EatSleepGym logo alt

Category: Training

Pendulum Squat

Pendulum Squat

Pendulum Squat The Pendulum squat is an incredible exercise used to primarily target the quadriceps in a controlled manner. In this article we’re going to

Read More »

How to Build Muscle as a Woman: The Ultimate Guide for Gaining Weight the Right Way

If you are interested in learning how to gain weight the right way, you have come to the right place! 

My name is Staci Ardison.

I overcame an eating disorder, discovered a love for heavy strength training, and now I help women like you get stronger for a living.

Believe it or not, I’m 50 pounds heavier in the photo on the right (and WAY stronger, and healthier, and happier!).

I’m currently a lead coach here in the Nerd Fitness Coaching Program, where we train women to pick up heavy weights, get strong, and build confidence.



Speaking of picking up heavy weights, here I am deadlifting 455 pounds:

This is what I LOVE to do.

In this Ultimate Guide to Building Muscle as a Woman, I’m going to be covering:

Why building muscle is difficult for some women.
Should women build muscle? (7 reasons women should grow muscle)
How to eat to gain muscle as a woman.
What foods should I eat to gain weight?
Strength training for women to build muscle.
5 muscle-building workout routines for women
Best tips and tricks for gaining weight as a woman.
Next steps for women looking to build muscle.

Alright, let’s do this.

Why Building Muscle is Difficult for Some Women

As Steve covered in “How to build muscle” and “How to bulk up for men,” the principles of weight gain are all the same regardless of your sex or gender:

“If you want to gain weight, eat more calories than you burn regularly. Want to put on the right KIND of weight? Exercise and eat the right way too.”

Now, there’s plenty of nuance to this when comparing men and women:

Due to our natural hormones, it’s generally more difficult for people with typical female anatomy to gain muscle than people with typical male anatomy.[1]
We have a lot of factors (such as hormonal birth control) that have been proven to make it even harder as well.[2]

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

It just means we have to work harder for it.

Ugh, I know.

Now, one thing I want to touch on quick: if you see a woman who is absolutely jacked and at an extremely low body fat percentage, I guarantee she has been working her butt off for a very long time with the goal of building muscle.

It’s not something that happens overnight, or by mistake.

In addition, some women with larger amounts of muscle mass choose to take steroids to help assist them in gaining muscle, because we simply don’t have the hormones naturally to get to that size.

So if you’d like to build muscle, but not as much as a professional bodybuilder – don’t worry, it’s not something that happens by accident.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about body fat and body types:

As we point out in that body fat percentage guide, we women can look very different at any weight depending on our body shape and how much muscle we have. It comes down to our own personal goals!

This guide is going to primarily focus on two things:

How to eat to gain weight and build muscle.
How to strength train to build muscle.

We’ve helped thousands of women with our online coaching program, many of whom are trying to gain weight and strength train for the first time in their lives.



Everybody is on their own journey, at their own pace, and everybody will end up with different results too!

Should Women Build Muscle? (7 Reasons Women Should Grow Muscle)

If it can be harder for women to gain muscle (compared to men), why go through the trouble?

I’m glad you asked!

Here are the top 7 reasons why women should strength train:

#1) When you’re stronger – everyday life is easier. No need to call for help to get that 50lb bag of dog food off the top shelf, or carrying an air conditioner unit up a flight of stairs. LIFE is easier when you’re stronger. 

#2) Less injury risk – when you build strong muscles, you’re also building stronger bones, ligaments, and tendons, making you less prone to injury doing things you love (like playing in a quidditch league).[3]

#3) Helps combat age-related muscle loss,[4] allowing us to remain independent longer as we age:

#4) Muscle is harder to maintain, which means you need to eat more just to hold on to it.[5]

#5) Reduce pain – having a strong body makes living easier on your joints, as well as allows you to hold a better posture, and reduce back / hip pain.[6]

#6) Appearance – this is a personal preference! Some women like to have a lot of muscle, and some don’t. While you can’t spot reduce fat, you can choose to build more muscle in specific areas, changing your body shape. Growing up, I was an extreme pear shape, but due to strength training, I now have more of an hourglass shape. 

#7) Live longer – want to spend more time on Earth? Strength training and growing muscle will help you do just that.[7]



How to Eat to Gain Muscle as a Woman

As we said above, gaining weight comes down to thermodynamics and science.

Every day, we burn a certain number of calories just existing, which is called our BMR (basal metabolic rate). We then factor in our daily activity level, and get a number that is called our “total daily energy expenditure.” You can calculate yours below.

The Nerd Fitness Calorie Calculator:

Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator


MaleFemale

Male/Female

Use age in years.

Use pounds (lbs). If using metric system, multiple kg times 2.2 for lbs.

Use inches. If using metric system, divide cm by 2.54 for total inches.

Your BMR is an estimate of the total calories burned a day, while in a state of rest.

Sedentary (You frequent tell Netflix you are still watching) Lightly Active (You casually stroll through your neighborhood a few times a week)Moderately Active (If we called the gym on a weeknight looking for you, they’d find you)Very Active (You are constantly moving throughout your day job and you’re on the company softball team)

For “Activity Level,” veer toward the side of less active. Studies consistently show that people are not as active as they self-assess.

Your TDEE is an estimate of the total calories burned during a single day, when exercise is factored in.

<!–

–>

(Click here for our Metric calculator).

(Note: we have used The Mifflin-St Jeor Equation to create this calculator! [8]).

Since we want to gain weight, we want to take our TDEE and add 250 calories to it to get our daily goal. This should result in gaining about half a pound per week.

Now, although eating ANY EXTRA calories from any source will result in weight gain, our goal is to gain the RIGHT kind of weight, in a healthy way.

And thus, we’ll be focusing our efforts on a “healthy muscle building” strategy.

We could easily add more calories each day, and gain weight quicker, however, the slow method gives you the best chances at gaining mostly muscle, with minimal fat. The faster you try to gain weight, the higher the percentage that will likely be fat – so starting off at half a pound per week is a great place to start!

In addition to the number of calories we’ll be adding, we also want to pay attention to the type of foods we’re eating.

As we cover in our “Healthy Eating Guide,” we’re going to build muscle by consuming the three big macros in the correct quantities:

Protein: rebuilds muscle after you break it down.
Carbohydrates: provides your muscle with fuel and body with energy.
Fat: helps your bodily functions and can also be burned as fuel in the absence of carbs.

Let’s look at each of these individually:

PRIORITY #1: PROTEIN

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

Meat (steak, bison, pork).
Fowl (chicken, turkey, duck).
Eggs![9]
Cheese and dairy.
Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).
Other vegetarian protein sources here.

As we cover in our “How much Protein do I need?”, claims for the amount of protein required for muscle growth vary wildly from source to source (and athlete to athlete).

Here is our recommendation:

If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to build muscle, aim for 1 g per pound of body weight (2.2 g/kg).
If you’re an experienced lifter on a bulk, intakes up to 1.50 g/lb (3.3 g/kg) may help you minimize fat gain.

Let me simplify it for you:

“To build muscle, target at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (2.2 grams per kg).”

If you’re curious, from our healthy eating article, this is what a portion of protein looks like:

Here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

4 oz (113 g) of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
4 oz (113 g) of salmon has 23 g of protein
4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein.

Want to get more protein? Consider protein shakes.

PRIORITY #2: CARBS

After protein, we’ll be filling up our plate with calories from carbs (and fats).

Here are foods full of carbohydrates you can prioritize:

Rice
Quinoa
Oats
Legumes and lentils
Sweet potatoes
Yams
Regular potatoes
Whole grain pasta
Whole grain bread

To help you get better at serving sizes:

1 serving of a starchy carbohydrate is 1 cupped hand (uncooked), or your two hands forming a cup (cooked).

Here are some images to help you learn proper portion sizes (thanks to SafeFood):

In addition to consuming carbohydrates from these sources, it’s okay to consume plenty of fruit while trying to build muscle!

For reference, here is roughly 200 calories worth of an apple (thanks to WiseGEEK):

You can read our full “Is fruit healthy?” guide to learn more.

PRIORITY #3: FAT! 

Fat is a macronutrient that can help you reach your calorie goals (in the right quantity), as fat can be high in calories. Plus, you can eat lots of it without feeling full. Helpful if you’re trying to put on weight.

Healthy fat can be found in foods like:

Avocado
Almonds
Walnuts
Macadamia nuts
Olive oil
Almond butter
Peanut butter

Science has recently come around on saturated fat too.[10] Once completely vilified, but now considered okay for moderate consumption.

Saturated fats can come from things like:

Whole milk
Full fat dairy
Coconut oil
Grass-fed butter
Fatty cuts of meat
Lard

To help you gauge: a serving size of fat is roughly the size of your thumb!

For reference, this is a single serving of almonds (162 calories):

THIS is a serving of olive oil (119 calories):

As you can see, you can eat an extra 500 calories of “healthy fats” by eating lots of “heart-healthy” fats like nuts or adding more olive oil to your meals.

PRIORITY #4: VEGETABLES!

Last but not least, you need vegetables in your diet.

As you start to eat more food, your stomach, intestines, and other bodily functions will thank you for consuming more high-fiber vegetables! 

A serving of veggies is about the size of your fist.

Here’s a quick, non-complete list of high-fiber veggies that can fill your plate:

Broccoli
Broccolini
Cauliflower
Spinach
Kale
Spaghetti squash[11]
Brussels sprouts
Zucchini
Cucumber
Carrots
Onion
Asparagus

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER: A HEALTHY MUSCLE-BUILDING PLATE

This plate and serving size stuff above is just to help you get started thinking about healthy food differently and in proper portion sizes.

TO RECAP, HERE’S HOW TO EAT TO BUILD MUSCLE:

Calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and add 250 calories over your number.
Consume 1-1.5g per pound (2.2-3.3g per kg) of body weight in protein every day.
Consume the rest of your calories from foods composed of carbs and fats.
Always eat vegetables so that your body can actually PROCESS all this extra food. I like to aim for half of my plate of vegetables.
If you are not gaining weight, (and you’re hitting your protein goals), add more carbs and/or fats to your meal.

It really does come down to the following:

If you are not gaining weight fast enough, you’re not eating enough. Increase your portions of carbs and fats!

Whenever we work with coaching clients who struggle to build muscle, this is the area we target: adding more carbs and fats to each meal.



8 Strength Training Exercises For Women to Build Muscle

Years from now, you’ll look back and thank “Past You” for starting strength training today.

And don’t worry, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do so you can start strength training TODAY!

Here’s why strength training is so important: when you eat a caloric surplus (more calories than your body needs each day), the extra calories have to go somewhere.

If you don’t do any exercise, your body will choose to store the extra calories as fat for later.
However, when you strength train, your muscles are broken down. Then they’ll use the extra calories to rebuild themselves bigger and stronger over the next 48 hours!

“Staci that sounds great, but I’ve never strength trained before, and I don’t know what I’m doing…Halp!” You might be saying into your computer or phone.

Fear not! I’ll help. Strength training doesn’t need to be scary or overly complicated.

Simply put, “strength training” means two things:

#1) “Movement of any weight against “resistance” (including your body weight) – Doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside of their comfort zone, forcing them to rebuild stronger to prepare for the next challenge.

#2) Progressive overload: doing slightly more than last time (lift a heavier weight or do 1 more rep) consistently. Your muscles will have to constantly adapt and rebuild themselves stronger. This is called “progressive overload.”

Coach Jim breaks down different strategies for progressive overload in this video:

This means if you drop down and do ONE push-up or knee push-up right now…

Technically, you’ve strength trained.

Now do that and then do a bodyweight squat…

Boom, you just did a strength training workout.

Here’s what you need to know about strength training:

Strength training is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself.
Strength training will help you put on muscle while eating in a surplus.
While you can’t spot reduce fat, you can focus on building more muscle in specific areas, which can help you attain a specific look you’re going for.
If you don’t like the gym, you don’t need to go, ever. But I hope you do. Because that’s the easiest way to start training with weights.
Regardless of your fitness level, body fat percentage, strength level, or biological sex, you have every right to be in the free weights section in the gym, training with heavy weights, with everybody else. The people in the gym who are very strong with a lot of muscle started somewhere, too!

