You’re trying to cut carbs because you read somewhere that’s how you look leaner, but your appetite is high from all the cardio and now it’s beginning to feel like you’re battling the pantry every time you grab a snack.
You drink your gallon of water a day – or at least tried to until you spent half the day in the bathroom. You want to look toned and feel confident right?
Don’t we all?
If you’re not getting the results you want, you have to look a little further.
The secret behind a fit body is not chugging detox tea or hours of cardio. It’s something that requires more consistency up-front but less up-keep in the long run. It’s stepping off the cardio equipment more often and picking up some iron.
Hitting the weights for the first time can be daunting.
There are men grunting as weights slam to the ground making you wonder if you have to make a lot of noise to lift weights.
There are contraptions everywhere with various hinges, and pivot points that conjure images of electric chairs.
There are gatherings of 2-5 people around one machine leaving you wondering if you need to incorporate one into your home decor for a conversation starter.
It seems grimy, smelly and honestly confusing.
What is all the fuss about?
After a few visits, this place won’t seem so foreign. Once you start to figure out how a few of these machines work and how you like to incorporate them into your exercise, this place will become more of a playground than a gym.
From 2008 to 2017, health club membership in the US has increased by more than a third, jumping from 45.6 million to 60.9 million (1). One factor likely contributing to this number’s growth is; social media.
As individuals share their image more frequently via Instagram, Facebook or other online platforms, there is an increased pressure on wanting to look your best, thus joining a gym.
While increased phone use has been connected to negative mental health, it has also changed many lives by connecting people to the fitness industry and prevalent faces in it who share their fitness journey (2).
One group that makes up half the population has been influenced by social media now more than ever to break the ‘bro stigma of #gains’ and touch some iron in the gym.
Many women are waking up to the fact that lifting will not make you “manly”, as many had been previously led to believe.
Women are learning that they can shape not only their body but allow themselves a little more freedom in the kitchen when they move further away from cardio heavy methods.
Below is a basic workout split and the pattern of how to use your gym time each week.
This is only one method, which can (and should) be tailored based on individual preferences and goals.
Focused in this workout are the glutes, shoulders and a few basic compound movements that recruit other muscles in the body to build overall strength.
Provided are a few basic movements that will work the listed muscles. Sets (1 set of 10 bicep curl = 1 set) and Repetitions (1 bicep curl = 1 rep) will be listed but are truly up to the individual and their capabilities.
So “Bicep Curls 3 by 10” means to perform 10 bicep curls 3 times with rest periods in between.
Start off slow but use weights that challenge you.
Perform each movement deliberately and connect your mind to the muscle that you’d like to target, thus engaging it by feeling it work.
Lower Body // Glutes & Hamstrings focused
Tip: Don’t be afraid to step up to a barbell and take up some space for some of these movements.
Most of this workout can be performed with barbells, dumbbells or even no weight at all – whichever feels most comfortable or wherever there is space in your gym for you to work.
Romanian Deadlifts 3 by 8 to 12
Keep your core engaged, your spine straight or very gently arched to keep your chest up, and hinge at your hips, feeling your glutes contract and pull you upward as you return to the starting position.
Squats 3 by 8 to 12
Don’t let your knees cave in and keep the weight moving in a vertical line the entire time. Take your time.
Rear Lunges 3 by 8 to 12 per leg
If your knee glides too far forward, consider positioning your rear foot further or lowering the weight you use until you get the form right.
Abductor Machine – 5x Pyramid – 1 set each of 20, 15, 20, 5, 20
If an abductor machine is available, isolate your glutes by pushing your booty into the seat back and using your arms to glue yourself to the seat. Challenge yourself on the weight and you’ll really feel it tomorrow!
Eleanor Baranofsky displays an example of proper squat form.
Upper Body // “Push” day – think Chest, Triceps, and Shoulders
Tip: Reach for dumbbells that challenge you but allow you to maintain your form.
Lateral Raises 4 by 10
Use a lighter weight and try to raise your arms slowly and with control. This will trump swinging a heavy weight around every time.
Front Raises 4 by 10
Again, slow and controlled movements!
Bench Press 3 by 12
Keep your shoulder blades pinched together, your feet firmly planted and arch your back, pushing the weight away from your whole body. Try to feel different muscles activate, from your chest to your triceps and pick a muscle group to focus on.
Alternating Overhead Press 3 by 10 per arm
Either sitting or standing, lift dumbbells or kettle bells from shoulder level to an extended arm. Keep your core engaged the whole time and your back straight.
Chest Press 2xAMRAP (As Many Reps as Possible)
Laying on a bench, and with a plate on your chest, push it up as many times as you can. End your workout with these and your arms will be shaking by just turning the steering wheel, on your way out of the parking lot.
Lower Body // Quads & Calves focused
Goblet Squats 3 by 12
Hold a dumbbell at chest level and squat as deep as your mobility allows, keeping your chest up, your core tight, and your legs engaged.
Leg Extension Machine – 5x Pyramid – 1 set each of 20, 15, 20, 5, 20
Pick weights that challenge you, increasing with each set. When you feel like you can’t get all the way, take a deep breath, feel that oxygen hit your muscles, and keep going.
Front Squats 3 by 8 to 12
Warm up to a challenging weight then begin using that in the 8 to 12 rep range. Breathe deeply and move slowly, feeling your body move the weight from your shoulders to your feet.
Calf Raises 3 by 15
With dumbbells on your shoulders, lift your heels in a slow and controlled fashion. You can add variations by angling your feet outward or inward to hit different parts of the muscle.
Upper Body // “Pull” day – Back, Biceps, and Rear Deltoid focus
Single Arm Lat Pull Down 3 by 10 per arm
Pull the bar down slowly. Don’t go too heavy here as this a slow and controlled warm up.
Lat Pull Down 4 by 10
Push yourself here as you should already be feeling activated from the previous movement.
Face Pulls 3 by 15
Lean back as you perform these and keep the motion slow and controlled.
Seated Row 3 by 12
Bend your knees and waist a bit to really feel your whole body engage throughout the movement.
Plate Pulls 2xAMRAP
With a plate, lean over, bending at the knees and waist. Pull the plate towards your chest as many times as you can twice. Dig deep!
Be sure to recover properly after each workout.
A few minutes on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical will keep your body warm as you allow your heart rate to come down.
Then roll out and stretch out for at least 5-10 minutes – the longer, the better if you have time.
One of the most fun parts of lifting weights is that you can eat a little more and know that food is used as fuel to build up your muscles, and not just store as fat.
So, make sure to grab a protein packed snack or shake such as IsoFit after and keep your body fueled between workouts with carbs and a bit of fats, too.
The bros in the corner will still be there, grunting like gorillas.
There will be people who don’t wipe down their equipment, leaving behind sweaty benches.
But you will also be able to create space for yourself. In time, you will see results in not just your body but your mind, from acknowledging your capabilities and strengths.
So, go pick up some iron, put on your favorite pump-up song and get after it.
1. Rodriguez, Melissa. “IHRSA 2018 Global Report: Health Club Industry Revenue Totaled $87.2…” IHRSA, 9 May 2018.
2. Thomée, Sara. “Mobile Phone Use and Mental Health. A Review of the Research That Takes a Psychological Perspective on Exposure.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine , 29 Nov. 2018.
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