How to go about building strength when you struggle to pick up a shopping bag.

Image: iStock.

Fitness experts will always tell you it’s important to include strength training in your fitness regimen, alongside cardio and resistance work.

But when you’re a weakling who audibly groans when lifting a shopping bag — and not even the one that contains all your canned tomatoes — the thought of doing anything requiring strength can be daunting.

If this sounds like you, rest assured you’re not alone. Interestingly, Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates just one per cent of Australian women train with weights regularly.

Sure, it might be intimidating, but strength training has some brilliant benefits for your fitness and overall health.

It can boost your metabolism, increase your bone density, improve your balance, and protect against health conditions like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

So with that in mind... how, exactly, does a muscularly-challenged human go about building up their strength?

Drop the weights

According to Nadine Veverka, personal trainer and founder of tailored health, beauty and wellbeing program Her Master Plan, immediately reaching for the nearest, heaviest-looking dumbbell is a ticket to Injury Town. Instead, put the weight of your own fine body to use.

"Start by mastering correct execution and good technique of exercises using your body weight before you even think about introducing any load... If you have never done any type of strength training in the past, it is vital you start this way," Veverka explains.


Watch: Ex-Bachelor Sam Wood demonstrates a simple 5-step bodyweight circuit you can try. (Post continues after video.)

The best thing about bodyweight training? You don't need any fancy, expensive equipment, and you can do it anywhere. Veverka says it's best to consult with a professional trainer who is aware of your goals before you start; otherwise, you can find basic strength routines online.

Things to remember

Particularly when you're getting started, Veverka says there are two important pointers to keep in mind. The first is that strength training should be functional — unless bodybuilding is your goal.

"This means movement should be linked back to how the resulting strength will enhance your everyday life. For example, a squat pattern will assist in picking things up from the floor," she explains.

Secondly, you should be paying close attention your technique and posture throughout the workout.

"Strength training can lead to injury and be detrimental to your posture if performed incorrectly. Make sure you are keeping your core engaged and maintain focus on the muscles you are using to complete the exercise," Veverka says.

Pushups are one example of a bodyweight exercise. (iStock)


A simple routine

Ready to work on those meek muscles of yours? Veverka reckons basic moves and simple repetition patterns are the way to go. Here's a circuit to get you started:

8-10 push-ups with 8-10 squats (repeat three times)
8-10 bent over rows with 8-10 deadlifts (repeat three times)
8-10 alternating reverse lunge with three max plank holds

"Progressively add load to these exercises as you go, starting with a couple of light dumbbells or even water bottles," Veverka adds. (Post continues after gallery.)

 What's too much?

Yes, getting started is vital — but you want to make sure you're not unknowingly over-working yourself.

It might sound odd, but Veverka says having sore muscles after a strength workout is actually a good sign. This is because building muscles requires the tiny fibres in your muscles to tear and then recover.

However, there's a limit. "If you are unable to get out of bed, or you feel the pain is not muscular, you have probably gone too hard," she explains.

"Listen to your body and check in with how you feel when performing day-to-day tasks. If you are struggling to walk up the stairs or can’t bend down, take a rest day and pull back on intensity."

As with anything fitness related, see your GP or a physio if you're worried the pain might be something more serious.

Have you tried strength training? How did you get started?