I used to be a CrossFit instructor, and my favorite thing about CrossFit was that it destigmatized barbell training and heavy lifting for many women.

In order for us to strength train and build muscle, we’re going to approach this intelligently. 

We’re not going to pick up small dumbbells and do lots of reps.

We’re not going to sit down at various machines and scroll through our phones while doing leg curls.

Instead, we’re going to:

Get very strong with compound movements that recruit LOTS of muscles to work together.
Do our workouts quickly and get out of there. The workout should take no longer than 45-60 minutes.

This is how we efficiently build muscle in the minimum amount of time. What are the exercises that we’re going to target?

1) The Push-Up: The best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your bodyweight for push muscles (your chest, shoulders, and triceps):

2) The Bodyweight Squat: This exercise serves a dual purpose: it is the foundation for building strength AND helps build proper mobility. If you are going to ever do barbell squats, you need to work on hitting proper depth with a bodyweight squat first!

3) The Inverted Bodyweight Row: Until you can get your first pull-up or chin-up, these exercises are GREAT to start building your pull-muscle strength (your back, biceps, and forearms).

4) The Pull-Up and Chin-Up: Once you can support your body’s weight above the bar, the world becomes your playground. No strength training routine should be without pull-up or chin-up work! (Click here if you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up yet):

And now we’re into the best weight training exercises:

5) The Barbell Squat: Probably the best exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your whole body. It also burns crazy calories and makes life better. This is a MUST:

6) The Barbell Deadlift: Maybe the best exercise of all time. Actually no, it IS the best exercise of all time. It’s certainly the most primal: “pick the weight up off the ground. Done.”

This is a very technical lift, so make sure you read our article on how to deadlift with proper form:

7) The Barbell Bench Press. Lie on a bench, squeeze your shoulder blades to keep your back tight, and then lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Pause, and then press it back up towards the sky. Repeat! And get strong.

8) Barbell Overhead Press: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and lean back by pushing your hips forward. While keeping your entire body tight, press the bar overhead.

Once the bar passes your forehead, move your body back under the bar by driving your torso forward and back into a standing position. At the top of the lift shrug your shoulders slightly and lock your elbows.

These are some of the best compound exercises you can complete in order to build muscle. Want more muscle? Great! Get stronger at these movements!

One quick note: when I first started lifting, it took a while to build up the strength to be able to bench press or overhead press with the 45-lb bar. If your gym doesn’t have a lighter bar, dumbbells are a great option!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Commit to trying ONE of these movements in the next week. Use 20 seconds of courage, recruit a friend who has lifted or trained before, and try your best.

I have three options for you next:

Select one of the muscle-building routines for women in the next section.
Build your own workout routine using these exercises!
Work with me and our coaching program to follow a custom strength training routine for your goals.



5 Muscle Building Workout Routines For Women

I’m going to walk you through three different levels of strength training, and by the end of today, you’re going to know exactly how to get started.

My advice: do 2-3 strength training routines per week, with 1-2 days off in between. As the saying goes: “muscle isn’t built in the gym, it’s built in the kitchen!”

So your goal should be to do a strength training routine, and then make sure you eat a caloric surplus so that your body has enough calories to rebuild your muscles bigger and stronger!

LEVEL 1: BODYWEIGHT TRAINING

Here’s a beginner bodyweight training routine you can do in the comfort of your own home:

20 Bodyweight squats.
10 Push-ups.
10 Walking lunges (each leg).
10 Dumbbell rows (use a milk jug or other weight).
15 Second Plank.
30 Jumping jacks.

We also have a downloadable worksheet of this beginner’s workout that you can print out and hang on your fridge to track your progress! Get it when you sign up below:

LEVEL 2: DUMBBELL WORKOUT

If you have dumbbells at home or access to a gym, you can pick our Level 4 workout from our 6-Level Gym Workout Routine.

So your Dumbbell Workout is 3 circuits of the following:

10 goblet squats (holding the dumbbell like a goblet with 2 hands):

10 push-ups (or knee push-ups):

10 dumbbell rows/side:
Or 10 bodyweight rows:

(By the way, these are two GREAT exercises towards getting your first pull-up)

LEVEL 2: BEGINNER KETTLEBELL WORKOUT

If you have a Kettlebell at home, here’s a 20-Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout you can do:

Do 3 circuits of this Kettlebell Workout: 

8 Halos (each side)
10 Goblet Squats
8 Overhead Presses (each side)
15 Kettlebell Swings
8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)

If you like this Kettlebell workout and want to follow along on a worksheet, simply print out our Kettlebell Workout and bring it with you:

LEVEL 3: BARBELL GYM WORKOUT

Here’s a Barbell workout you can follow from our Level 5 Gym Workout Routine.

BARBELL BATALLION WORKOUT A:

3 sets of 10 barbell squats

3 sets of 10 push-ups

3 sets of 10 bodyweight rows:

BARBELL BATALLION WORKOUT B:

3 sets of 5 barbell Romanian deadlifts (video pulled from our courses in Nerd Fitness Prime)

3 sets of 10 bench presses:

3 sets of 5 pull-ups, assisted pull-ups, or negative pull-ups:

PICK A WORKOUT, GET STARTED!

The whole point is to do challenging movements that really make your muscles work, and then try to do ONE more rep, or lift a SLIGHTLY heavier weight next time! 

Don’t sweat the small details and instead use 20 seconds of courage to get started!

Track your workouts by writing down what you did, and then do what you can next time.

If you really want to level up quickly, LEARN HOW TO DO SQUATS AND HOW TO DO DEADLIFTS. These two exercises changed my life!

“Staci, that’s still too many choices! Can you just tell me what workout routine to follow?”

Okay fine! Here’s what I would do if I was you.

Do you have access to a gym? Follow our 6-Level Gym Workout Plan.
No gym? Start with the beginner bodyweight program.

Still overwhelmed? Check out our coaching program. We get to learn your story, and then build a program and strategy around your goals that you CAN do.

10 Tips for Building Muscle as a Woman

I interviewed multiple other coaches on our team and asked for their best advice on how to build muscle as a woman.

Here’s what they said:

Susy (Coach, BS in Psychology, Certificate III & IV in Fitness, 5+ years of experience)

Tip #1: Food is your friend when you are looking to build muscle and get stronger – your body will need fuel, so you may need to eat more on the days that you work out!

Tip #2: Strength and muscle building requires structure to your workouts – you progress through getting better at specific movements, so make sure that you enjoy the style and structure of your workouts so that you can be as consistent as possible.

Tip #3: Your progress will always be fastest if you avoid injury, so correct form and listening to your body is super important. Your muscles will fatigue and feel sore, but joint pain and sharp, stabby pain means something isn’t moving quite right.

Kerry (Coach, NASM-CPT, 6+ years of experience)

Tip #4: Fall in love with the process. Getting stronger is a journey, one that is both rewarding and challenging. So no matter where you are starting from, take the time to celebrate each small step along the way towards a more badass version of yourself!

Christy (Coach, BS in Applied Health/Fitness, National Personal Training Institute Graduate, Precision Nutrition Certification, 6+ years of experience)

Tip #5: To get strong, you gotta lift weights. When lifting weights to get strong, you gotta be okay with testing your boundaries every now and then.

After exercising with your current weight, for the next training session…stop…and try a few reps with the next weight UP to test it out! It might surprise you how much more weight you can lift!

Here are some other tips to help you build muscle.

Tip #6: Boost your testosterone naturally: Consume enough saturated and monounsaturated fats, keep your sugar intake low, and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D and Zinc.

These are items linked with boosting your testosterone naturally.[12]

Speaking of testosterone – I know you may think of this as a “male” hormone, but it plays a huge part in women muscle building,[13] fat loss,[14] increase bone mass,[15] and many other health-related issues[16](remember: estrogen is made from testosterone).

Men make about ten to fifteen times what we make naturally,[17] but it doesn’t mean we don’t need it too.

Another way we can help our testosterone levels is to watch our cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone that is promoted by stress and reduces free testosterone levels (in addition to signaling for your body to store fat).[18]

Want a way to naturally lower your cortisol levels? Try meditation.[19]

Tip #7: Not getting bigger? Eat more food.

Focus on more fats and carbs. They are the easiest ways to increase your total calories.

You can check out our Guide to Build Muscle for more specific tips on how to eat more food.

Tip #8: Make sure every meal has a solid protein source.

Protein is needed for building muscle, so prioritize this above all else when you sit down to eat.

Having trouble getting it all down? Buy a blender!

Steve drinks two smoothies a day to reach his protein goals and you can check out our Guide to Protein Shakes for his personal recipe.

On the go with no blender? I like to keep protein powder with me in a small Ziploc bag – that way I can grab a bottle of water, rip off the corner of the Ziploc bag, and use that as a funnel to get the powder into the water bottle. Then, just replace the cap and shake and you’ve got a protein-filled snack!

Tip #9: Get more sleep! When you build muscle, your body is working overtime, burning extra calories. It’s going to need some time to recover. Remember, muscle is built when you rest, not when you actually lift.

Go to bed!

Tip #10: Start today!

Gaining muscle comes down to eating right and strength training. Let’s get you lifting today!

Try some push-ups and squats as we discussed in our strength training section. Tomorrow we can work on eating right and lifting more.

The most important step you can take today is to begin.

Let’s give you some more tips to get you going.

Building Muscle: Next Steps!

If I can narrow down building muscle for women, it would be three main points:

Get stronger by picking up heavy stuff or doing more challenging bodyweight movements.
Get bigger by eating lots of food.
Recover faster by sleeping enough and giving your muscles days off to rebuild.

That’s it. You can do this.

If you made it this far, and you want more specific instruction and guidance, we have a few options for you:

1) If you are somebody that wants to follow a tailor-made program designed around their life and goals, check out our popular 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who will get to know you better than you know yourself, check your form, and program your workouts and nutrition for you.

2) If you want an exact blueprint for growing strong, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll help you begin your journey on building muscle.

Lastly, I’d love to hear from you!

PLEASE leave your questions, eating or strength or otherwise below so we can answer them and become best friends and practice karate kicks in the garage:

How can I help you get bigger and stronger?

What part of this journey are you still struggling the most with?

What are your favorite bulking up foods!?

Share with your friends in the comments so we can all go buy it in bulk at Costco.

-Staci

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Strength Building Articles!

5 Beginner Strength Training Workouts
6 Gym Workouts You Can Follow
How to Do a Push-Up
How to Get Your First Pull-Up
How to Do a Bodyweight Row
How to Do a Squat
How to Do a Deadlift

###

Photo sources: Women’s Day 2015, Sea spray, The Viking, The Evolution of LEGO Wonder Woman, Apocalyptic Motorcycle, Person Mountain,

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

Check out the study “Circulating Testosterone as the Hormonal Basis of Sex Differences in Athletic Performance” published in Endocrine Reviews.
As reported in Science Daily and published by the American Physiological Society, “Oral Contraceptives Impair Muscle Gains In Young Women.”
Check out “Value of resistance training for the reduction of sports injuries” to learn more. Source: PubMed.
Read “Resistance training and sarcopenia” for more. Source: PubMed
This study “Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure” explores more. Source: PubMed
Here’s a study on different forms of exercise and their impact on pain, “Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults.” Source: PubMed.
You can learn more at, “Strength Training and All‐Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality in Older Women. Source: PubMed.
Studies have shown the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation to be very accurate in determining BMR and TDEE
Dietary cholesterol doesn’t influence blood cholesterol levels as much as conventional wisdom once thought. Go ahead and eat eggs!
Saturated fat: part of a healthy diet: pubmed
Read our article on how to prepare “paleo spaghetti!
You can check out this study on fat intake and testosterone levels, this study on sugar intake and testosterone levels, this report on Vitamin D and testosterone levels in women, and this report on zinc and testosterone levels.
“Testosterone in women–the clinical significance” Source; PubMed
Check out this study “Exogenous androgens influence body composition and regional body fat distribution in obese postmenopausal women–a clinical research center study” Source: PubMed
“A concise review of testosterone and bone health” Source: PubMed
Check out this interesting interview with Dr. Stephanie Faubion on testosterone in women. Source: MayoClinic
You can check out this study “Circulating Testosterone as the Hormonal Basis of Sex Differences in Athletic Performance” for more: PubMed.
Check out this study on cortisol and testosterone, and this one on cortisol and fat gain.
Check out “Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students” for a study on meditation lowering cortisol levels. Source: PubMed.

