Timeline of fitness gains with added core strength training
August 15, 2013 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Starting with a personal trainer doing strength training 1x/ week. How long before I start to see real results?

I am a healthy female in my mid-late 30s. My BMI is in the overweight but not obese range (~27). I've always been a reasonably active person, I generally do moderately intensive physical activity (jogging, cycling, yoga, hiking) at least 3x a week. Recently I started working with a personal trainer for 1 hr each week. The focus is mostly strength training, with particular emphasis on core, rotational, and lateral strengthening activities. It's pretty intense, but not so much that I'm completely broken the next day.

My question is: how long should I expect to stick with it before I start seeing real improvements in other areas? I'm mostly thinking about running and cycling speed and endurance... But looking a little trimmer would be nice as well. Will this start to manifest in a relatively short number of weeks, or is it more like months?
posted by mmmmbobo to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm almost twice your age but started working with a trainer about a year and a half ago. At that point I was working with him doing strength training once a week and doing the same sort of workout on my own a couple more days a week, with cardio stuff on other days. I saw significant results within a couple months - fitter, stronger, thinner. I'd suggest you do strength training on your own at least one more time a week if you can for better results. You also don't mention if you're altering your diet in conjunction with this and of course that will have a significant effect.
posted by leslies at 5:14 PM on August 15, 2013

Usually about a month or so. Something to watch out for: you may actually feel a little flabbier as you first start to lose weight. As some of the subcutaneous fat goes away, your skin feels looser. (caveats: I was a husky boy, and am a stocky adult male - my ideal weight is actually a BMI of 25)
posted by notsnot at 6:44 PM on August 15, 2013


Some purely non-professional advice from someone that lifts weights 5 days a week.

A. Ignore your BMI and throw out your scale. BMI is useless and the scale doesn't represent how fit you look and how fit you feel.

B. Find a goal. "Looking better" is good but picture how you want to look in the mirror and make that your goal. Alternatively set a specific weight goal i.e. i want to squat 125 pounds by such-and-such-a-date etc.

C. Olympic Lifts are the best things that you can do. Squats, Deadlifts, and Overhead Presses are the most important, ergonomic lifts that you can do. These three exercises are essential because they are compound movements that use different large muscle groups at the same time. Too many isolation dumbbell exercises will make you look good, but leave you with no functional strength, which isn't good as you grow older. These lifts are excellent since they will work your legs, butt, abs and lower back. Since you're a lady, the overhead press isn't CRUCIAL but it will help round out the other lifts, working the upper back and fighting off the dreaded underarm jiggle. 2-3 times a week.

D. What are you eating? I find the best way to lose weight is not in calorie counting but it diet restrictions. I went gluten, soy and dairy free and i lost at least ten pounds in a month without changing anything else. I'm not big on the dieting, i eat whatever i want. Pick a high protein and veggie diet, stay away from gluteny carbs and fruits (SUPERHIGHINSUGAR=EXTRAFAT.) Drink LOTS of water.

E. Cardio. If you want to lose weight HIGH intensity is needed. Look up Tabata interval training. 20 minutes is all you need, sprints, bike sprints, basically come close to puking and you're on the right track. Your heart rate needs to get up!

DEMAND that your trainer teach you the Olympic lifts (don't worry, you won't look like a bodybuilder) as large muscle group lifts jack your metabolism. If they refuse, get a new trainer. If they don't have an Olympic setup at your gym, get a new gym.

Overkill i know, i spend a lot of time doing this stuff. Message me if you have questions. I'll point you to resources and help you develop a plan.
posted by hiddenknives at 6:55 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify hiddenknives' otherwise excellent post, the modern Olympic lifts are "the snatch" and "the clean and jerk." They are very fast, very technical lifts which demand coordination, balance, flexibility, and a sort of explosive strength (in physicists' terms, high power). If you regularly train the Olympics lifts, you will be in great shape.

However, you'll have to look hard for a trainer who teaches them and a gym which permits them, because they're very fast and very technical. It is absolutely crucial to learn the correct form, or you will seriously injure yourself. And I don't mean, strain a muscle, although that can also happen, I mean dislocate an elbow. I'm not trying to scare you off. As a sport, Olympic weightlifting is safer than Major League baseball. If you want to learn this, go for it. Just stay safe.

If strength training means a traditional barbell powerlifting program, you probably won't see much improvement, if any, in your endurance. If you do a lot of sprinting, either on foot or on a bike, then you'll see some benefit there. But jogging, cycling, hiking and endurance in general are mostly about aerobic metabolism whereas barbell work is more about anaerobic metabolism.

I would recommend speaking with your trainer about your goals and expectations. If you're interested in endurance, there are lots of ways to adjust a program to accommodate that.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:39 PM on August 15, 2013

Response by poster: It's not purely weight lifting. It's modeled on the same principles as Cross Fit (strength, agility, endurance, flexibility) and uses the CrossCore training apparatus, among other things. I'm not looking to become a body builder, I'm more interested in all around physical conditioning, which will enable me to become better and stronger at the outdoor sports that I really enjoy.
posted by mmmmbobo at 8:28 PM on August 15, 2013

If you are already doing jogging, yoga, and hiking, than I would focus your one hour training session on strength training specifically. As hiddenknives mentioned, the squat, deadlift, and press are ideal things to be doing. They strengthen your entire body, including your core, in a way that no other exercise will. Your flexibility, agility, and endurance can come from the other activities that you do, but strength really requires focus. If you are only doing this training once a week, you will see the most benefit by really focusing on lifting those weights as heavy as you can.

Unless you start taking crazy steroids, there is no possible way you will start looking like a bodybuilder, that's a myth. People who look like bodybuilders spend hours in the gym almost every day doing nothing but trying to look like a bodybuilder. If you sat down and played guitar for 30 minutes once a week you wouldn't become the next Jimi Hendrix, and the same applies to muscle development.

This lady looks slim and fit, and lifts 315 pounds

Weight training will not do much for endurance, but seems to be the missing link based on what you already do. That's not to say that you won't see improvements with whatever your trainer has you do now, but if you're hitting similar areas on your own, why pay someone else to have you do that again?
posted by markblasco at 11:15 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My question is: how long should I expect to stick with it before I start seeing real improvements in other areas? I'm mostly thinking about running and cycling speed and endurance... But looking a little trimmer would be nice as well. Will this start to manifest in a relatively short number of weeks, or is it more like months?

I'm a big believer in specificity. If you want to be faster on the bike, it comes by way of bicycling. Cross fit won't do anything to negatively impact these other activities, but I also wouldn't have positive expectations either. This doesn't mean necessarily to cease cross fit if you enjoy it but if your really aiming to make gains in endurance activities I don't think cross fit will provide much benefit.
posted by dgran at 7:20 AM on August 16, 2013

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