Updated: May 20, 2022
New year, new beginnings… and new classes! At the beginning of 2022, Yvonne’s Fitness added a new type of at-home-workout to its repertoire - Weight Training! Now, we’re not talking about hundreds of pounds under massive weight bars, or hand weights so big that it feels daunting just to look at them. What we’ve introduced is weight training in an online group setting with smaller, but manageable weights to increase strength and challenge the body (but don’t underestimate the power of 5-10lb hand weights). Weight training has many fantastic benefits, which we will discuss shortly - not the least of which is that it pairs perfectly with every other class is on our roster! Whether you participate in Zumba, Strong Nation or Yoga, adding weight training to your weekly regimen is sure to be the perfect complement to your current workout routine.
A Brief Overview of the Benefits of Weight Training
If you type into Google “the benefits of weight training”, you will be met with an endless supply of articles on benefits, tips and tricks, how to get started and more (we’ve linked a favourite here, but there are many great articles online!). If you’d like a more comprehensive read on the topic, take a quick pause here and dive into Google. You may, however, be there a while, so as a time-saver, we've provided a quick overview of some of the numerous ways that weight training is good for the body.
It strengthens bones and joints - as we put a strain on our muscles with weights, our body sends signals that cause our bones to strengthen in order to accommodate. The body also relies on the muscles around our joints to keep them safe and healthy - as we build up some muscle mass, our joints become more stable and protected.
It improves balance and coordination - which, as Zumba lovers, we like to hear! As we train our main muscle groups, they become stronger, and we develop better neuromuscular control, giving us more stability and balance. We are simultaneously working smaller stability muscles throughout the body, which contribute to our overall balance and coordination.
It makes daily tasks easier - as we age, our muscles lose mass, and loss of muscle mass can make every day tasks more and more challenging (think of how heavy grocery bags can be, or the power your legs need to climb a flight of stairs). By building muscle and maintaining our muscle mass, these daily tasks become less of a nuisance, giving us more energy for the fun things in life!
This list is just the tip of the iceberg - each point can be significantly expanded on with further reading, not to mention additional benefits such as increased metabolism, healthy blood sugar, and mood and confidence boosts. There is also the benefit of learning the essential mind-to-muscle connection.
A very important part of any workout is having a mind-to-muscle connection. This means being aware of what is happening in our body as we exercise, being able to focus our attention on exactly which part(s) of our body we need to use to increase the efficacy of the exercise, and also prevent injury. For example, when we do Downward Dog in Yoga, this means knowing what the hips should feel like/knowing where in the hips and legs we should be feeling the stretch. When we do squats in Strong Nation, it means knowing that we should feel some burn in the muscles on the front of the legs. It means knowing how to squeeze (or engage) specific muscles for specific movements in order to perform them properly. Learning this connection not only improves the quality of our workouts, but helps us to prevent injury by knowing where we should or should not be feeling our exercise.
If you’re new to exercise, this connection takes time to build - it is not instant. And even if you’ve been exercising for years, it will always be a skill to be practiced to help you stay actively, rather than passively, engaged in your workout. (Our core muscles should be engaged at all times during most exercise - but it is easy to forget, and takes regular mental reminder to re-lock those tummy muscles.) Weight training is a fantastic way to build this connection. Because these workouts generally consist of focusing on one muscle or muscle group at a time, it helps make the connection between how certain movements activate certain areas of the body (ie. your muscles). As a very simple example, let’s look at bicep curls.
With the weight in your hand, as you start to curl the lower arm up towards the shoulder, the body naturally engages the bicep in this action - it is impossible to do a bicep curl without using the bicep! You learn what it feels like when that muscle is activated and working, and with each repetition, it becomes more and more familiar. Eventually, you can set the weight down, and simply squeeze your arm to activate the bicep because you know what it feels like for that muscle to be activated - you learn what it should feel like and how to create the same response with or without added weight. This also makes it easier to learn new movements in your workouts - if the instructor says “you should feel this in your hamstrings”, and you know you’re not feeling it in your hamstrings, this would signal you to consider that you may not be doing the move quite right (which can, in turn, lead you to make sure that you are doing the exercise correctly, and not creating a potential injury). The stronger our mind-to-muscle connection, the better the workout, no matter which class/workout it is!
Zumba and Weight Training
We are primarily a Zumba community, so let’s start here! How do Zumba and weight training complement each other? A well-rounded workout regimen should include exercise for the whole body - meaning our muscles and our cardiovascular system. Zumba is our cardio - dancing a fast merengue or stomping our feet to an upbeat reggaeton gets the blood pumping, bringing our heart rate up and working our lungs. This is very important for the body. However, what Zumba does not offer is a lot of muscle work - sure, we’re using them, but it doesn’t create a lot of tension or growth for our muscular system. So, it is important to add in exercise that fills in that gap. By adding a bit of weight training to our workout plan, not only are we ensuring that we work the entire body, we’re actually boosting our Zumba skills. As we’ve already briefly discussed, training our muscles improves our coordination - and it only takes one Zumba class to know that increased coordination is not a bad thing to have, especially with some of the fancier footwork routines!
