Strength training to build lean muscle (& get a revved up, youthful, metabolism in the process) is actually easier than you may think. This is the fourth post in my free fitness series (after battling an eating disorder and losing over 100 lbs), in which I will share my best resources to get a flat stomach, toned arms, and a shapely behind…without spending hours in the gym or hundreds to thousands of dollars on exercise equipment. Fitness is within your grasp, I promise, if you just know where to look and promise yourself that you won’t give up while you’re figuring it out.
Why did I start strength training?
I will be the first to openly admit that I started strength training for a shallow reason… you see, when you are morbidly obese, but determined to lose the weight, you come to a realization fairly quickly that there is a very good chance that when you are done getting fit, that there is a possibility that you are going to have loads of loose excess skin… and that realization terrified me, honestly. In fact, I think that there were many times in the past that I could have gotten my weight under control…but the thought of having so much skin hanging off of me honestly made me pretty reluctant to even start trying.
Not only would extreme amounts of loose skin wreak havoc on my self esteem (which back then was nearly non-existant already)… but I’m an unmarried mom of four, so I knew that I would never have the luxury of a skin-reduction surgery being an option (financially) to get it “fixed”/removed… so I started researching ways to minimize loose skin during weight loss and the best results out there that I saw were hands down all people that incorporated strength training in their fitness journeys…and now, after losing all my weight, my skin looks amazingly tight for what it has been through… (between losing well over 100 lbs and having had four babies)…my skin actually looks good enough that I pretty much wear whatever I want without being self conscious about it (including crop tops/ bikinis/ and just a sports bra with leggings if I do ever go to the gym)…yes, I still have stretch marks, but I have learned to love them and refer to them as “my battle scars”.
Why I will never stop strength training/weight lifting:
Even though my reasons for beginning strength training could be considered shallow… I am now beyond thankful that I started, and will continue to always strength train three days a week until I take my last breath…that is because (much to my astonishment) my metabolism is now high enough that I am literally almost unable to pack on the pounds the way that I used to…and that is because muscle burns a ton of calories, even at rest.
As a comparison… back in my heavy days my regular pants size was an 18/20 and my “skinny jeans” size were a 16… and now that I have been strength training for at least a year and a half… my “fat pants” size is a 6 (yes, I’m smaller than I was in middle and high school) and my “skinny pants” are a 4…and I consistently stay below a size six even when I have fallen off the wagon more than a few times with my eating… having the extra muscle gives me a youthful-like metabolism.
When I talk about building muscle…I’m not talking about becoming a gym rat and looking like a body builder… I absolutely did not want to look like a body builder in any way and I just plain don’t have the time to spend hours and hours in the gym.
I want to always look quite curvaceous and feminine. So, I’m more talking about building nice lean, athletic looking muscle…such as building a physique similar to Jessica Beil…she has always looked amazing!
How long does it take to see results from weight lifting for women?
If you’ve read any other parts of my free fitness series, you will know that obviously strength training is just a big piece of the fitness “puzzle”, it’s not the only thing that I do to keep fit, so make sure to read the other pieces of the puzzle too.
When I added strength training to my fitness routines, I decided that I was only willing to do it at most every third day…and so I did.
Weeks went by, and I only noticed a very gradual change until about the time I hit nine weeks of consistently strength training every third day.
Once I was at the nine week mark, I noticed that the inches were just starting to fall off of me (I had dropped to a size 12/Large pants), so I decided that those results alone were worth adding in a few more workouts per month, so I beefed up my strength training frequency to three times a week, and within two months of doing so I had dropped to a size 6/Small pants…and I almost couldn’t believe it! Then another month or so later I got to the size I am now…
It felt like it was both a miracle, and a huge blessing to me (having struggled with my weight since age 7) because I never thought it was possible to get so to this size…in fact, I used to joke that the only way I would ever get to a healthy size was if I was old and frail, or got a terminal illness… well, I don’t have to joke anymore, I am finally healthy!!!
What are the long term results/benefits to strength training for fitness?
I mentioned above that strength training rev’s my metabolism, but there have been some other AMAZING and surprising changes to my body that happened too.
Be prepared for me sharing some major TMI right here: If you’ve given birth to multiple children like I have…odds are that you may struggle with what I call “sneeze peeing”… yep, since I had my first baby at age 23 I have been peeing my pants almost every time that I sneezed… in fact, anyone that knew me well, knew that if they heard me sneeze it was usually followed by hearing me shout “Oh man!”… which meant that I needed to go and change my panties because my poor bladder had failed me…yet again.
Since I now have a strong core, it has also strengthened my pelvic floor to the point that it’s as if my body hasn’t even given birth… yep, I can now jump on a trampoline without peeing my pants too!!!
So, long term results… My body is strong, it is healthy, it burns a ridiculous amount of calories (yep, I eat like a pig some days and don’t get fat… I just get right back to my fitness journaling/daily goals the next day, and don’t worry about it too much) and I just plain feel young again…all of those reasons should be more than enough to at least consider starting your own strength training routine.
