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My exercise routine has changed a lot over the years. Depending on my health, interests, or goals, it varied and moved in and out of a lot of different types of activities. I’ve been yoga obsessed, all about running, into HIIT workouts, a wanna-be spinner, and every other manifestation of a fitness lover you can think of.
One thing that’s remained throughout is my love of strength training and being a stronger athlete in every capacity. I’ve always done circuit workouts (and have a lot of fun creating them for you all!) and have incorporated ‘weight lifting’ into my weekly workouts. I use scare quotes around weight lifting because while I was definitely doing strength training, it isn’t what you’d call heavy lifting.
I never thought I’d really get into heavy lifting (the whole #gainz, #strongnotskinny, body building competition world sort of turned me off to it). But when I realized I had sort of hit a plateau with my personal strength, I thought it was time to challenge those thoughts I had about the weight room and try something new.
So this summer I embarked on my first ever strength building program. Real weights, traditional strength building exercises, and a set plan to follow so I could get used to this new form of training.
I reached out to my friend Carrie of This Fit Chick, who’s a fellow personal trainer, and got set up with her Build Baby Build program. She thought it would be perfect for me as I’m not a novice exerciser but am new to this type of lifting. It’s focused on slowly building strength and growing muscle over a 12 week period.
I was super excited to start and challenge myself in news ways. I even took a few before pics. 😉 (Haha! Believe me, I will not be sharing.)
The first 4 weeks focused on compound lifts. This means I was doing things like squats, deadlifts, and power cleans to work multiple muscle groups at once. I was familiar with a lot of the exercises but I had never used the squat rack or a lot of the machines before. I had always done squats, lunges, and deadlifts with dumbbells or a crooked bar, so it was definitely a change to be able to add a lot more weight to my lifts.
This phase was a great introduction to the weight room and wasn’t too complicated at all. I was able to gain confidence and really make my way around the gym getting used to the machines.
The second phase focused a lot on compound lifts as well (which I now love!) and also incorporated drop sets. If you’re unfamiliar with drop sets, they are when you start with a higher amount of weight and low reps and then gradually decrease weight while simultaneously increasing reps. This helps keep your heart rate up and really challenge your muscles in new ways!
The last part of the program incorporated and upper/lower body split. I really enjoyed working multiple muscle groups at a time in the previous two phases so I didn’t know how I’d react to split day training. I have to say it wasn’t my favorite. I found myself feeling a lot more sore than in the other phases of the program and longing to do a lower body exercises on the upper body days. Upper body training is my least favorite, but I LOVE legs so I was sad to see there was only one designated leg day. The other 3 days in the schedule were upper body days and one day of explosive compound lifts.
This last phase was my least favorite out of the weeks but I liked that it introduced me to split day training because I had never really done that before. It also was a great wrap-up to all the exercises and strength I had built over the preceding weeks.
If you’re wondering about cardio, Carrie has a great plan to incorporate it into the program. She gives a ton of great suggestions and even lays out a few interval workouts for you. I have to admit, I didn’t follow the cardio schedule that was laid out as I have my own sort of regimen that I follow. I knew I didn’t want to give up running as I was going through this program so I kept it light and easy on lifting days and reserved my long runs for days off. The strength sessions only took me around a 20-30 minutes to complete so, I incorporated other forms of exercise to get a more well-rounded workout.
So what progress did I see?
Well following Carrie’s advice, I logged my workouts each time I finished them. It was so awesome to see new PRs and gains in strength each week. I am not going to share my the starting weight I used and the amounts I now use because I know compared to most of you they will seem pretty weak and light. But for me, this is the heaviest I’ve ever lifted! It’s really empowering knowing I can throw some actual weight around the gym and have the ability to gain strength when I really work for it.
There is definitely a high comparable to ‘runners high’ that I get from lifting. I really enjoy it now and plan on mixing heavy lifting days into my weekly workouts. Split day training isn’t really for me (I like mixing upper and lower body), but I definitely plan on spending more time in the weight room. Squats and deadlifts are two of my FAVORITE exercises now.
Overall, this was a great experience! It’s been weird to be back to ‘winging it’ at the gym and going in without a specific plan these last few weeks. But I’ve been embracing it and using it as a chance to mix things up again. I am really happy with my decision to do this though! It made me stronger in every aspect of my life…even with running! Any little tweaks, aches, or pains I was having are totally gone now as I’ve really strengthened my legs, hips, and glutes.
Big thanks again to Carrie for such an awesome program!
Do you enjoy strength training?
Have you ever done a prescribed exercise training program?
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