The post How to Build Muscle as a Woman: The Ultimate Guide for Gaining Weight the Right Way first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

Read More »

How to Exercise With Your Kids (Work out as a Family!)

So you’ve got kids running around the house… 

And you need to work out, but can’t seem to distract the little monsters any longer?

No problem!

Many of our coaching clients have to train at home with their kids around. Today, we’ll show you how to get them involved!



Here’s what we’ll cover:

5 tips for working out with your kids (video tutorial)
The 8 best exercises to do with children
10 workout games to play as with the family
How a father of 5 trains with kids at home
Exercising as a family (Next steps)

Let’s jump right in!

How to Workout With Your Kids (Video Tutorial)

Quite a few of our Nerd Fitness Coaches are parents, so they know firsthand how challenging it can be to train while you have a three-year-old running around in the background.

When I asked them for advice for this guide, the most common response I received went something like: 

“Training with kids running around is going to be chaos. That’s okay. Do the best you can.”

In other words, it might be challenging to hit personal records (PRs) in your deadlift while also watching over a four-year-old.

This doesn’t mean “Don’t bother working out.” 

It just means you should forgive yourself ahead of time if all doesn’t go according to plan.

If you want proof of how working out with kids can be “a hot mess,” watch Coach Matt exercising with his young children. 

The video is all sorts of adorbs. 

THE BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT WORKOUT (KIDS EDITION):

When working out with kids, remember:

#1) Meet kids where they are. For young kids, invite them to be a partner. Maybe they can count your reps, tell you when to start, etc. 

On the other hand, older kids might be able to participate more fully, and maybe even train alongside you. 

No matter what, it’s a good idea to invite kids to join when and IF they want, without requiring it. 

#2 ) While every kid is different, here are some very general guidelines from Coach Matt’s experience:

2-6 Years Old. These kids are often way more interested in just playing, wrestling, etc. So doing a specific workout may be challenging. However, these kids may still want to be a part of things, so look for ways to get them involved. 
7-12 Years Old. At this age, they can start handling a little more structure. They will probably really enjoy “skills” training (more on this below), as well as many play aspects.
13+ (Depending on the Kid). They may be ready to step in and join you more fully in a workout if they want to.

#3) Consider a focus on skills/practice. It can be really frustrating to have a timed exercise or workout interrupted. 

Instead, consider thinking of it like “practice time” of building a skill. You can practice for a couple of minutes, take a break, come back to it, etc.

Kids might respond better to “skills” training instead of “exercises” too. Together, you can practice:

Crawling
Jumping
Swinging
Getting up and down off the floor
Dancing
Throwing/Catching

This might go over better than “let’s do squats” or “push-ups.”

#4) There are lots of different ways to get workouts in throughout the day:

Short workouts: a lot of times Coach Matt finds himself squeezing a workout in 10 mins or less.
Accumulation: take little micro-breaks throughout the day to do a couple of reps of some bodyweight exercises. Kind of like “exercise snacks.” 
Longer workouts: maybe creating that time and space for your training is still important. If possible, defend this time and let the kids move in and out of the frame as they are interested.
“I go, you go”: you may snag a workout set in, then play a game with your kids, then go back to the workout set. Breaking it up like this can make them still feel engaged and give you a little more time to train.

#5) Whatever happens is okay! Remember, do the best you can, and it’s perfectly fine if your workout gets cut short because your kid starts drawing on the walls.

The 8 Best Exercises to Do With Young Kids

If your kids are light enough, you can actually use them as makeshift weights during your workout.

Just be careful, and if anything feels unsafe, don’t do it.

But if things DO feel good, here are some exercises you can do along with kiddos (or using them as weight).

#1) Bodyweight Squats (with Child) 

This is much like a normal bodyweight squat, but with your kids sitting on your shoulders.

Coach Matt recommends having your kid’s legs come forward, and for you to grab them, almost like you would with a safety squat bar.

Before attempting this, make sure you can do squats with comparable weight! 

#2) Lunges

Much like the bodyweight squats above, but instead do a lunge:

Since you’re engaging one leg at a time, this can be really challenging with a kid on your shoulders.

#3) Touch the Sky

As Coach Matt explains, getting young kids to do squats and push-ups might be tough.

But kids do like to jump! 

For “Touch the Sky,” sit in a squat or frog position. Then stand up tall, arms reaching towards the sky.

Bonus points if you jump up!

This will train many of the same muscles as you would with squats.

#4) Jumps

Another good squat substitution to try with kids is long jumps!

You probably want to try this on some type of soft surface (or in your backyard), like the tumbling mat Coach Matt uses. As long as it’s safe, jumping can be really fun with kids.

Make a game out of it, by pointing to a line (or marking one with a soft object) and seeing who can jump over it. You’ll not only train your lower body with jumps, but you’ll also build some explosive power.

#5) Push-ups

You have a few options here. 

The first is to have your kid crawl on your back and use them as a weight:

Feel free to do knee push-ups here too if it’s a little too challenging.

The next option is to include your kid in the workout by giving them high-fives between reps:

Lastly, you can have your kids crawl under you between repetitions, trying to worm their way from one end to the other:

#6) Bear Crawl

A fun exercise to do with your kids is to crawl around like a bear with them latched on!

Crawling is a great functional fitness exercise that will help you stay mobile on the floor. A kid on your back will up the intensity of the workout. 

Bonus points if you make growling and roaring noises.

#7) Goat Bag Hinge

This exercise will have you strengthening your hinge muscles, kind of like you would in a kettlebell swing or deadlift

Stand tall, clenching your kid, chest to chest. Have them hold onto you too.

Push your hips back, again, like you would in a kettlebell swing. When your torso is parrell-ish to the ground, come back up, driving through your heels. 

#8) Balancing

One leg balances can become a lot more challenging when your kid is trying to push you over:

Another idea is to stand on one leg, then have your kid push you, and use that force to jump onto your other leg. Attempt to only use one leg at a time to balance:

10 Workout Games to Play as a Family

Being able to lift your kid a few times for some exercises is great. But Coach Matt highlights that anything over 10 repetitions, probably isn’t happening.

The kids will get bored, whine, or revolt.

That’s why you might be better off playing some games with them. 

Here are 10 fun and active games to play as a whole family:

#1) Ninja Training

This is easy: just ask your child: “Want to train like a ninja with me?”

If they’re into it, start practicing some of your jumps and crawls!

You can also hoist them up and help them hang from something (ninjas always have to climb up buildings), which would work if you have a pull-up bar:

Don’t have a pull-up bar? We makeshift clever replacements in our guide to building a home gym.

Some house parkour might also be in the cards here. 

#2) Chase (Cops and Robbers)

Here, you’re gonna build some type of fort. When playing this game, Coach Matt stands up his gymnastic mat tall and together, then places his kids in the middle.

Their job? Escape!

Run and track them down and send them back to jail (or your makeshift fort).

Feel free to teach them the phrase, “You’ll never catch me alive, coppers!”

#3) Freeze Ball

This might require a purchase, but foam dodgeballs are a great way to play with kids.

Have the different colored dodgeballs result in a different outcome:

Red: if you’re hit with the “fireball,” hop five times in a row.
Blue: if you’re hit with the “iceball,” you need to freeze for five seconds. 
Green: if you’re hit with the “earthball,” it’s time to place your chest to the ground, like you would in a burpee.

#4) Animal Walks

Have someone call out an animal. Then everyone has to walk around like that!

Walking to Mordor is much tougher if you need to crawl like a snake for part of the journey.

#5) Hot Lava

With this game, you’re more or less building an obstacle course in your house, trying to jump from furniture to furniture…because the floor is now lava.

Here are some ideas on creating home obstacle courses:

Another fun way to start this game: start counting down from 5 out loud.

After “1” shout “hot lava” and if anyone is still on the normal floor, it’s time for them to start playing like Gollum when he finally got the ring:

This is a fun standing game to ensure spontaneous activity.

#6) Jump/Duck

This game is pretty easy: take an imaginary sword and swing high or low at the kids, or have them come at you with their imaginary weapon.

You need to either jump if they’re coming low or duck if they’re coming high.

This is really simple, but lots of fun, and can be done with a group of people.

#7) King of the Log (Balance Challenges)

Much like the balance exercises we showed you earlier, but as a game!

Find some territory (a mat, some comfy carpet, grass) and try to push the other off it. Let your kiddos team on you for a more even match.

#8) Wolf & Rabbit

Create a mark or identify a “safe place” within a short sprint away. 

Have two people face each other, but keep enough distance that the “Rabbit” feels comfortable reaching safety.

The Rabbit stays frozen until the Wolf makes a move. Then the Rabbit attempts to sprint to safety before the Wolf can tag it.

#9) Ninja Red Light, Green Light

If you’ve ever played “Red Light, Green Light” this is similar, although it involves some sneaking around, because ninjas.

“The Mark” walks around aimlessly, taking turns liberally, while the Ninja tries to sneak up behind and tag them. 

If the Mark faces the Ninja, the Ninja must freeze. 

Otherwise, the Ninja is free to tag the Mark.

#9) Commando

This game is kind of like Ninja Red Light, Green Light.

You have a Counter (normally the adult).
You have Runners (kids).

The Counter picks a number from five to ten, then counts down.

Before doing so, they announce “Fast” or “Slow.”

Fast, you would count “5, dot, 4, dot, 3, dot, 2, dot, 1.”
Slow, you would count “5, dot, dot, 4, dot, dot, 3, dot, dot, 2, dot, dot, 1.”

So twice as many “dots” are said allowed.

While the Counter counts, they move about (carefully) with their eyes closed. They make sure to turn around a lot to keep the Runners on their toes.

When the Counter reaches “1,” they freeze and open their eyes.

Any Runners caught in the Counter’s eyes has to do a silly “croak.”

Working Out at Home With Kids

Coach Matt is a father of 5, yet he’s still able to train with little ones in the house.

How’s he do it?

Here are 4 tips on how to train with kids at home:

Use every minute. Yep, that means you might be breaking up your workout. This is fine.
Talk to your partner. If there’s another parent involved, share with them your goals. Maybe one of you can watch the kids while the other works out.
Involve your kids.  You can always do some exercises with your kiddos. Who knows, you might even help them find a love of working out.
Play some games. You can try one of the 10 games we mentioned above, or even a more traditional sport might be fun if they can handle it.

If you’re juggling working out with your kiddos around, give the video a watch.

How to Workout as a Family (Next Steps)

The most important thing about working out with your kids: have fun!

If kids see you having fun, they might want to join you.

If you make your exercise together enjoyable by including some game elements, they might want to keep doing it.

That would be great!

If you need more ideas, here are 40 ways to exercise without realizing it

However, if your kids are not into it, that’s okay. Just try to sneak in whatever workout you can, when you can.

Do the best you can. 

The most important thing you can do now: try an exercise or game with your kids!

You’ll never know how your kids deal with your workouts, until you try it out.

So pick one of the exercises or games we highlighted and give it a whirl.

If it devolves to chaos, you can always try again with a different workout or strategy.

Again, just do the best you can.

If you want some more help, Nerd Fitness is here for you.

