You're familiar with the numerous benefits of strength training—preservation of muscle mass, reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, increased energy levels—and yet, somehow, you never make time for it in your workout. While it might seem easier to avoid your dust-covered resistance band and take a walk around the neighborhood instead, the reality is that strength training is equally as important as cardio in a well-rounded exercise routine.
And before you start talking about how you don't have time, know that a good routine doesn't require hours in the weight room. In fact, a simple 20 to 30 minute routine, just two to three times per week, will help you get stronger and improve your overall fitness level.
But, alas, as the saying goes, "If it's important to you, you'll find a way; if not, you'll find an excuse." Before you lean into one of these five common excuses, let us convince you that it's time to grab a dumbbell and bust your excuses once and for all.
"I don't have time for both strength training and cardio."
Enter circuit training. Circuit training is a great way to combine strength and cardio into one workout. An effective circuit routine can be done two different ways: by alternating rounds of cardio and strength exercises (for example, burpees followed by squats), or quickly moving from one strength exercise to the next with little or no rest in between to keep your heart pumping throughout the workout.
Also, keep in mind that, unless you're training for an endurance event where you need to log longer periods of steady-state cardio, you can typically fit both cardio and strength into one workout. A challenging 20-minute cardio workout followed by a 20-minute full-body strength routine with three to four compound movements is usually enough to help reach your goals.
"I don't know how to get started."
Strength training doesn't have to be complicated, but it can be intimidating when you don't know what to do. An easy way to design your own program is by doing one "push" exercise (pushup, squat, chest press), followed by one "pull" exercise (deadlift, lat pull-down, row) to balance it out. A full-body workout would include one exercise each for the quads, hamstrings, chest, shoulders and core. For example, start with one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each of the following exercises: lunges, bridges, pushups, shrugs and bicycle crunches to get an all-over burn.
"It's not as important to help me reach my goals."
Even if your goals don't involve gaining muscle, strength training is still for you. Let's get one thing straight: Building large amounts of muscle doesn't happen accidentally. Bodybuilders spend hours each day in the gym and adhere to a very strict diet to promote muscle growth. The average person who's lifting a challenging amount of weight will gain strength and muscle definition, but will not add significant muscle mass. If your goal is weight loss, strength training helps maintain lean muscle mass while losing fat—so it’s just as important as cardio exercise. As you increase muscle your metabolism increases, which means you’re burning more calories at rest. In addition, strength training improves functional fitness, which is the ability to do everyday activities that require balance and strength (like getting up from a chair or reaching something on the top shelf) with ease.
"Lifting weights is boring."
If this is your excuse, chances are your exercise library is too limited. Strength training doesn't have to mean the same old squats or pushups that you've unsuccessfully tried and hated in the past. It can take on a variety of forms, including machines at the gym, dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells or even your own body weight. You can create your own program, take a class or try a workout on YouTube to mix and match a variety of moves and tempos. Don't be afraid to experiment until you find a workout that holds your attention and leaves you wanting more.
"Buying equipment or a gym membership is too expensive."
A gym membership or fancy home equipment can be a significant investment—but there is a middle ground. With a $20 pair of dumbbells, a $10 resistance band or your own body weight free of charge, you can achieve a full-body sweat session right at home. Cost should never be a deterrent when it comes to strength training, since there are numerous budget-friendly options to challenge your muscles and build strength.
No matter your goals, budget or time available, the numerous benefits of strength training mean that it's worth the effort. By making it a priority, you'll quickly bust any excuses and find an important place for strength training in your workout routine. Who knows? You might even fall in love with the weight room.