Why people fail when they start strength training…
I believe that there are a great many reasons that people stop strength training shortly after they start… but one of the top reasons is that they try to do too much, too quickly… as with anything, you kinda need to take a gradual approach to develop a habit, and spending hours in the gym is just plain not realistic if you’re struggling with your weight altogether…so, if you decide that you don’t want to do the routine that I recommend lower in this post… just make sure that you find a routine that doesn’t make you miserable, fitness should actually be a little bit on the fun side.
I also believe that “new years resolutions” and wanting to get fit for whatever event are a great way to set yourself up for failure… if we want to make a healthy change, we should want to start implementing it today…not tomorrow, or next month, or until whatever date we deem we need to “look good” for.
Another reason that people may stop strength training is because they are obsessing about what the scale says and they get discouraged… guess what? Muscle weighs more than fat, but takes up much less space.
I weigh 20-40 lbs more than I look like I do, because I am carrying around 132 lbs of lean muscle on my 5’7″ frame. Stop looking at the scale (the primitive ones anyway, that only give you a basic number) because body composition is all that matters…for example, lean muscle is so amazingly compact that I had a thigh gap when I still weighed 190 pounds (I was around a size 8 pants back then too).
So, be consistent, don’t do workouts that are too hard/exhausting, and don’t get discouraged by the scale!
What is the easiest strength training video routine to do at home?
I am lazy as heck when it comes to how I wanted to tackle strength training (because I didn’t really want to do it at all, or go to the gym, I just wanted the results of having done it…lol), so I searched until I found the easiest and shortest full body strength training video that I could find, and that is what I did…and continue to do.
My routine is literally 15 minutes long, 16 with the stretching, and I figure that if I can’t make my health a priority for 16 minutes, three days a week, I don’t deserve all the glorious benefits.
I don’t support the creators of the video that I use, and what they stand for, but I figure that their industry is known for “looking good”, so their personal trainers would know the best ways to get fit and so far it has been more than true.
I recommend, that if you use the workout that I do (it’s called “Holly’s workout” on this dvd)… you just make sure to make the most out of those 16 minutes and when she goes on and on talking, just sneak in more reps… that’s literally all you need to do…and it is such an easy workout that you’ll finish it and probably not believe me that it will give you such great results… but it will, over time, as you continue to try to take care of your body and make your health a priority.
What equipment will I need to strength train at home?
For the workout that I do, I started out using two five pound weights, and any time that she would use one weight I would use a ten pound weight… as I got stronger, I upped them until now, and I am maintaining with two ten pound weights and a fifteen pounder any time she uses just one weight… If I were a man, or wanted to bulk a little bit, I would keep adding weight, but I’m happy where I am strength/tone-wise.
The only other thing I needed to strength train at home was an exercise/yoga ball so that I can do the arm exercises that she does in the video… yep, that’s less than $100 of equipment, and 16 minutes of my time three days a week is all that it takes to develop and maintain beautiful lean, calorie scorching, muscle.
How to get in the habit of strength training:
Maybe it sounds dorky, but I decided that my strength training is THE MOST IMPORTANT exercise that I do and the most important thing that I need to do to maintain my weight loss, so it had to become such a high priority for me that I literally write it on my schedule at the same priority level as paying my bills…
Switching up my mindset about it, and realizing the importance of strength training, nearly made the habit form itself… so, write out your daily schedule, and put it up there at the top of the “to-do” list… and in six months to a year, you very well may have completely changed your entire future the way that I did.
Well, that is all that I have to share with you guys about strength training for fitness…for now anyway, if you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and share it via social media with anyone else that would also love it…or you could even send them a direct link to this post. Either way, thanks so much for the support! ~Sarah
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Here are the other posts in my free fitness series (updated as I continue to learn and grow):
Direct links to free fitness series:
Step 1: How to overcome binge eating disorder:
Step 2: How to understand fitness in general:
Step 3: Everything you need to know about fitness journaling:
Step 4 : What you actually need to know about strength training:
Step 5: Why drinking enough water needs to become part of your daily fitness routine:
Step 6: Intermittent Fasting For Long Term Weight Loss:
Step 7: How to be more physically active your everyday life:
Step 8: How much protein do I need for weight loss?:
Step 9: What you need to know about the link between sleep and fitness:
Step 10: The Skinny On Eating Carbs And Weight Management
Step 11: The Importance Of A High Protein Breakfast
For those of you that would like another option of a “pinnable image” to share on Pinterest, here you go. Thanks again for the support!
*Please keep in mind that I am no Dr. or health professional in any way, I am just sharing my experience and opinions and you should always use common sense/your best judgment for your situation/ and consult a professional before making any extreme changes to your health routine. Also note that this post was originally published to this website on December 6, 2021, and will periodically be updated to improve user experience and keep this post as up to date as possible.*