We have three options on how to continue with us. Pick the option that best aligns with your goals:

Option #1) If you want a daily prompt for doing home workouts, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

Option #2) If you want a professional coach in your pocket, who can do video form checks, provide feedback, and adjust your workouts based on the equipment you have available, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program

For example, let’s say you find yourself stuck indoors and you want somebody to custom-build you a workout program based on the equipment and furniture you have. That’s where an online coach is a game-changer! 

Personally, I’ve been working with the same online coach since 2015 and it’s changed my life. You can learn more by clicking on the box below: 




Option #3) Become part of the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out from home” guides.

Alright, I want to hear from you and your experience with working out with your children! 

Are you a parent who is now learning how to exercise with your kids?

Any tips or tricks for training with screaming kids in the background?

Any fun games we missed?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

P.S. If you have older kids, they might be more into doing a workout right alongside you. If so, have them pick a routine from The 7 Best At-Home Workouts and try it together!

###

Photo Source: Cargo bike family, The clones are working hard, Family looking into sunset, Untitled, Simpson…Maggie Simpson.

The post How to Exercise With Your Kids (Work out as a Family!) first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

Read More »

15 Circuit Training Routines: Try These Fast Workouts Anywhere!

This circuit training guide is gonna give you EVERYTHING you need to do your first kickass circuit training workout today.

I mean come on, it has dinosaurs in it.

These workouts are similar to the custom programs we build for our Online Coaching Clients who work out at home, on the road, and in outer space.

Okay, FINE we don’t have any clients in space (yet). But we do have clients in Antarctica, and multiple aerospace engineers. Close enough?



If you’re hoping circuit training will maximize your results in a minimum amount of time, one of the 15 circuits below will do the trick:

What is Circuit Training?
What are the benefits of Circuit Training?
Warm-Up Circuit
Beginner Bodyweight Circuit
Advanced Bodyweight Circuit
Playground Workout Circuit
Kettlebell Workout Circuit
Beginner Gym Circuit
Hotel Workout Circuit
The Batman Workout Circuit
The Lord of the Rings Workout Circuit
The 300 Workout Circuit
The Wolverine Workout Circuit
Complete List of Circuit Training Exercises

Let’s jump right in.

What is Circuit Training?

As Coach Lauren mentions above, the “circuit” in circuit training comes from the fact that you do a sequence of exercises back to back to back, and then you repeat the sequence.

And then again.

You cycle through the planned sequence of exercises, or circuit, multiple times.

That’s circuit training.

Generally, you hit each major muscle group during one full circuit. You may do a lower body for one exercise. Then the upper body the next.

You’ll find all sorts of different circuit training sequences. Here are some things most will have in common:

Several different exercises. A normal circuit will have five to ten different movements per circuit. You’ll often hear these referred to as “stations.” Overhead press station, squat station, etc.
Little to no rest in between. The goal of circuit training is to keep your heart rate up. Ideally, if you’re physically able, you go from one exercise to another without stopping. Maybe you rest after the whole circuit. Maybe.
Rinse and repeat. Generally, you’ll run through your circuit a few times. Three rounds are common.

Make sense?

The point here is to work different parts of your body with different exercises, and then while those parts are recovering, you’re working on your other movements! This helps build cardiovascular health, while also improving muscular endurance and strength.

Plus you’ll burn calories!

As we lay out in our article, Cardio vs Interval Training vs. Weight Training, research supports that doing strength training circuits is great for weight loss and overall health.

More importantly, for somebody with limited time, doing a strength training circuit is more effective at building strength and burning fat than an equivalent amount of cardio.

In other words, if you are trying to lose weight, you should be doing circuit training.

Our Beginner Bodyweight Circuit would be a great place to begin, and you can download a worksheet to help you get started right here:

Why Should I do circuit training?

Generally, you’ll hear exercise divided into strength training or aerobic exercise (cardio).

What’s the difference, you wonder?

Strength training. Strength training is also referred to as anaerobic exercise, which would be a short burst of energy for movement. Think of a push-up or pull-up. These exercises help build and tone muscle.
Aerobic Exercise. “Aerobic” means “needs oxygen.” Your heart rate increases to get oxygen where your body needs it, thus the word “cardio.” Running, biking, or jumping jacks would be examples of aerobic exercise.

The thing about a circuit is, you actually do both categories. Presses and lunges fall into strength training. Jumping jacks are cardio.

And since you aren’t stopping much in between stations, you’ll need more oxygen, and voila. Even more cardio.

With circuit training, you build muscle and burn fat WHILE building stamina.

As Michael Scott would say, “that’s a win, win, win.”

There’s some debate on what kind of exercise is better for weight loss: aerobic or anaerobic.

My thoughts?

If you’re limited on time and only can pick one, I would pick strength training: when you strength train, you break your muscles down, and your body needs to work extra hard over the next 24-48 hours to rebuild those muscles (with increased calories burned).

We work with our 1-on-1 Coaching Clients to create programs that combine both strength and cardio in a fun way – it really comes down to a program that you actually WANT to do.



Before and after your circuit training: Warm up and stretch

No matter which circuit you pick, I want you to start with one important thing:

Warm-up!

I cover why you should always warm up in an article found right here. It doesn’t have to be much though, give it about five minutes to get your muscles active and your heart rate up.

This will help you do exercises properly and help prevent injury. You can run in place, do air punches and kicks, or some jumping jacks.

Here is NF Senior Coach Staci (you might know her incredible story) showing you many beginner options you can use to warm up as well:

Did I just tell you to prepare for circuit training, with a circuit?!

If you’re curious, here’s my personal (advanced) warm-up:

THE NERD FITNESS ADVANCED WARM-UP:

Jump rope: 2-3 minutes 
Jumping jacks: 25 reps
Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
Lunges: 5 reps each leg.
Hip extensions: 10 reps each side
Hip rotations: 5 each leg
Forward leg swings: 10 each leg
Side leg swings: 10 each leg
Push-ups: 10-20 reps
Spider-man steps: 10 reps

Our goal isn’t to tire you out. Instead, we want to warm you up.

That’s step one.

Completing your chosen circuit training routine would be step two.

Below, you’ll find 15 workouts you can follow along with! And if you like our style of workouts, you might like our new app, Nerd Fitness Journey!

Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Right now, you can try it for free for a full week (no credit card required). Jump in below:

Beginner Bodyweight Workout Circuit

This workout circuit, as we lay out in our Beginner Bodyweight Workout article, is as follows:

Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
Push-ups: 10 reps
Walking lunges – 10 each leg
Dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug or another weight): 10 each arm.
Plank: 15 seconds
Jumping jacks: 30 reps

Run through this circuit three times. If you don’t have milk in the house for the rows, find something of roughly the same weight with a good handle.

We also turned this workout into a fun infographic with superheroes, because that’s how we roll:

If you want to download this Beginner Bodyweight Workout as a worksheet, you can do so when you sign up in the box below:



Advanced Bodyweight Exercises Circuit

If the beginner circuit above is too easy for you, move on to our Advanced Bodyweight Workout Circuit. The workout looks like this:

One-legged squats – 10 each side [warning super-difficult, only attempt if you’re in good enough shape]
Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
Walking lunges: 20 reps (10 each leg)
Jump step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
Pull-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows]
Dips (between bar stools): 10 reps
Chin-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows with underhand grip]
Push-ups: 10 reps
Plank: 30 seconds

I warn you, the above circuit will hurt… in a good way. You should be proud if you can get through this three times.



Playground Workout Circuit

Do you have a nearby playground? Why not work out there! If you have kids, you can do it together. Or let them ignore you.

I’ll give you a Level One workout, and a Level Two. Check out the main playground article for some Level Three exercises.

Level One:

Alternating step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
Elevated push-ups: 10 reps
Swing rows: 10 reps
Assisted lunges: 8 reps each leg
Bent leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

Level Two:

Bench jumps: 10 reps
Lower incline push-ups: 10 reps
Body rows: 10 reps
Lunges: 8 reps each leg
Straight leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

After you’ve gone through a complete set three times, go down the slide!



Kettlebell Workout Circuit

Have a kettlebell lying around? Use it for a circuit!

Here’s our kettlebell workout full write-up, but you can also just watch the video and see the workout here:

Halos: 8 reps (each side)
Goblet squats: 10 reps
Overhead presses: 8 reps (each side)
Kettlebell swings: 15 reps
Bent Over Rows: 8 reps (each side)
Front rack reverse lunge: 6 reps (per side)

Once you’ve done the above three times, go ahead and put your kettlebell away for your final step: stretches.

If you want a kettlebell worksheet for this workout, grab one by signing up in the box below:

We also have a fun new adventure in our app that will allow you to train with your kettlebell right alongside Hack Morris (this will make sense more sense when start).

Jump in right now for your free trial:

Beginner Gym Circuit Training

If you have access to a gym, you have a lot of circuit options.

If it’s your first time stepping foot in a fitness facility, check out our Beginner’s Guide to the Gym. The gym can be a scary place, but we’ll give you a strategy to get comfy.

(Gym closed do to COVID? Here’s how to build a gym in your home.) 

We’ll also walk you through each movement for both Days A and B below. I would recommend picking one of our 5 Beginner Gym Workouts, going through the leveled progressions, and working your way up to the circuits below:

DAY A GYM WORKOUT:

Barbell squats: 10 reps
Push-ups: 10 reps
Pull-ups or pull-up alternatives: 10 reps

Day B GYM WORKOUT:

Barbell Romanian deadlifts/regular deadlifts: 10 reps
Push-ups: 10 reps
Dumbbell rows: 10 reps per arm

Alternate your circuits on different days. Rest in between. “Day A” could be Monday. Rest Tuesday. Wednesday could be “Day B.”

We LOVE helping people get started in the gym, as we’re huge fans of barbell training and helping beginners build confidence with weight training! If that sounds like you…



And you can download our full Strength 101 guide too, which has this routine along with other circuits to help you start building strength today:

The Hotel Workout Circuit: For Travelers that Train

Sometimes, you just plain find yourself stuck in a hotel room. Maybe you can find the hotel gym, but I bet it’s terrible! It probably has 2 machines, a broken treadmill, and no free weights. 

Ugh.

Instead, how about a workout circuit you can do in the room itself! Utilize the furniture to its full potential.

Level 1

Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
Incline push-ups: 15 reps (feet on floor, hands on edge of bed or desk)
One-arm luggage rows: 10 reps (each arm, use your suitcase as your weight)
Reverse crunches: 10 reps

Level 2

Overhead Squats: 25 reps
Push-Ups: 20 reps
Inverted Rows using the desk in your hotel room: 10 reps
Reverse Crunches: 15 reps

Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes from now and see how many circuits you can do!

Check out our full post on hotel circuits if you want Level 3!

We have a LOT of business travelers in our 1-on-1 coaching program, which is why we create workouts for both their home gym and while traveling!

If you need worldwide accountability, workouts for home and the road, and want expert guidance…



Nerdy Circuit Training Exercises

If those workouts above don’t tickle your fancy, we have these other nerdy circuits you can do too!

The Batman Workout Circuit

Day 1

Rolling squat tuck-up jumps: 5 reps
Side to side push-ups: 5 reps
Modified headstand push-ups: 5 reps
Jump pull-up with tuck / Pull-up with Tuck-up: 5 reps
Handstands against wall: 8 seconds

Day 2

‘180 Degree’ jump turns: 5 reps
Tuck front lever hold: 8 seconds
Tuck back lever hold: 8 seconds
Low frog hold: 8 seconds



The Lord of the Rings Workout Circuit

Superset 1: The Fellowship of the Ring

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Slams: 3 medicine ball slams
Legolas Bow Pulls: 7 renegade rows
“One does not simply walk/lunge into Mordor”: 9 lunges, each leg
Hip “Bridge of Khazad Dum”: 1-minute hip raises and hold at the top position

Superset 2: The Two Towers

Riders of ROWhan: 3 bodyweight rows
Gimli “Shall I get you a box?” jumps7 box jumps – REALLY explode
Helm’s Deep-Squats: 9 bodyweight squats – get your ass to the ground
Tower of Orthanc Holds: 1 minute (Kick up against a wall and hold a handstand for as long as you can until 1 minute is complete, in as few as sets as possible. Check out our Guide to Handstands.)

