[Salt-N-Pepa voice] Let’s talk about strength-train-ing!
Is that reference too old? If so, wonderful.
I’ve been doing a lot of strength training, HIIT, and cardio workouts over the past few weeks to make up for the running I haven’t been doing. Weights, lunges, burpees, squat jumps, boxer shuffles, deadlifts, and ab work have dominated my mornings as of late.
Strength training is such a necessary part of fitness. Running is what I live for, but I couldn’t function with adding weights into the equation. It’s the perfect compliment to cardio, helps burn calories while doing nothing, makes muscles look good, and just makes everyday life easier. I feel stronger doing everything, whether hauling a heavy garbage can down the driveway or speed-walking up the hill near my house on the way to the train or going up the stairs coming out of Penn Station each morning because I’ll be honest [whispers] I kinda think that escalators are for sissies.
Some of you know I’m a Fitness Blender junkie (who, by the way, are not paying me to write this, let alone know I exist). I started doing their workouts in 2014. Before that, I’d been a Tracy Anderson devotee. I liked a lot of what Tracy did but after a while I began itching to lift dumbbells heavier than 3 lbs.
Fitness Blender is the business name of a married couple, Kelli and Daniel, who live in Seattle and record workout videos in their well-lit garage and post them on their website. For free. I immediately liked their whole stripped-down, no-frills, white-space vibe. They have literally hundreds of workouts on their site, mostly recorded by one of them at a time. I’ve always gravitated to the videos Kelli does, I guess because we’re both ladies, so those are the ones I’m going to cover in this post.
They give you the option of paying a small amount (like 10 bucks) for a pre-determined 4-week routine where you’re given a schedule of exactly which workouts to do each day for the best results. I did that once and I’m glad I did. But the videos themselves, done individually, are all free.
A few things I like about their workouts: they are rated on a difficulty scale of 1 to 5 so you always know what you’re getting yourself into. They also post a range of calories burned for each workout. This is impossible to determine exactly because it depends on so many factors, but it gives you a rough estimate, which is better than nothing.
I also really like the fact that they seem like actual human beings, not Professional Trainers, even though I believe they technically are. They’re not trying to be stars, they’re not obsessed with looking perfect – Kelli often mentions how tired she’s getting or how sore she’ll be tomorrow. They don’t bark orders. They’re chill.
Note: with Kelli’s workouts, either she talks through the moves herself or Daniel narrates via voiceover. If Kelli talks, I only like to hear it with sound the first time through. After that, I turn the sound off and play music as I follow along. So if she stops to talk in between sets, I might do a bit of fast forwarding. If Daniel narrates, I can’t have the sound on at all. It’s usually just too much explanation for me. Others may prefer it.
Don’t be afraid to try a workout you think might be challenging. They always make this point, but you can modify any routine to suit your abilities. As you do a workout again and again, you’ll slowly build strength and be able to get through more of it without a problem. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen with myself.
I recommend getting a range of dumbbells. Right now, I’m lifting mostly 8, 10, and 15 lbs. Sometimes 20. Sometimes 6. Sometimes 3. It depends on the day, body part, number of reps, and how I’m feeling. Start by lifting the heaviest you can comfortably complete 10 reps, then challenge yourself to go heavier when you can. Don’t kill yourself, though. Nobody wants that.
Here are my favorite Fitness Blender workouts for each section of the body, with runners-up posted below. I have not done every single workout on their site, but from what I’ve done, these are what I like best.
This is probably my favorite Fitness Blender workout. It hits everything. It’s divided into three sections: a challenging HIIT portion (jog in place in between each set to really push yourself), a strength portion for both upper and lower body, and abs/core. If you can get through this entire routine without skipping anything or taking an extended break, consider yourself in good shape.
I love this one. It flies by, as do most of their “bored easily” workouts. This takes you through a cycle of chest-back-shoulders-triceps-biceps, then repeats that cycle two more times using different moves. It hits everything you need and is over before you know it. And if you hate HIIT, good news: there is none.
HIIT Cardio and Butt and Thigh Workout (42 minutes)
This is a solid workout separated into two sections: a fast-paced but not long HIIT routine and low-impact strength training consisting of mostly squats, lunges, and deadlifts. If there’s one drawback, it’s that the strength portion starts getting very repetitive: the moves alternating left and right are 10 on each side, so 20 reps per set. But if you’ve got the patience, it’s a tiring workout that keeps your lower body moving constantly.
ABS & CORE
Abs Boot Camp – Abs and Obliques Workout (15 minutes)
I decided to choose one of the shorter ab workouts as my favorite, because I typically don’t like to spend too long on abs. They have longer ab workouts but I think 15 minutes is plenty, especially if you’re doing other strength training. This is a nice, compact workout that focuses solely on your core you can easily squeeze in before a longer strength training workout or run.
