Why You Should Start Lightweight Workouts

By Anika Nayak

A lot of people barely get time for a workout amidst their bustling life. When they do get a few minutes for training, it’s no surprise they end up doing HITT –– enticed by the fact that it is the only workout to produce quick results in a short amount of time. HITT, also known as “high interval intensity training, “ has been incredibly popular for the past few years in the fitness space. This famous training entails short periods of working at maximum capacity (as little as 30 to 45 seconds) with intervals of rest in between. Even though HITT has quite a few health benefits, it’s essential to incorporate lightweight workouts for a balanced fitness routine. 

Specifically, doing HITT all the time can activate your body’s stress response, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The extreme effort you exert in HITT leads to your body releasing stress hormones, intended to help you respond to any perceived dangers. Over time, your body can get used to the stress response and release too much cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite, retains fat, and weakens your immune system, says Harvard Health. A 2018 study found that doing just one 23-minute HITT session a week provided the same benefits as doing three 23-minute HITT sessions in a week. 

You’re probably wondering –– what other exercises could you do the other days of the week? “Try isolated work to get your muscles in shape, which is just as important as compound movement,” says Holly Roser, CPT, a certified personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness Studio. She recommends trying lightweight workouts, which offers some of the same benefits of HITT workouts like burning fat and boosting performance but requires fewer weights and exertion. “These exercises can help stabilize your joints, correct any muscular imbalances, and stabilize weaker muscles in the body,” says Roser. 

The best part –– lightweight workouts are super accessible and can be done from almost anywhere. It requires little to no equipment, unlike HITT workouts. “You can use cans, packets of frozen vegetables, gallons of milk, or even your own bodyweight to do lightweight exercises. For small muscle groups, you don’t even need that much weight to strengthen them, but make sure you are doing more repetition,” says Roser. In order to maintain your elevated heart rate and muscles burning, slowly decrease your time between sets, she recommends. It’s a journey –– start small and grow over time, adding more sets and reps and reducing breaks between sets as needed. 

To get started on your lightweight workouts, try these 3 key moves from Meghan Trainor, CPT, a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and founder of Body By Trainor

1. Overhead Tricep Extensions – Hold arms straight up overhead, holding the bell end of the dumbbell with both hands. Keeping elbows tight and close to head, bend arms and lower the weight behind your head. Work towards a 90 degree angle and then press the dumbbell overhead to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 3 times, completing 12-15 repetitions. This exercise is great to tone the back of your arms. 

2. Goblet Squats – Hold one dumbbell at the bell end, bend arms and rest forearms against your chest. Dumbbell should be right under your chin. Step feet slightly farther than shoulder width apart. Bend knees into a squat, pressing hips back, holding core in and chest lifted. Try to create a 90 degree angle with your legs. Press into heels and stand back to the starting position. Complete 3 rounds and 12-15 repetitions each. This is a great exercise for the quads and glutes.

3. Bent over rows – Hinge from the hips, slight bend in your knees, Back at a slight angle, chest facing the floor. Hang your arms straight down, holding a dumbbell in each arm. Bend arms and pull the weights into your chest, elbows tight to your sides and pointing back behind you. Squeeze shoulder blades together and hold for a count. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Complete 12-15 repetitions and 3 rounds. This exercise is great for your lower back.