Superset 3: The Return of the King

Eowyn “I am no Man!”makers: 3 manmakers
Light of Galadriel raises: 7 arm overhead dumbbell presses
“Army of Dead”lifts: 9 lightweight reps, barbell or dumbbell
Samwise Gamgee Carries: 1 minute (Demonstrated here by AKLulu carrying me at a NF meetup) A heavy sandbag over the shoulder works too. No sandbag? Just carry two dumbbells around the gym for a minute.

If you can get through a superset three times, consider yourself an honorary Ranger. Nothing found in Mordor can faze you.



The 300 Workout Circuit

The below circuit is no joke. Then again, neither were the Spartans.

Pull-ups: 25 reps
Deadlifts with 135lbs: 50 reps
Push-ups: 50 reps
‘24-inch’ Box jumps: 50 reps
Floor wipers: 50 reps
Single-arm clean-and-press with 36 lbs. kettlebell: 25 each side
Pull-ups: 25 reps

The above sequence is designed to be completed once. If you can go through it twice, you’re ready to defend Greece.



The Wolverine Workout Circuit

Barbell Deadlift / Dumbbell RDL / Banded Good Morning / Regular Good Morning: 10 reps
Medicine Ball Slam / Quick Downwards Bodyweight Squat: 10 reps
Push-up to Renegade row (push-up, row left, push-up, row right, repeat): 5 Rows per side
Transverse Lunge and Chop: 5 reps each side

How many times do you do this circuit? AMRAP, or, As Many Rounds As Possible. I suggest setting a 12-minute timer and getting to work. Be careful though, because only Wolverine can heal automatically.

You’ll need actual rest.

Boom!

There are your nerdy circuits. Feel free to rock the soundtrack of the referenced movies during your workout. If you own a cape, now’s the time.



Complete List of Circuit Training Exercises

You can do any of the workouts in this article and get a great workout, but if you want to build your own workout, you can totally do that too!

Here is a list of exercises you can use to create your workout.

Simply pick a few, and do one after the other in as many circuits as you want!

Pick your exercises from this list to build your own circuit training workout, or suggest your own for us to add in the comments below!

CARDIO EXERCISES:

Jump rope
Jumping Jacks
Walking Jacks
Burpees
Mountain climbers
Stairs
Sprints
High knees
Running in place
Rowing machine
Long-distance jumps
Box jumps

UPPER BODY PUSH EXERCISES:

Push-ups (any variation)
Handstands.

UPPER BODY PULL EXERCISES

Dumbbell rows
Bodyweight rows
Negative pull-ups or chin-ups
Pull-ups or Chin-ups

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

Bodyweight squats
Lunges
Kettlebell swings
Farmer carries (carry dumbbells and walk around)

CORE EXERCISES:

Planks
Side planks
Reverse crunches

Pick 3-5 exercises, and arrange them as we discuss in our “how to build your own workout routine.” We also have The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises for movements that you can choose from.

Do 3 circuits with 10 reps of each exercise, one after the other!

Have fun and keep things interesting. And if you don’t want to build your own workout, that’s cool too! We have 15 free workouts in this article, and we can also do all the heavy lifting for you.

(Well, not literally DO the heavy lifting, but you know what I mean.)

We create custom workout solutions for busy people just like you in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. Let us create a workout and help you make better food choices.

It’s like having a Yoda in your pocket (again, not literally).



How to Stretch After Circuit Training

Once you finish your workout, the final step (three) would be stretching and cool down. No matter what circuit you go through, stretch after a workout. It can help a lot with muscle recovery.

Scope this video for an awesome stretching sequence to follow:

You could also do some yoga poses. For stretching, find what feels good and take your time. Let your heart rate come down while you stretch.

You could even do some foam rolling too if you’re a glutton for punishment!

For more ideas on how to make the most of your stretches, check out The Ultimate Guide for Improving Flexibility in 30 Days. It has Spider-Man in it, so you know we aren’t messing around.



Getting Started With Circuit Training

There are all sorts of different ways to do circuit training. We just showed you fifteen.

Warm-Up Circuit
Beginner Bodyweight Circuit
Advanced Bodyweight Circuit
Playground Workout Circuit
Kettlebell Workout Circuit
Beginner Gym Circuit
Hotel Workout Circuit
The Batman Workout Circuit
The Lord of the Rings Workout Circuit
The 300 Workout Circuit
The Wolverine Workout Circuit
Complete List of Circuit Training Exercises

YOUR MISSION: Complete one of the above circuit training workouts! If you don’t know which one to pick, start with the Beginner Bodyweight Circuit. It’ll get you used to the idea of hustling from one exercise to the next.

And you can do it in your living room!

If you’re looking for more hands-on instruction and customized guidance, check out our 1-on-1 Coaching program. You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who get to know you better than you know yourself, and then build a workout program that is specific to your exact goals.

Simply put, we tell you exactly what to do every day, and how to eat. And then, we check in with you regularly to make sure you’re doing it!



If you got this far in the article, I really want you to try one of these workouts. Right NOW. I always mention the most important step in a fitness journey is starting it. Today, start circuit training.

Once completed, I’d love for you to share your story with the community in the comments:

How’d it go?
Did you get through three full circuits?
Which routine did you pick?

Find a circuit you’re comfortable with, and do it.

Then do it next week. And the following. And track your progress

If you add circuit training to your fitness routine, you’ll be on a solid path for leveling up your life.

-Steve

PS: I couldn’t quite figure out how to use this gif, but it was too good not to include.

If someone creates the “Short Circuit Workout Circuit” you’ll be my best friend forever.

###

All Photo credits can be found right here[1].

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

Photo Source: raptor, laymul © 123RF.com, Morning run with the Fitbitgym, hotel room, Ekaterina Minaeva © 123RF.com, Nattapol Sritongcom © 123RF.com, gforce

The post 15 Circuit Training Routines: Try These Fast Workouts Anywhere! first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

Read More »
HIIT

3 HIIT Workouts for Beginners: Start Interval Training and Sprint Running!

This High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) guide is probably the best interval training guide in the galaxy.

My justification for such a bold claim?

We’re really good at this stuff, AND we have dinosaurs and Muppets.

Plus, lots of great gifs:

We build custom interval training programs just like the ones in this guide for our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients, including workouts for at home, the gym, or even while traveling.



In this Ultimate Guide to Interval Training, we’ll cover:

What is interval training? What is HIIT?
What are the benefits of HIIT? Why should you do interval training?
What’s an example of interval training? How to do interval running.
How do HIIT workouts work?
What are the best HIIT exercises?
Is HIIT good for losing weight?
Getting started with interval training.
Mistakes to avoid when doing HIIT.
HIIT timer recommendations.
Our interval training workout recommendation.

If you’re interested in starting a HIIT practice (which you are, ’cause you’re here), you may want to try our new app! It contains a fun adventure that will take you from sitting on your couch to a full HIIT workout – with plenty of benchmarks in between for you to find your groove. No guesswork needed, just jump into the app and follow it’s next steps.

You can sign-up for a free trial right here:

Alright, let’s do this thang.

What is Interval Training? What is HIIT?

In 2018, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) was ranked the number one fitness trend by American College of Sports Medicine.[1]

They wrote:

HIIT typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and typically takes less than 30 minutes to perform.

Essentially, HIIT is just following a specific regimen where you vary your speeds and intensity throughout a shorter run, swim, bike, or row.

Any exercise can be a form of HIIT, but here’s a common routine:

Jogging lightly for three minutes.
Pushing yourself harder for a minute (run or sprint).
Repeating this cycle 4 more times.

Because everybody is busy and overwhelmed, fast results in the least amount of time is why most people discover HIIT. 

Plus, you can do HIIT with just about anything, including a jump rope:

You may be asking, “Steve, just how short and intense are we talking about here? Also, your new haircut looks spiffy.”

Thank you, you’re very kind.

So let’s explore the pros and cons of intervals.

What are the Benefits of HIIT? Why Should You Do Interval Training?

The 1996 landmark Tabata study demonstrated the benefits of extreme HIIT.[2]

Dr. Izumi Tabata, from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports, was obsessed with interval training.

The doctor sought to see exactly what kind of gains were obtained from short, intense, periods of exercise. He conducted an experiment with Olympic athletes on stationary bikes and put them through intense bouts of exercise followed by short periods of rest.

The results were fascinating.

Tabata found:

That 6 weeks of moderate-intensity endurance training did not affect anaerobic capacity, but that 6 weeks of high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) may improve both anaerobic capacity and VO2max simultaneously.

Let’s translate that: compared to regular cardio, HIIT had a greater impact on improving BOTH:

Aerobic increases (endurance).
Anaerobic increases (power).

Even crazier?

Tabata was able to demonstrate improvements in his athletes with just FOUR-MINUTE bursts.

So what’s happening here?

Simple: your heart is a muscle.

If you keep your heart beating at a constant rate, never expanding it outside of its comfort zone, it will never grow stronger.

By introducing chaos and pushing your muscles outside of their comfort zone, they must adapt and grow more resilient in order to survive.

Intense interval training challenges your heart by constantly forcing it outside of its comfort zone.

In other words: progressive overload – the same concept behind building strength.

Coach Jim explains 7 different ways to achieve progressive overload in this video:

Since Tabata’s 1996 study, many other trials have shown the positive impact of interval training. 

Here are some of the benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training:

#1) HIIT can burn lots of calories in a short amount of time.

Revving up your effort requires more out of you, including calories. 

One study backed this up, finding HIIT burned about 20-30% more calories than regular cardio.[3]

The researchers stated:

These data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing an HIIT session  than spending the same amount of time performing a steady-state exercise session.

The name of the game here is “intensity.” The more intense you go, the more calories you’ll burn.

#2) HIIT for lowering blood sugar. Managing blood sugar is really important for health, not just for diabetics.

Those trying to lose fat should be aware of their blood sugar and corresponding insulin levels.

The good news for our current discussion? HIIT has been shown to help lower and manage blood sugar levels.[6]

#3) HIIT for heart health. Touching on the “antifragile” topic again, HIIT has been shown to help with overall cardiovascular health.

It does so in the same way traditional endurance training does, but at a fraction of the time (almost half).[7]

Alright, let’s chat about how to actually do some interval training.

What’s an Example of Interval Training? How to Do Interval Running

The key to HIIT is being able to go from “easy” to “difficult.” All sorts of different exercises can get you there:

Aerobic (cardio).
Bodyweight (strength training).
Resistance (weight training).

HIIT is generally associated with running (aerobic), so we’ll devote this section to just that.

The easiest way to experiment with HIIT would be to run.

Here’s how to start with a basic HIIT running workout. Go to a park in your neighborhood. Warm-up with some light jogging, high knees, and mobility – leg swings, arm swings, etc,

And then begin your workout!

Run/jog at a brisk pace for 30 seconds.
Jog/walk at a slower pace for 2 minutes.
After your rest, shoot for another 30-second run/jog.
Continue until you get tired or after about ten “push/rest” intervals.

And BAM! You just did HIIT.

Don’t get disheartened if you find yourself stopping a lot during your first week of HIIT training. 

You’ll be surprised how quickly you get better at this!

Also, “running” or “jogging” is subjective. Whatever walking fast means to you is great. Do that for your periods of intensity.

It should be noted, that the entire “Couch to 5K” concept rests on interval training through running.

It’s all broken down into “walking,” “jogging” and “running.”

If you’re curious, check out our in-depth Couch to 5k review. If you want to start interval training, “Couch to 5K” could be a good way to do it.

More of an indoor person?

Consider a treadmill, where it actually sets intervals for you based on your desired difficulty.

Just be careful on it…

We’ll be talking about machines a lot more in the next section, but a treadmill is all you need to do a HIIT workout.

