15 Circuit Training Routines: Try These Fast Workouts Anywhere!

circuit training is awesome, even dinosaurs love it

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:

How to Get in Shape Quickly and Safely: 4-Step Beginner Guide

This Stormtrooper is ready to get in shape!

This step-by-step strategy guide will tell you everything you need to do to lose weight and get healthy starting today.

I know you have lots of questions, and I promise I’ll answer every single one of them (yes, even that one).

These are the exact strategies we tailor to each 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients, and I’m excited to share them with you today.

In this guide we’ll discuss:

Four easy steps to obtain the Nerd Fitness “Triforce of Winning!”

“But Steve, ‘tri’ means three…”

…don’t worry about that, because Triforce!

Nerd Fitness Triforce of Winning

Either way, you got this.

You can read our overall philosophy below (which has helped hundreds of thousands of people), and help you get started today!

The Ultimate Guide for Functional Fitness: Exercises and Workout Plans

This is not the only time we'll see Batman in our article on functional fitness.

So you want to learn about functional fitness?

Great!

We create strength, balance, and flexibility workouts as part of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program, so you’ve come to the right place to learn about functional fitness.

Here’s what we’ll cover to answer the question: “What is Functional Fitness?

Let’s do this!

How To Build Your Own Workout Routine: Plans, Schedules, and Exercises

How do you become like this perfect man? Building your own workout will help!

I get multiple emails and messages per day asking:

“Steve, what should I do for a workout?”

Well, partner, today is your lucky day.

I’m gonna help build you a custom workout program, step-by-step! 

After all, a workout should be developed around a person’s age, goals, nutritional strategy, free time, etc.

Not only that, but it’s easy to overcomplicate this process – there are an infinite number of exercises, sets, reps, and programs to choose from.

Now, if you’re somebody that wants to skip all of that, and JUST want to be told what exactly to do: 

We build customized workouts for our Online Coaching Clients and would love to have you. We get to know your story and struggles, your goals, and your lifestyle, and develop a workout plan that fits your schedule.

Your coach can build a workout for you!

Now, if you’re more of a “figure this stuff out on my own” kind of person – we’re going to dig into how to build your own workout plan today!

We’ve also created a free resource for folks who want to build their own workout but would love some more specific direction and instruction.

You can download our free guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know, which covers all of this stuff in a single guide:

OKAY! Are you ready to start building your own routine and want to know how it’s done?

Great! Let’s do this:

The Ultimate Guide to Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle (At the Exact Same Time)

Is Vader on the right track to lose fat and gain muscle? Let's find out!

There’s an argument in the fitness world that you can either choose to lose fat OR gain muscle.

They just can’t be done at the same time.

To this, I say, “Hogwash!”

We have tons of success stories from our online coaching clients who have been able to do both simultaneously:

And that’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide!

We’ll do so by discussing:

Plus, I have tons of sweet LEGO photos and silly gifs on their way, which is always a good time. 

Behind the Scenes of Aksel’s “Unreal” Transformation

“HOW COW! He doesn’t even look like the SAME PERSON! ”

Meet Aksel, an economics student from Norway who is on a mission to turn into Wolverine.

I think you’ll agree with me in saying he’s more or less succeeded!

Aksel joined NF Coaching a year ago with the goal of losing some weight and building a lot of muscle.

So our very own Coach Taylor helped him do it.

However, pictures don’t tell the whole story.

Before joining Nerd Fitness, Aksel had hit a “rough patch” and knew something had to change in his life.

Here’s how Aksel’s journey went down.

How to Jump Rope: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

A LEGO boxer, who clearly jumps rope, fighting some stormtroopers.

Let’s learn how to jump rope!

Even if you’re stuck at home, a jump rope can provide a great cardio workout.

You just gotta know what you’re doing so you don’t keep hitting yourself in the shins.

Have no fear, even if you’ve never touched a jump rope before, we’ll get you started. 

We specialize in helping people train from home, with little to no equipment whatsoever. Today, we’ll share with you a beginner jump rope workout routine that you can do anywhere. 

If you’re in a hurry, sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Cue the Rocky theme song… 

How to Lose Weight (Without Dieting): 5 Rules of Weight Loss

Can you eat that croissant if you're trying to lose weight? We'll find out!

Ugh, it’s time for yet another attempt at losing weight.

For some, losing weight is as simple as just looking at a vegetable.

For the rest of us mere mortals, it feels like running through quicksand.

For some, trying to lose weight is tougher than trying to escape quicksand.

Fortunately, helping people lose weight in a way that doesn’t suck is what we do!

And gosh darnit, we’re really good at it: we have thousands of success stories and 1 million+ people tune in each month for advice on this stuff. 

We help our Online Coaching Clients lose weight without dieting, and these are the exact tactics we use.

I’m going to cover EVERYTHING you need to know about losing weight quickly, sustainably, and without hating everything. Click below for more help:

Why Diets Don’t Work

This LEGO is super bummed that his weight will come back now that he stopped doing the Keto Diet for weight loss.

If you’re reading this guide, you probably:

  • Have gone on a diet in the past.
  • Are on a diet right now. 

From popular ideas like the Paleo Diet to Keto, or Plant-Based (no prob) to Intermittent fasting (I do it), to terrible ideas like the Military Diet, juice cleanses, or the Cabbage Soup Diet, we’re all looking for that master key that unlocks effortless weight loss.

Some of these diets are certainly more effective/healthy than others, but they all come down to two truths for losing weight:

Truth #1: Nearly every diet works in the short term.

Truth #2: Nearly every diet fails in the long term.

So why does every diet work in the short term? 

Pooh wants to lose weight, but isn't sure if a diet will help him in the long term.

