In addition to losing weight, toning up and building strength are some of the main goals for many of my private weight loss clients.
Focusing on toning and strengthening muscles is a great fitness goal because the benefits go beyond aesthetics — you will also increase your metabolism, improve bone density and increase flexibility in the joints. But if you are new to the weight room, it can be daunting to get started.
This five-day workout routine will help you ease into it, focusing on the upper body, arms and core so you can get in an efficient workout with fast results.
Do the following strength-training routine on days one, three and five. On days two and four, 20 minutes of cardio would be a great addition to your routine. Though you don't have to do it for this plan, cardio days can expedite your results because the heart-pumping exercises help with calorie burn and fat loss — both of which will make you feel stronger and more toned!
Flat bench dumbbell press
This upper body exercise works the chest and shoulders. The standard flat bench barbell press requires a barbell and one of my private weight loss clients calls this a very intimidating exercise! You may have seen people at the gym with with someone spotting their presses. Instead of doing it with a barbell, you can simply hold onto dumbbells to do this exercise. I recommend starting with five pounds and then working your way up to 10 pounds.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit down onto a flat bench. Slowly lower down onto your back and keep your feet on the floor. Pull your abs in as you bring the weights up to a 90-degree angle at your chest. Exhale as you press the weights straight up over the center of your chest (make sure you don’t go too far and bring them over your face; keep them over your chest!). Then inhale as you lower the weights back down to the starting position. You can start off with three or four sets of eight repetitions. After a couple of weeks, you can build up to 10 repetitions or increase the weight or sets!
One of the most well-known exercises is a pushup. There are many modifications if you’re looking for a less intense version of this move. But, for a visual, start in a plank position. Make sure your back is flat and your abs are pulled in. Bend the elbows out to the sides, lowering your chest toward the ground, and then exhale as you press back up to plank.
Modification: As a personal trainer for women, one of my favorite modifications of this is on hands and knees. Simply walk the knees back a few inches behind the hips and then lower down into the pushup.
You can also do an even less intense pushup against the wall. Place your hands at chest-height on the wall. Walk the feet back — the further you walk back, the more challenging this will be. Bend the elbows out to the sides and lower your chest toward the wall. Then, exhale as you press the hands into the wall and press yourself back up to the starting position. You can start off trying to do just 10 repetitions in your workout. Build up to two sets, three sets, and ultimately four sets of 10 repetitions in your workout!
This is a fantastic exercise to start with on the cable machine. Lift or lower the cable to chest height, and then hook the handles onto each side. Start the weight at about five pounds on each side. Hold onto the handles and face away from the cable machine. The handles will be at shoulder height, and then you can step one foot forward and one foot back. Hinge slightly forward at your waist and exhale as you pull the handles toward the center of your body at your belly button. Inhale as you release the cables back to their starting position.
Modification: If you don’t have access to a cable machine, you can do this same motion with dumbbells! Hold three- or five-pound dumbbells, one in each hand. Hold them straight out to your sides at shoulder height. Keep the arms straight as you press the arms and weights together at the center of your chest. Then, bring them back to the starting position. Start off with three sets of 10 repetitions, and then you can work up to doing three sets of 15 repetitions.
Incline dumbbell flys
This exercise is similar to the above exercise, except you’ll be using the workout bench again. Grab a pair of five-pound dumbbells. Raise the bench up to about a 45-degree angle. Then sit on the bench and hold onto the weights over your chest. Open them out to the sides and exhale as you press them back up toward the center. Modification: Repeat the modification for the above exercise, performing the same motion, but standing. It is working very similar muscles. Start off with three sets of 10 repetitions. Then work your way up to three sets of 12 reps, and then four sets of 10 reps.
Grab a pair of five-pound dumbbells. Hug your elbows in tightly to your sides and keep the grip on your dumbbells nice and firm. Curl the weights up toward your shoulders as you exhale and then inhale to lower the weights down to the starting position. Feel the contraction through the bicep during the entire exercise. Perform three sets of 10 reps, and then work your way up to three sets of 15 reps.
Alternate arm hammer curls
This move is similar to the above exercise, but instead of the palms facing up, you’ll face the palms toward your body. Hold a five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Hold your upper arm stationary as you bring your right weight up to your right shoulder, then release down. Bring the left weight up to your left shoulder, then release it down. Alternate arms to perform this exercise and exhale as you bring the weight up. Start off with three sets of 10 repetitions. Work up towards 12 reps and then 15 reps per arm.