Experiment with the speed and incline to find a setting that you would consider “intense.” Many machines can be programmed to flip between this and an “easy” setting.

And you know what that means… boom! It’s built for HIIT.

When we designed NF Journey (our awesome new app), we used an “intense” and “easy” interval switch for most of the workouts.

If you want, you can sign-up for a free trial right here to see what I mean:

How do HIIT Workouts Work? (More HIIT cardio to choose from)

There are a lot of different aerobic exercises for HIIT cardio.

For example, you could jump on a bike, which is like HIIT running but with wheels (duh):

Every spin class is based on HIIT cycling (SoulCycle, Flywheel, or even your local gym now has spin classes).

They’re popular for a reason, and you can make a friend or two!

Here are some more examples of interval training:

Elliptical. If it has a dial for resistance, it can be used for interval training. For a couple of minutes, go on low resistance (0-2 level). Then crank up the resistance for one minute (up to 8-10). Repeat this process 12 times, which will give you a 20-minute workout.
Stair Climber. Much like the elliptical, alternate between periods of low intensity for two minutes, then one minute for high intensity. The difference with the climber is the dial will control the speed of the stairs. Be careful.
Rowing Machine. Start with a two-minute warm-up. On minute three, row like you’re being chased by the Kraken for a full 60 seconds. Then catch your breath. The rowing machine might be hard to do for a full 20 minutes, since it’s a lot of upper body. Shoot for ten minutes at first.
Jumping Rope. Jumping rope is a full-body exercise. Also, it’s fun. There’s no dial here, your own body controls the pace of the jump. Follow the same two-minute easy, one-minute intense as above. Jump rope can also be done with friends!

So far we’ve just been talking about aerobic exercises.

Let’s cover our other categories, of bodyweight and resistance.

What Are the Best HIIT Exercises? (Two Other Forms of Interval Training)

“Steve, this all sounds great. But I hate running!”

Confession: So do I.

So I get my cardio in other forms!

Here are some bodyweight exercises to get going on HIIT:

Burpees. Stand up, then squat down, kick your legs out, do a push-up, bring your legs back in, and explode up into a jump. Try to do 20 repetitions, then rest for two minutes. Repeat until you hate yourself:

Push-ups. For 20 seconds, do as many push-ups as possible. Rest. Then do it again. If you’re worried about proper form, check out our push-up guide and watch this:

Pull-ups. Same idea as above, do pull-ups for 20 seconds, then rest. If you can’t do a pull-up, we got you covered in our pull-up progression guide:

Let’s now chat about some Weight Training Examples for HIIT:

Kettlebell swing. For ten minutes, do 20 kettlebell swings on every minute.
This will be intense, and worthy of congratulations when you’re done. Check out our 20 Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about kettlebells.
Battle ropes. If your gym has battle ropes, they’ll be a great tool for HIIT. For intensity, the amount of slack in the rope determines the load. The more slack on the rope the tougher, and more intense, the workout. Also, don’t get stuck in just up and down movements. Some variation will help target different muscles.
Weight lifting. The critical piece will be moving from one exercise to another quickly enough. For example, hustling from the bench press to the lat bar: we call this circuit training!

To answer your next question: yes, you can also do circuit training as a form of HIIT.

Circuit training is going through a sequence of exercises, or stations, back to back.

Coach Lauren explains the ins and outs of circuit training in this video:

So in a circuit you could go from push-ups to pull-ups, back to push-ups, only resting briefly from one exercise to another.

Circuit training would be perfect to mix into a HIIT workout, since you can design your circuit to be very intense.

Check out our post for 15 Circuit Training Routines to choose from.

Plus, there’s a Batman workout hidden in there. You’re welcome.

We create custom HIIT programs for busy people like you that are ACTUALLY fun. If you’re looking for a supportive coach to guide you and tell you exactly what to do each day, we got you covered!



If you just want a beginner circuit to get started with, you can try out our Beginner Bodyweight Workout Routine. Plus you can download a free worksheet to track your progress with this circuit when you join the Rebellion below:

Oh, what’s that? You want to have even MORE fun while getting the benefits of HIIT? 

Sure. Let’s think outside the box:

Basketball, tennis, soccer, and Ultimate (frisbee) are AMAZING styles of exercise that use interval training (it’s all start and stop!).

Run here, catch this, and wait for the next round to start.

That’s what we’re looking for in a HIIT workout.

So pick a form of FUN exercise that gets your heart racing faster and slower throughout the activity (yes, I suppose even THAT activity would count).

Is HIIT Good for Losing Weight? Is Interval Training Good for Losing Weight?

My guess is that you’re reading this article because you’re trying to get the most efficient “bang for your buck” when it comes to getting in shape.

And HIIT is a great form of exercise and COULD help with weight loss.

I will, however, lower some of these outlandish claims that exist in the media.

For example, Time magazine calls HIIT “miraculous” in one article.[8]

That’s a little much, even for me, who writes for a living on why you should work out and likes using hyperbole for effect.

Seriously, I’m better at it than ANYBODY ON THE PLANET.

Ahem.

Cardio, strength training, and HIIT all have many benefits.

However, a meta-study reviewed HIIT compared to steady-state cardio, specially looking at fat loss.

The results?

They found no real difference.[9]

As researchers noted:

Regular exercise is an integral component of long-term weight management. However, unless implemented in very large volumes, short-term exercise in isolation (including HIIT) is unlikely to produce clinically meaningful fat loss.

What’s that mean?

As long as your energy expenditure is the same (and you’re in a caloric deficit), steady-state cardio is equivalent to HIIT for fat loss.

In other words, if you want to lose body fat, how you eat will be responsible for 80% of your success or failure.

It doesn’t matter how many intervals you do – it’s not gonna help you lose weight if you don’t also fix your nutrition.

You can read our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating if you want more information, which will help you build a plate like this:

And if you want to download our free 10-level Nutrition Guide to help you fix your diet starting today, you can do so by signing up in the box below:

Getting Started with Interval Training

When it’s time to advance your high-intensity interval training, think about the following:

Frequency. This would be the number of intervals in your workout.
Intensity. How hard are you going in each interval?
Time. How long are your intervals and rest periods?

Maybe you start out doing 3 intervals of intense running.

Once it becomes routine, bring it up to 4.

Maybe you crank the resistance on your stationary bike to “8” during your intense interval. When it becomes normal, bring it up to “10.”

Maybe you do pull-ups for 20 seconds. When you’ve got a good handle on that, aim for 30 seconds.

This mindset will keep you advancing in interval training.

Consistency is the name of the game here. Even just doing a HIIT workout once a week will help you progress in all three categories.

For more ideas on how to improve workout consistency, check out this video from Coach Jim:

Oh, and if you want help along the way, don’t forget about our Online Coaching Program:



Mistakes to Avoid When Doing High-Intensity Interval Training

There’s a lot to consider when embarking on a HIIT practice.

No matter which routine you end up starting with, make sure you follow these words of wisdom:

Ease into it. As the saying goes, “you must walk before you can run.” The importance is building a HIIT practice. If you need to go “less intense” before progressing to “intense,” that’s fine. It’ll help build your aerobic capabilities (endurance), which will be important when working on intensity. Start with walking.
Keep proper form. Doing your movements correctly will help prevent injury. Here’s how to run properly. This is even more critical in your later intervals, where you may be exhausted and tired. If you find yourself breaking form, go ahead and slow down. Intense isn’t worth an injury.
Get rest. Our bodies actually build muscle while we are resting. So take some “off days” from your HIIT practice. Want to stay active on these days? Do some fun exercise!

Take it easy, focus on your form, and make sure to prioritize rest.

HIIT Timer Recommendations

HIIT centers on doing intervals.

One moment it’s intense, the next you’re onto a short rest break.

A good way to know when it’s time to go from one sequence to the next is a timer. A loud “beep” can tell you when it’s okay to catch your breath or when you have to kick it in gear.

Here are 5 HIIT timers you can try out:

Runtastic. Don’t let the name fool you, this free app is for more than just running. You can customize for many different interval workouts, depending on what exercise you go with. And the interface looks slick.
Seconds. It’s free and customizable to any form of HIIT. It can also integrate with your music, which is pretty sweet.
Seven. If you’re new to HIIT, Seven would be a good app for you. It’s free, plus it has illustrations for exercises. You also get to customize your own virtual personal trainer, which may be the future of fitness. The bots are coming…
Sworkit. First off, it’s a clever name (taken from “Simply Work It.”) Second, it’s free. Third, it can display your workout, goals, and calories burned. I like it.
J&J Official Seven Minute Workout. This free app from Johnson & Johnson is actually really awesome. It has premade workouts you can choose form based on your fitness level, or tweak them to make it your own.

Also, we need to talk about interval timers. Most of the apps referenced are completely customizable.

For example, you can change the intense interval from 120 seconds to 90 seconds.

This is critical because it’s up to you to decide how long you can do intense vs. rest.

Generally, folks recommend one minute of intensity and then two for rest when doing HIIT.

However, this all depends on the individual, and exercises performed.

For example, burpees are tougher to do than jumping over a rope:

So feel free to make changes like 30 seconds of intensity and three minutes of rest. Make it your own.

Whatever way you chose to do HIIT, is fine, as long as you actually do it. The benefits of HIIT kick in when going HARD for you.

In other words, you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to get the benefits of HIIT.[10]

A light jog totally works. Just don’t do it in a mascot costume.

As we discussed, if you’re consistent, you’ll improve.

So don’t stress about where you have to start.

For now, download an app and get going. Ours will help you train with HIIT too:

I hate multiple choice. Pick a HIIT workout for me!

Let’s power walk as our form of HIIT. 

This is an example of a beginner HIIT workout we might prescribe for our Coaching Clients who are starting to train for their first 5K.

Let’s do seven intervals, two minutes each:

Warm-up. For three minutes, walk at an easy pace.
Intervals. For the first 60 seconds, power walk, like you’re trying to beat someone to the front of the line at Starbucks.
For the next 60 seconds, just walk.
Repeat six more times.
Cool down. You can do some more light walking, or a little bit of stretching here would be great.

Total time: 20 minutes.

I want to stress, that you can do just about any exercise in exchange for this routine. Just minus “power walk” and add “push-ups and bodyweight squats”

It’ll still be a great HIIT workout.

“But Steve, that’s still multiple choice!”

Right, right… sorry. Stick to power walking! Done!

How to Start Interval Training now

Do our power walking routine above. It’s a great place to start.

Remember, our goal at this stage is to “build the habit.

We can work on “whoa, that was intense” later.

If you’re looking for EVEN MORE stuff to do, we have a few options for ya:

1) Check out our popular 1-on-1 coaching program. You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who will get to know you better than you know yourself and program your workouts and nutrition for you.



2) Exercising at home and need a plan to follow? Check out Nerd Fitness Journey!

Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Enlist in the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion. 

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll help you start incorporating interval training into your workouts.

There are a zillion ways to do HIIT, so don’t let the options paralyze you.

Pick one. Anyone. And get to it.

Interval training, in any form, is a solid fitness choice and a great practice to have in the workout arsenal.

Any questions?

Which HIIT workout style is your favorite?

Leave it in the comments below!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our content on interval training:

The HIIT Workout for Home
How to Do Tabata Sprints
Should You Do Couch to 5K?

###

All photo credits can be found in this footnote.[11]

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

Check out that article from ACSP here.
Read Tabata’s original study here.
You can find that study here.
Check out the one such study on HIIT and insulin resistance here. Another can be read right here.
Check out the comparison of HIIT and regular cardio on heart health here.
Said article.
There’s that meta-study .
This study demonstrated the benefits of HIIT on ‘recreational active’ participates, showing that the Tabata principles work on regular folks too, not just Olympic athletes.
Photo: Biking on a Rail, Countryside Ride, Plundering in Koln, Marina Pissarova © 123RF.com, Brian Jackson © 123RF.com, Ivan Smuk © 123RF.com, Mermaid, Stranded, Troll, Stopwatch, Trooper, Jump

The post 3 HIIT Workouts for Beginners: Start Interval Training and Sprint Running! first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

Read More »

A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking: Everything You Need For Your First Hike!