I finally did one of their “1000 calorie” workouts and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It’s very doable, just long! If you’re not sure you’re ready for a nearly-90-minute workout incorporating HIIT, cardio, weights, and abs, give it a shot. They give you two minute breaks in between each section, and the moves aren’t necessarily hard – there are just a lot of them. I felt great after this one, almost how I feel after a long run. (Note: I don’t think I burned 1000 calories. At my size it was probably closer to 800, estimating approximately 100 calories per 10 minutes, which is my general rule of thumb if I’m working hard. They offer a range of calories burned but call it a “1000 calorie workout” because, I imagine, it just sounds cooler.)
Total Body Barre Workout (39 minutes)
This is a workout I’ll do on a day when I feel like I need to rest my muscles a bit. Maybe I’ve strength-trained for the past few days and I just want a day to do lighter, Pilates-like moves. It’s challenging in that you’re doing many moves with mostly body weight or very light weights – the heaviest you’ll probably want is 3 lbs. Probably the closest thing to a Tracy Anderson type workout I’ve seen of theirs.
Calorie Blasting Low Impact Cardio Boot Camp (33 minutes)
I discovered this workout when I lived in a NYC apartment with people living beneath me – at the time, I only did low impact workouts because I didn’t want to be an annoying neighbor. I still do this one every once in a while to change it up or just rest my muscles a bit (no weights required). Overall, it’s not hard, but there are enough short, challenging sections to make it worthwhile. It takes you through a 10-set cycle a total of three times, so it may feel repetitive. But it’s over quickly.
I enjoy this one. It’s a slightly different workout in that you lift heavier weights with shorter reps (10, 8, 6) as you go. I find it’s a nice change of pace, and it’s a good opportunity to lift my 20 lb. weights for my biceps, which I can only do 6 reps with anyway.
This one is challenging in a couple of ways. It’s slightly longer than some of the other videos, but it’s actually not as long as it says because Kelli does so much explaining. It almost seems like it was geared toward people who have not only never done this workout, but have never heard of exercise. But I just fast forward through the talking until I see what the next set pairing is, then do the reps on my own. Despite all the explanation, it’s a solid, tiring upper body workout.
A simple and shorter upper body workout when I want something a little easier – maybe my arms need a break from the intense stuff but I still want to do something. And it’s not too long. Kelli does “pulses” at the end of some of the sets but usually I prefer to lift a little heavier and skip the pulses. (Look in the written notes for this one: they get in a little dig at Tracy Anderson, without naming her. But I KNOW it’s her.)
I like their “bored easily” workouts, which don’t repeat a set, e.g. if you do three sets of biceps, the way you hold the weights is slightly different in each. This workout incorporates weights, HIIT, and Pilates, but mixes them up so you’re never doing one thing for too long. It isn’t actually 52 minutes, because there’s a lot of talking in between each set. I need to fast forward this one every so often to get to the next set. But the workout itself is good and nicely varied. And more weights than HIIT, so it’s not too exhausting.
Squats and Deadlifts Workout (33 minutes)
This is exactly what it sounds like: it’s pretty much all squats and deadlifts with your feet in different stances each time to vary it up. This one is good to do if you want a nice lower body workout but don’t feel like doing any HIIT or cardio, or just want something simple, low impact, but still gives your quads and hams a good burn.
No Equipment Butt and Thigh Workout at Home (20 minutes)
Here’s the one I do when I’m short on time. It’s only 20 minutes and you don’t need any weights, so it’s good if you’ve been lifting for the past few days and need a break. It’s just challenging enough to make you feel like you accomplished something, but you also don’t need to devote too much time to it. Come on, you have 20 minutes!
ABS & CORE
This is a nice middle ground between shorter ab workout and longer cardio session. Don’t think of it exclusively as an “ab” workout, as it has you doing jumping lunges and butt kicker drops, too. If you’re looking for something that targets your core, won’t have you bored, and keeps you moving for half an hour, this is a good one.
Kelli’s Abs and Upper Body Strength Training Workout (27 minutes)
I thought I’d include this one here even though it’s technically half abs and half upper body. It’s a shorter, simpler workout with enough ab work that I feel comfortable putting it in this category. Like the above, this is a good middle ground between solely an ab workout and a routine that targets other parts of the body.
I hope this was helpful! I will probably modify this page from time to time as I discover more of their videos. Let me know if you try any of them.
Again, these opinions are all my own based on four years of experience and I have no affiliation with Fitness Blender other than I just like ’em. Obviously, there are literally thousands of workout sites, videos, programs, trainers, gyms, and ways to get fit out there. This is just one. Do whatever works for you!