By Chris Freytag
Financial experts speak of letting your money work for you—investing your savings so they earn money on their own, without additional labor or effort on your part. Weight management works in a similar way. Sure, you'll burn calories when working out, but to work more efficiently, you also want your body to burn calories at the highest possible rate even when you're NOT exercising. You want to burn calories when you're sitting at your desk, relaxing at home, or even sleeping.
It's called your resting metabolic rate (RMR), and you can increase it.
One of the surest ways is by building more muscle mass through strength training. Muscle can burn three to five times more calories than fat does. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn—even when you're staying perfectly still.
And you don't need to invest much time. Working with weights for as little as 20 minutes two to three days a week can be enough to crank up your resting metabolic rate over time.
Here are some easy ways to add strength training into your life without feeling like you have to go to the gym and hoist the big barbells:
Trying Burning Rubber
Try rubberized resistance tubing. The resistance of a rubber band cannot be compared to a specific weight, but believe me, bands work and they are easy, portable and there are various options for different strength levels. People always ask me, "How do you know which band to choose since they are color coded and don't list a specific weight? You should reach moderate to maximum muscle fatigue between 10-20 repetitions. If your band is too easy, you'll know. If it's too hard, you won't be able to complete the full range of motion.
Use Hand Weights at Home
Jump up off the couch between commercials (even if you DVR'd the show!) and use that time to do your strength training routine with hand weights, kettlebells, or resistance bands. You will be surprised how much of your hour long program is actually commercial ads, and the number of exercises and combinations you can do is almost endless!
Use Your Own Body Weight
Get outside or even go to the playground. Do pull-ups, use those monkey bars like when you were a child, try some push-ups, or break out your yoga mat and do some sit-ups. You also can do squats and lunges anywhere. Or turn your body into the position of a chair, your legs forming a 90-degree angle while your back is against the wall and hold a wall sit for the duration of a commercial. Your legs will be burning. Try some calf raises in place, using something for balance.
Try the Machines at the Gym
The various machines at gyms each feature a different muscle group and easily explain with diagrams how to use the equipment. You also can ask people who work at your gym to show you how to properly use a piece of equipment. Don't be discouraged by the unfamiliar. With a little sense of adventure and a desire for a strong body, you can be going from machine to machine in no time—working all of your muscle groups.
Try a Strength Class at the Gym or a DVD.
Most gyms have a variety of strength training classes, including muscle sculpt, muscle pump, circuit classes and boot camp workouts. In these classes you may use free weights, body bars, hand weights, medicine balls,resistance bands or other equipment. I will attest to the fact that this is how I do my strength training. I am addicted to teaching group fitness!
I love exercising with other people and I always make sure we hit every muscle group in my conditioning classes. Many DVDs offer the same benefits of strength training classes without having to leave home. As you do strength training you will naturally get stronger and need to increase the weight you lift. You also will be amazed at how regular strength training can make you more conditioned and prepared for your cardio workouts, and now your body will work for you even when you are sitting at your desk! Thank you muscle!
About the Author
Chris Freytag is a health and fitness expert, blogger, author and motivational speaker. She has been teaching fitness classes and personal training for over 20 years. She is a contributing editor for Prevention Magazine; the fitness contributor for the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis; and sits on the Board of Directors for the American Council on Exercise.
Chris has authored 5 books; has created dozens of fitness DVD's; is a top trainer for Exercise TV; and sells her signature line of healthy kitchen and fitness products on QVC. Visit Chris' website, www.chrisfreytag.com, and Facebook page for more information.