Today, in my at-home exercise series, Jennifer Nyp from Zen Girl Fitness explains why it’s so important to incorporate weights and strength training into your workout routine, even at the expense of some cardio. Personally, I noticed a much bigger difference in weight/inches lost when I dedicated the majority of my workout time to strength training and pilates as opposed to running or the tread mill. (With Jen, she always had us run for ten minutes first, just to get our heart rate up for the rest of the workout.) I actually need that reminder while I’m out at the house. I’m finding it’s much easier to go for a long mindless run and then cross “exercise” off my list, when dedicating that time to serious strength training would be much more effective.

I used to be a cardio junkie. Even though I used weights with my clients, I preferred to focus on cardio when I worked out on my own. Then, about 15 years ago, one of my clients bought a Pilates reformer/Cadillac machine for her apartment and convinced me to get certified. The changes I saw in my body were unbelievable. Even though I had less time for cardio, I was working my muscles in a new way every day. I lost weight, I looked better and I felt better.

It changed how I think about exercise. I still love cardio and I will always be a runner, but now I make time for weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise for myself every week.

About 12 years ago, I got Kettlebell certified. The best part about strength training with kettlebells is that while you’re swinging the bells, your heart rate can get as high as when you are running or jumping rope. So, you’ve got the benefits of cardio and weight training in one.

Please watch my first video which shows you how to pick up a bell properly. Be safe and start with a weight that is not more then 18lbs. If you don’t have a Kettlebell, you can use a regular dumbbell for any of these exercises. The most important thing is adding weight to your fitness routine. You should do it 2-3x per week which will increase your muscle mass (not in a way that makes you bigger; don’t worry) and in turn, increase your metabolism which will help you lose or maintain your weight.

11 ways to incorporate kettlebells (or dumbbells) into your workout:

How to properly pick up a kettlebell & Move #1: Swings

Before lifting your kettlebell, watch this to learn how to do it properly. You don’t want to injure your back!

Move #2: One Arm Chest Press 

With a single leg bridge! Progress the number of reps, weight or speed of movement as you go.

Move #3: Bird Dog

Do this with a 3-5lbs. weight in hand. You can also add ankle weights form more challenge. Do 10-20 per side or time it!

Move #4: Side Plank

Adding a kettlebell or dumbbell arm lift. This is a great total body workout that really works your core!

Move #5: Butt Series

Do these side and back leg lifts with 5lbs. weights.

Move #6: Kettlebell Squat

To start, bend your knees back and far as you need to pick up the bell. Then stand up and push your pelvis forward. Repeat for 2-3 sets of 20 squats or time it for sets of 1-2minutes.

Move #7: One Arm Kettlebell Back Row in Arabesque Balance

Now, that’s a mouth full! But seriously, this is such an effective total body move that will challenge your core immensely. Do 15-20 reps on each side. For even more of a challenge you can lift and lower the leg with the arm.

Move #8: Figure Eight Lunges

You can do this with either the kettlebell or a heavy dumbbel. Do 10 on each leg, to the front and back if you can. If you have knee issues just go back.

Move #9: Kettlebell Windmill

Keep pressing back as if your back was against a wall!

Move #10: One Arm Kettlebell Swing

Time these and do a few sets of 30 seconds to 1 minute with each arm.

Move #11: Clean and Press

This is a bicep curl with an overhead press. Wrist guard can help if your wrist is sensitive.

Stay tuned for next Wednesday when Jen will teach us how to incorporate another piece from her list of recommended home gym equipment which you can find here.

You can follow Jennifer Nyp on Instagram at @zengirlfitness for more daily exercise ideas or if you live in Manhattan and want to work out with her private SOHO studio, you find her contact info here.