Here’s the best part - at Yvonne’s Fitness, it’s easy to add weight training classes into your weekly (Zumba) routine! You really only need to add two 20 minute classes per week (one for upper body, one for lower body) to make sure you’re giving your muscles the work they need alongside your Zumba cardio. And because the classes are quick and simple, you can either do them on separate days, or pair them with your Zumba classes! Do a virtual on-demand class 30 minutes before a Zumba livestream, or 45 minutes before heading out the door for Zumba class, and you’re set. You can get the heavy lifting out of way first, and then shake it all out with at Zumba. (Added BONUS: this is kind of like an extended cooldown - the more you move after a weight training workout, the less lactic acid builds up in the muscles, which makes them a little less sore the next day.)
Strong Nation and Weight Training
Yvonne and students showing off their Strong biceps.
If you’re already into Strong Nation, you may be thinking, “I get my muscle work in during Strong class” - and you’re not wrong! Strong Nation definitely challenges the muscles in a much more intense way than a Zumba class does. So, if you’re already working your muscles with Strong Nation, do you still need to consider adding in weight training? The short answer - yes.
Strong Nation is a kind of hybrid class, in that it includes both a cardiovascular component and a bodyweight muscle component. So it is true that we are getting a well-rounded workout in this one class alone. A plus side to weight training that doesn’t exist in Strong Nation is that we can always add more weight. In Strong Nation, as the movements get easier, we can increase our workout by intensifying the moves, and we can challenge the body by changing the moves entirely, but because it is a bodyweight workout, we cannot achieve the same muscular growth as we can with weight training, wherein when the exercise becomes too easy, we can increase the weight to encourage further muscle growth.*
With that being said, weight training and Strong Nation still make a great workout pair. As just mentioned, in Strong Nation, we can make the class more challenging by “levelling up”, or progressing our movements. But proper form is still very, very important - especially if you’re looking to progress! Safety has to come first in all workouts. Let’s look at something like squat-jumps as an example. We are generally not holding our squat position long, and the repetition of the jumps means we are moving quickly in and out of this position. If we are doing weight training, we can work on proper form at a slower, more controlled pace. With the mastery of proper form in a weight training setting, we can then be more aware of our form in a more fast-paced class. Furthermore, the muscle strength we build from doing squats with added weight leads us to jumping even higher and reaching those high level moves in Strong Nation. So if you’re a Strong Nation participant and want to squat deeper, jumper higher, or get a little lower with your push-ups, add some upper and lower body weight training to your weekly routine.
*Side note: “muscle growth” tends to bring to mind the imagery of bulging biceps and buns of steel, but it is more than that. Muscle growth also means building muscle density and strength. Though the bodybuilder aesthetic may not be your personal goal, maintaining muscle strength should always be on the list of workout goals.
Yoga and Weight Training
The old adage “opposites attract” may not always be true, but in the case of yoga and weight training, there is a heavy element of truth. These two workouts have very little in common (with the exception of a few similar benefits), but their differences are quite complementary.
Flexibility v. Strength - Yoga has many benefits, but strength building is not necessarily one of them. Yes, certain yoga classes can be great for building strength, but as with Strong Nation, it has its limitations. Weight training, while perfect for building strength, involves almost no flexibility at all. In fact, without being paired with something like yoga, weight training will decrease our flexibility over time. Weight training is about a controlled, limited/specific range of motion, and both the muscles and joints will begin to tighten up. By doing yoga classes alongside weight training classes, we include movement that both strengthens our muscles and reopens the body and helps to keep us limber.
Endurance v. Strength - While yoga is not generally focused on building up muscle, there are poses that require a bit of strength - we are still holding up our own body weight, after all. By building up muscle strength through weight training, we make trickier yoga poses easier. As the our muscles become better at holding our bodies in certain positions, we can focus more on posture, form and even perhaps deepening the pose (a great example is warrior poses, which require a good amount of strength in the leg muscles!). The other side of muscle work is endurance, which is not necessarily a common focus in weight training. When we’re using weights to build muscle strength, the general focus is on moving in and out of repetitions. Though we are not moving at a fast pace (this could cause injury), we are also not holding the muscles in the same position for longer periods of time. Our muscles don’t learn endurance this way. Because yoga requires longer holds, this is where we can practice muscular endurance. And as our muscles learn to hold on longer, this stands to benefit our weight training - perhaps we can hold out for a few more repetitions, and when that becomes less challenging, we can add a bit more weight and keep on moving up!
Having a mix of workouts in our weekly exercise regimen means benefiting the body as a whole. While we all have a class or a workout that we prefer to do, no one type of exercise can give our bodies everything they need. Perhaps you never considered weight training because it didn’t seem like something you’d be interested in. Or perhaps you’ve been interested but didn’t now where to start. Our new virtual weight classes are broken down into 30 minute segments of either upper or lower body, with the option of having your camera on to receive extra guidance from the instructor. With a coach to walk you through some basic but effective moves, and at a weight you’re comfortable using, this is the perfect opportunity to add some muscle building into your week.