Before you step foot in the great outdoors, read this guide!

There’s nothing more embarrassing than a city slicker getting lost in the woods, so let’s make sure you know where you’re going, what to wear, and what to bring.

That way your first hike will be fun, adventurous, and more importantly safe!

Today we will cover:

How Do I Find Hiking Trails Near Me? (How to Start Hiking)
What Shoes Do I Wear Hiking? (Proper Footwear)
What Do I Wear While Hiking? (Clothing)
How Much Water Should I Bring on My Hike?
What Gear Should I Bring on My Hike? (Sunscreen, Knives, and First Aid Kits)
What Food Should I Bring Hiking? What Should I Eat on a Day Hike?
7 Hiking Tips for Beginners.

I’m happy you’re excited about hiking and I can’t wait for you to get started!

I took the above picture while hiking through Killarney National Park in Ireland many years ago, and every time I look at it, I can’t help but think of Tolkien’s Middle-earth masterpiece, so I apologize (not really) for all of the Lord of the Rings nerdery running throughout this post!

Our community members love hiking too. In fact, one of our recent success stories specifically cited hiking as one of the fun activities she loved to do to help her lose 50 pounds:

By the end of today’s post, my goal is to have you pick a trail, pick a date, and identify a fella or gal to join your fellowship (galship?).

Before we jump in, are you here because you’re learning to hike to lose weight? Did you hear it’s a fun way to exercise and get your body moving?

If so, you’ve come to the right place!

As I mentioned, some clients in our uber-popular 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program used hiking as part of their weight loss training. These folks would rather head outside than jump on a treadmill, and our coaches designed a program so they could do just that!

Here’s how it works: your NF Coach will build a custom workout plan based on your experience level and goals. Training to climb up a literal mountain? Maybe you need to get rid of an old ring? We’ll create a plan to get you to the top!



Alright, let’s get you hiking!

How Do I Find Hiking Trails Near Me? (How to Start Hiking)

When you think of hiking, you might imagine a bunch of road-tested perma-travelers with oversized backpacks, hiking through epic mountains for weeks upon weeks at a time. 

Or maybe, a pair of hobbits setting out on a worldwide adventure to destroy a ring of awe-inspiring power.

If you’re just beginning your journey to a better lifestyle, just thinking about serious hiking can be enough to keep you inside your comfy hobbit hole.

Although hiking can be an epic undertaking, it doesn’t need to be!

A hike also can be super simple and fun:

A quick jaunt (such a great word, right?) around your local park after work.
Exploring the woods behind your house with your kids on a Saturday morning.
A half-day hike with your friends on a fun nature trail.
A full day or overnight hike that also includes camping.

Here’s my definition for hiking: A person (or halfing, or self-aware robot) exploring their surroundings and their feet are on the actual ground. Like, dirt. And grass.

Some might say it needs to be difficult, have a certain elevation change, require a blah blah blah. It literally doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you go outside and do something you wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Here in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, hikers would fall into the Adventurer class.

If you’re looking for a fun “cardio” activity and want to exercise in a way that’s exciting, hiking is a great way to get your legs, feet, and body used to some strenuous activity.

You get to pick your speed and difficulty, and you can always find the right amount of challenge for you.

HIKING 101: 5 STEPS TO PLAN OUT YOUR ADVENTURE

1) Decide how long you have to hike

This is a beginner’s guide to hiking, we’re not looking to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Instead, we want to start with trails that can be done in less than a day, that won’t require you to pack a tent, or bring an extra change of clothes. Pick a hike based on how much time you have – do you have the entire Sunday? Or do you just have a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon? It took Frodo and Sam 6 months to get to Mordor, but you probably don’t have that much time.

However, if you DID want to “walk to Mordor,” I got you covered there too. You’re welcome!

2) Decide if you’ll be hiking solo or with a friend/group

I love hiking solo – it’s mobile meditation for me.  However, it’s also more dangerous should anything happen while you’re out on the trail! If you’re heading into the wilderness, I’d recommend buddying up with a friend or your significant other for your hike. It’s the perfect bonding opportunity. This is especially true if they have more hiking experience or they know the area that you’re hiking in.

3) Determine your level

If you are a hiking newbie and out of shape, sending yourself out on an eight-hour hike through the unmapped wilderness isn’t a great idea.

Start slow, and pick places around your town that will allow you to stop when necessary and get back to your car or home quickly. No need to be a hero; it’s always better to come back excited and say “wow that was easier than I expected!” than to realize you’re six hours from home and out of steam. Well, being a hero is cool. But not THAT kind of hero.

4) Pick your hiking location

Keep it simple! Go to AllTrails.com, put in your zip code, find your hiking trail!

Or pull up Google Maps and look for big green plots of land. We call those “parks.” Google the park name, learn about it, and decide if that’s where you want to go. Do not overcomplicate this step. Just get started.

Ask your active, adventurous friends or coworkers if they know any good spots.

The world is FULL of hiking trails and awesomeness – you just need to know where to look.

5) Regardless of where you are going, let somebody else know where and when

If you are out hiking alone, take the time to email or call somebody and let him know that you’ll be hiking and when you expect to be back.

We don’t want to hear about any 127 Hours[1] stories on NF…that would make playing video games way more difficult.

You don’t need to tell them the brand of your underwear (please tell me you’re wearing underwear) or how many almonds you’re bringing, but let them know the important details so if they don’t hear back from you by a certain time they know to alert the proper authorities.

So right now, you should have answers to the following questions:

How much time you can dedicate to hiking.
Who you will be hiking with.
Your level of experience
Using AllTrails.com or GoogleMaps to pick your hiking location.
Who you will tell about your hiking experience.
How much XP will I earn by doing this?

That last point is about our fun new habit-building app, which allows you to level up (literally) by going on walks or hikes.

You can try it for free right here:

What Shoes Do I Wear Hiking? (Proper Footwear)

This is simple: stilettos, your favorite mini skirt, a fishnet halter top, and a vest made out of raw meat. You’re welcome!

Wait, don’t do that.

I’m a big fan of being comfortable without breaking the bank. Like, you probably already have most of the clothing you need to go hiking.

WHAT SHOES SHOULD I WEAR TO HIKE IN?

We cover footwear extensively in our healthy feet article, but I’ll cover shoes specifically in the case of hiking here.

We at Nerd Fitness are huge fan of Merrell products – Merrell shoes of various types have treated me well for the past decade.

Just don’t let a lack of quality hiking boots keep you from a hike. If you’re concerned, pick an easy-paced hike with your current shoes to be safe and ramp up when you can ramp up your gear!

Some people hike the Appalachian Trail in their bare feet (must be part-Hobbit), so whatever you do: don’t let your footwear options keep you from getting started. Just make sure you break your shoes in and take them on test drives! Don’t take the tags off a new pair of shoes and then go on a multi-day hike – that’s a recipe for blisters and a miserable time.

Okay, let’s look at our feet. 

Now that we’ve done that, let’s look at some shoe options:

LEVEL ONE: Hiking shoes – “hiking shoes” are great if you’re going to be doing simple day hikes or hiking occasionally: they have a good grip on the bottom, give you enough support, but aren’t too heavy that they are a hindrance.

Here are my favorite options if you are in the market for some new basic walking/hiking shoes:

Merrell Vent Hiking Shoe
Merrell Trail Glove 4 (Men) – I have the blue ones. They rock.
Merrell Trail Glove 4 (women)

Oh, what’s that? “Steve, I don’t have hiking shoes! Is this the end of the world?

Well, do you have any sort of athletic shoe? Depending on the grip on the bottom, they could be decently okay for you to get started with when it comes to a basic hike. If sneakers are your only option, lace em up, pick a beginner hike, and see how they do. Just be careful on slippery surfaces – your kicks might not give you the grip you need to get over them.

LEVEL TWO – Hiking boots – I don’t hike enough or do enough multi-day hikes to justify the cost of hiking boots, but again I would point to Merrell boots if you’re in the market.

“Why boots over shoes, Steve?” 

Although many prefer trail shoes (like yours truly), I can absolutely see the value in a great pair of hiking boots if you’re going on a serious hike, traveling for multiple days, or more. They have more ankle support, thicker tread, thicker shoes, and provide your feet with significantly more protection.

REI has a great article helping you pick between Trail shoes and Trail boots. My advice? Start with what you currently have before deciding whether or not to invest in big boots. Once you build up the habit of hiking and decide you want to make it a bigger part of your life, you can make the investment.

My advice? If you are going to buy boots, go to a professional store, get fitted properly, and then break them in over many weeks before going out on a trail.

WEIRD BUT FUN FOR SIMPLE HIKES: Vibram FiveFingers I hiked all around the globe, in various situations, wearing my Vibrams for close to 4 years. They made me feel like a ninja monkey and a hobbit. I got weird looks, but something just felt right about being able to feel the contours of the ground beneath me. I will say, when hiking in Vibrams it can be easier to twist an ankle when stepping on a root or rock, stepping on sharp rocks can hurt, so I found myself watching my feet much more than expected.

These days, I’m much more of a trail shoe kind of guy, but some still swear by Vibrams!

If you’re in the market for buying new boots, this quick video is a good primer:

WHAT SOCKS SHOULD YOU WEAR?

If you’re wearing boots or sneakers, you want to wear socks that aren’t going to give you blisters or make your feet all sweaty and gross.

Depending on how long the hike is, how serious you are about hiking, and your budget, you can look into merino-wool socks.

Like the rest of your outfit, what you wear on your feet will largely be dependent on a few things:

Weather! Are you hiking in the forest and it’s 72 degrees out? Or are you hiking up the side of the mountain in cold conditions?
Shoes! Are you in lightweight hiking shoes, lightweight hiking socks for the win. Hiking in big boots in cold months? Big thick warm socks are almost a requirement.
Budget! Are you shopping for specific socks? Tall or short? Great. If you are brand new to hiking, just wear whatever athletic socks you wear while exercising.
What’s the environment? If you’re hiking through grass, tall plants, etc. I’d go with tall socks (with your pants possibly tucked into them too). You’re not out there to win a fashion show!

Here’s Switchback Travel’s best hiking socks of 2018, and here’s a great article from Art of Manliness on proper feet care after a hike or ruck

What Do I Wear While Hiking? (Clothing)

SHOULD I WEAR PANTS OR SHORTS?

Pro tip: Don’t go pantless through the wilderness. I cannot stress this enough.

The real advice when it comes to pants/shorts is heavily dependent upon your environment. If it’s going to be cold, shorts might keep you shivering. If it’s going to be hot, pants might get too uncomfortable.

Jeans? Ehhhhh. Sure. ONLY if it’s going to be a comfortable temperature and you have no other option. Being sweaty and hot while wearing jeans isn’t very fun.

I’m a big fan of my nerd pants – the Columbia Silver Ridge pants. Although they look kind of goofy, they’re incredibly lightweight, dry quickly, and can transform from pants to shorts in mere seconds!

Traveling through woods, not sure what you’ll encounter? Wear lightweight pants. I am horribly allergic to poison ivy and who knows what else, so I like to keep as much of my body covered while hiking to make sure I don’t make contact with anything I’m allergic to. [2]

WHAT TYPE OF SHIRT SHOULD I WEAR? 

My favorite options are merino wool long shirts and t-shirts: they’re light, wick away moisture, hide odors, and breathe well – though you will be paying top dollar for them.

If you’re just starting out, pick an old t-shirt and rock that – you can work on optimizing performance once you’ve got a few hikes under your belt.

If you’re on a multi-day hike in various conditions then having lightweight merino wool shirts you can layer and not need to wash would be great. But just going for a hike in the woods in your backyard? Whatever you would wear while running, training, etc. Aka whatever won’t chafe!

SHOULD I BRING A JACKET?

I’ve been wearing this Mountain Hardware jacket on most of my hikes and it has been awesome (10 years and counting) – very lightweight so packing it isn’t a hassle, waterproof so it keeps me dry when it rains, and heavy enough to block the wind to keep me warm when it’s chilly.

Don’t go out of your way to buy a new jacket if you have a decent windbreaker, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking or you’re in the market for a new coat, here’s my advice: go to a local store and try out all of the jackets until you find one you like.

Once you find the perfect jacket, go home and check online (you can sometimes find the same jacket for up to 60% less) – then, ask the local store if they’ll price match or just buy it online.

SHOULD I WEAR A HAT?

You should definitely bring a hat. I’m usually rocking my Nerd Fitness hat or my Red Sox hat (booo Yankees), but while hiking in Australia I wore a hat with a giant floppy brim to keep my ears and face protected from the sun.

The tops of your ears and back of your neck are highly susceptible to getting burned while on the trail, so either get some sunscreen or wear a hat that keeps them covered.

The same is true for keeping pesky things out of your hair, the sun from burning your ears and face, and keep you a bit cooler.

WHAT KIND OF BACKPACK SHOULD I BRING?

Digging into the ins and outs of backpacks is far beyond the scope of this article. I’d recommend you check out my friend Chase’s Bag Review Youtube channel – guaranteed to be the most fun you’ll ever have learning about bags.

So what would I recommend for a beginner on a hike? The bag you currently have! If you’re going on a short hike, you can start with simply whatever bag you have. The lighter and comfier it is, the better.

Multi-day hikes where you’re living out of your bag, packing up, and building a tent each day – this is beyond the scope of this article. I have rocked a Kelty Coyote bag that I’ve lived out of for months at a time, and have also used on multi-day hikes.

If you have the means and the time, and you’re planning to go on certain hikes, go to an outdoor specialty store, speak with a professional, and get fitted for your body type and the type of hike you’re doing!

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: VERSATILITY

If your weather forecast is “75 and sunny,” and you’re hiking for the afternoon through a gradually sloping wooded forest, you can severely limit what you’re bringing with you.

If it’s questionable or looks like things might change during the day, versatility is your best bet – a jacket, pants that can become shorts, a long sleeve shirt that you can take off or roll the sleeves up, etc.

Don’t go out and buy all new stuff until you’re sure hiking is an activity you want to invest in. Borrow from friends, make do with what you have

Just get started.

BY NOW YOU SHOULD HAVE A ROUGH IDEA OF WHAT YOU WILL BE WEARING! 

In your head you should be saying, “Steve how can you read my mind?!

I just decided:

I’d hike in my current gym sneakers.
I have a pair of gardening pants and tall socks I can wear.
I have a floppy hat.

I feel like I’m good to go!

Perfect.

How Much Water Should I Bring On My Hike?

If there’s ONE thing you should not leave home without, it’s a water container so you can stay hydrated.

“How much water should I be drinking on my hike, Steve?”

Great question. I knew you were smart from the moment you started reading this article.

You should be drinking 1 liter of water every two hours as a rough guideline. Increase this amount if you are hiking in very warm/desert climates.

FAVORITE WATER CONTAINERS:

I’m partial to stainless steel bottles or aluminum bottles over Nalgene or reused plastic bottles, but make do with what you have.  Just make sure you bring enough water with you to keep you hydrated through your adventure.

Going on longer hikes?

Get yourself a hydration backpack (which can double as your hiking pack!) to transplant water more conveniently.

Not only that but make sure you have been consuming water before you go hiking so that you’re not starting at a hydration deficit.

Hangovers + early morning hikes – water = bad news bears.

What Gear Should I Bring on My Hike? (Sunscreen, Knives, and First Aid Kits)

If you’re just getting started, I’m going to guess you won’t be climbing to the top of a mountain in Alaska, but rather going on an introductory hike that will help build your confidence and get you rolling.

Here’s what I’d recommend you bring with you on your adventure:

SunscreenIf it’s sunny outside and you’re hiking through the woods or up a mountain with a cool breeze in your face, you probably won’t be able to tell that your ears and face are getting absolutely torched. Get yourself some waterproof sweatproof sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum) to cover up those ears, cheeks, and back of your neck.
Bug spray especially if it’s “that time of the year” in your area where bugs are out in full force. Nothing worse than coming home to arms and legs covered in bug bites.
First aid kit – Having some first aid stuff with you is a good idea: band-aids and moleskin for blisters and cuts, Neosporin or some type of disinfectant for cuts/scrapes, and maybe a bandage or two just in case. Outdoor stores sell travel first aid kits (as does Amazon), but I’d advise you to make your own (you should have these things in your medicine cabinet anyway – and then you’ll know exactly where everything is!).
Pocket knife – Not essential if you’re in a park, but a good thing to have with you out in the woods so you’re prepared for anything. Like McGyver.
Sunglasses – No need to go blind while out on the trail. You probably already have sunglasses floating around your house: I’d recommend bringing the $5 ones rather than $250 Ray-Bans.
Cellphone – a phone can help bail you out in case of an emergency, and if you have a smartphone it can multitask as your compass, distance tracker, mapper, and so on. Even if you have a cellphone, bringing a compass or GPS system isn’t a bad idea (unless it’s bright and sunny and you’re good at orienting yourself).

If you’re going on a longer hike, bringing a lightweight phone charger that you can use to charge your phone up quickly is usually pretty easy.

What Food Should I Bring Hiking? What Should I Eat on a Day Hike?

FOOD!

You know, the stuff that keeps us alive.

The answer to this will vary greatly depending on how long you plan on hiking for, the time of day, your love of snacking, so the advice here is going to largely mirror the advice we give in our nutritional posts!

Although by no means a complete list of snacks, this is usually what I like to pack in my bag before a hike:

Nuts – Almonds or walnuts. Great for snacking on, loaded w/ healthy fat and protein. Nut butters are a good healthy fat option too – my favorite is Trader Joe’s raw unsalted almond butter. Ingredient: almonds! They are high in calorie content however, so if you are trying to lose weight, don’t do a 10-minute walk and eat 4000 calories worth of nuts. We in the business like to call that “counterproductive.”
Fruit – I throw two or three apples in my bag; apples and nuts mean I’ve pretty much got all of the fat, protein, and carbs I need for my day. Things like bananas, raisins, and other fruit are good options as well – pick based on your personal preference and tastes. Just be careful with dried fruit, because it can have lots of sugar and calories, so don’t kid yourself into eating 5000 calories worth of dried fruit and call it healthy! It’s something we explore in-depth in our guide “Is Fruit Healthy?
Beef jerky! Make your own or go with some high-quality store-bought stuff. Lots of protein, easy to pack, and keeps well. Mmmmmm.

What about trail mix or granola bars? You’d probably think granola bars and trail mix are synonymous with hiking, but I’m actually not a fan of either unless they’re homemade – these products are usually loaded with salt/sugar and processed grains and are pretty damn unhealthy.

If you’re gonna go with trail mix, make your own with dried fruit and raw unsalted nuts. If you DON’T have other options, tossing a few granola bars in the bag isn’t the end of the world.

More food advice here:

Primal Trail Food

A book (optional) – I LOVE READING (more than I love lowercase letters), so I always travel with my Kindle. Although hiking with friends can be fun, I also get a huge thrill out of hiking out to a remote location overlooking a valley or sitting on the edge of a river with a book so that I can spend a few hours getting lost in a story.

If it’s a multi-day hike and you’re avoiding technology, then bringing a dead tree book is worth the extra weight in your bag!

A camera (optional) – Although I have a camera that I travel with, most of the pictures I’ve been taking recently have been done with my iPhone using apps like Camera+ or ProHDR (which I freaking love). Both apps are worth the price.

You don’t need to be a great photographer, just need to capture the moment to look back on fondly as a crotchety old grandpa. Obviously, if you’re a serious photographer, you’ve already planned to pack your DSLR so I won’t get into that.

Seven Hiking Tips for Beginners

KNOW THE LOCAL WILDLIFE! Do a quick search of your hike to know what sorts of critters you’ll encounter on the trail. If you are hiking in bear country or snake country, these are things it’s very important to know. Whether it’s carrying a can of bear mace or knowing what to look for, this can help you prevent serious problems. Also, watch out for wild ostriches.
CLEAN UP, CHECK FOR TICKS – if you’re in a heavily wooded area and carving through the wilderness, check yourself for ticks and make sure you take a shower with hot water and soap immediately when you get home in case you came in contact with any poisonous plants or things like that. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up with a swollen face as a kid because of my hike through poison ivy the day before.
AIM FOR THE HIGH GROUND – I love hiking to tall things: the top of a mountain, the high point in a town, the roof of a building. It gives you a great halfway point to stop, eat some lunch or dinner, and enjoy the view; plus, you already know exactly how far you need to go on your way down. One piece of advice on going DOWN a steep mountain or a lot of steps: Shorten your stride, and take care to land on the balls of your feet with a bent knee if possible – if you’re landing on your heels for thousands of steps, it can wreak havoc on your knees and joints as there’s no shock absorption. I remember how sore my knees were the day after hiking down Colca Canyon in Peru with my buddy Cash because I didn’t make an effort to soften my steps and take care of my body.
URBAN HIKING – “But Steve I live in a city, I can’t go hiking!” Why the hell not? Load up your backpack, map out a route on Google Maps, maybe even find a tall building – avoid the elevator, climb the steps. Or walk until you find a park, sit on a bench, and read a book. Sure, it’s not the same as hiking the Rockies, but it will still get your heart pumping and feet moving! Like The Goonies teaches us, adventure can be found in your own backyard with the right attitude!
KEEP TRACK OF IT – If you have an iPhone or Android, download a hiking or running app to keep track of how far you go and how much hiking you do. Although I haven’t been tracking my hikes abroad (I leave my phone in Airplane mode while traveling), I’ve heard great things about RunKeeper and EasyTrails. If you have more apps or suggestions on how to keep track of your hikes, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them here. I personally use a cheap Fitbit Flex 2, which tracks my steps and elevation. Good enough!
GEOCACHING – Great fun can be had while geocaching. Simply go to the website, track your location, and then decide on which cache you’re going to track down. Think of it as a real-life version of Indiana Jones or Uncharted, minus the Nazis and undead warriors. We geocached around Sydney for a Nerd Fitness meetup, and it was delightful!
GIVE A HOOT, DON’T POLLUTE – Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring anything with you, it better be coming back with you. Don’t leave trash in the woods, and pick up any extra trash you see out there. The wilderness thanks you for your service, citizen!

Not all those who wander are lost (sTART hIKING tODAY)

This article is just a primer, meant to whet your appetite and make you excited to go hiking and exploring the wonderful world around us. 

Here are a few other resources on hiking if you want more information.  Feel free to let me know more in the comments:

Tips for Primal/Paleo Hiking
Hiking Emergencies on Art of Manliness
American Hiking Society

I challenge you to plan a hike for this upcoming weekend. YES, even if you’re in the opposite hemisphere and it’s really cold out!

Get some great snacks, strap on your shoes, grab a friend, and go explore.

I’d love to hear from you about the place you’re going hiking this weekend.

Leave a comment below and let me know:

Where you’re going.
When you’re going.
And what you’re most excited about!
Promise that you won’t hike pants-less.
Any tips you have for your fellow hikers.

-Steve

PS: Still unsure if you’ll be ready for your big hike? I’ll again remind you of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. We have clients who successfully used the program to train for hiking up large mountains, and we’d love to see if we can help you too!

PPS: If Coaching ain’t your bag, you can always use our new app to jumpstart your new adventures!

###

photo credit: 77krc Mixed Nuts

All other photos from my Photostream

 

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

The dude went hiking alone, got trapped under a rock, and had to cut his own arm off to get free and survive
True story: when I was a little kid, I made myself a little bow and arrow (trying to be like Link) and unknowingly feathered my homemade arrows with poison ivy leaves. My face swelled up for 2 weeks

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking: Everything You Need For Your First Hike! first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

Read More »