Every diet you have ever tried has a clever way of restricting calories which leads to weight loss[1]

99% of the reason why these diets result in short term weight loss is that they get us to eat fewer calories. 

The problems arise when we get to Truth 2: 

“Nearly every diet fails in the long term.”

Put another way: “Temporary changes create temporary results.” 

If somebody “goes Keto” for 60 days, they’ll probably lose weight, and might even feel healthier.

This is cool. 

HOWEVER.

If they spend those 60 days dreaming of carbs, counting down the days until they can “go back to eating like normal,” they will put all of the weight back as soon as they stop their diet.

The weight loss you obtain through diet will only stick as long as you stay on that diet.

This is why I hate the term “diet” or “going on a diet”: In order for a diet to create permanent results, the diet needs to be adopted PERMANENTLY! 

You’ll achieve weight loss in the short term with pretty much any diet you pick, as long as it gets you to eat significantly fewer calories.

However, today we’re going to focus on weight loss with 2 important conditions

  • Permanently: No more yo-yo dieting. No more rollercoaster on the bathroom scale.
  • Enjoyably: We’re not miserable and hating our lives while making these changes.

So, as you read about the 5 rules of weight loss below, I want you to be honest with yourself. You need to make changes you can stick with for at least a year. 

If a change seems too drastic, or giving up a food seems too scary, make the “win scenario” smaller. 

Yep, small changes will help with sustainability, our goal in weight loss.

Here’s how we help our coaching clients: we work with them to pick ONE change per week that we can implement: one less soda, try one new vegetable, etc. 

In other words, we STOP thinking about “How many pounds can I lose in a month?” and instead “What can I do today that isn’t scary, but will make me better off a year from now:

Rule #1: Lose Weight Without Dieting

Buddha isn't trying to lose weight. But he's also zen about you trying to.

There’s only ONE big-ass rule you need to follow when it comes to weight loss:

Eat fewer calories than you burn.

(Yes, I realize this article has 5 RULES, but the other 4 all build on this one.)

Study[2] after study[3] after study[4] shows that our bodies obey the laws of thermodynamics and that in order to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume regularly.

Yes, science is great, and the law of thermodynamics can help us understand weight loss.

Every day, our body needs a certain number of calories to carry out its daily functions: making your heart beat, your brain function, getting your body to move, and all sorts of other stuff. 

This is called your total daily energy expenditure, and you can calculate your TDEE here

  • When you consume more calories than you burn, your body tends to store those extra calories as fat (weight gain).
  • When you burn more calories than you consume, your body will pull from fat stores for energy (weight loss).

So, in order for us to lose weight, we need to find a way to tip the energy balance in favor of “burn fat, sucka!”

We need to tip the equation to burn fat, like we added a flame thrower to the scenario.

Simplifying this really complex topic, we need to eat less and/or move more to get our bodies to start using our fat stores for energy.

Unfortunately, that’s where the problems start. 

We humans are REALLY good at:

  • UNDERestimating how much we eat
  • OVERestimating how much we burn

When we accidentally eat more calories than we realize, and then burn fewer calories from exercise than we assume, we think we “can’t lose weight” because of our metabolism or genetics.

Nope. 

It’s because we are eating too much.

This eagle doesn't want to believe he eats too much for weight loss.

And as we lay out in our MASSIVE Healthy Eating Guide, the most important factor in nutrition is eating fewer calories than you burn on a regular basis.

The best way to do that is to focus on the right kind of food:

  • Protein: meat and legumes. 
  • Fresh fruits and high fiber vegetables.
  • Healthy carbohydrates: rice, quinoa.
  • Healthy fats like almonds and olive oil.
  • Occasional cheese and dairy.

These foods tend to be lower in calories than processed foods that have been designed to be overeaten[6]

They fill us up but aren’t overly calorie-dense.

Which means we feel full and yet consume fewer calories than we used to. 

If we can do this consistently and sustainably, we will lose weight.

Woot! A calorie deficit is a sure fire way to sustainable weight loss!

To drive the point home, here are two foods, both in 200 calorie increments (courtesy of wiseGEEK):

200 calories worth of a bagel:

This picture shows you 200 calories worth of a bagel, which is about 2/3 of one.

…and 200 calories worth of broccoli:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Which one do you think you’ll be more likely to accidentally overeat? 

The bagel, duh. Who eats only 2/3rds of a bagel? Literally zero people.

So here’s how we’re going to lose weight: eat fewer calories without realizing it, and then burn extra calories without being miserable:

  • Prioritize protein and vegetables on your plate: target 2 fist-sized servings of vegetables, and 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein on the plate. 
  • Learn portion sizes of fat and carbs: If you aren’t losing weight, these are the culprits. Cut back on the one you’re eating more of. 
  • Exercise for weight loss: Strength training is the most efficient way to lose fat. Strength train 3x per week, and then mix in fun cardio and move as much as possible. 

Let’s dig into these 3 things next:

Rule #2: Prioritize Protein and Vegetables

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

If our plan is weight loss that doesn’t suck, we’re gonna build better meals full of foods that fill us up and make us feel good. 

PART A) PRIORITIZE PROTEIN FIRST: Protein is fuel for our bodies to rebuild muscle. It’s also delicious and nutritious and can satiate us with an efficient number of calories.

How much protein should you eat? As we cover in our Protein Guide, aim for 1g per lb of bodyweight (2g per kg) every day (with an upper limit of 250g). 

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (steak, bison, pork).
  • Fowl (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![7]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 oz serving is for an uncooked piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the weight, bringing it down to about 3 oz.

When building a plate, aim for the following amount of protein:

  • Dudes: 1-2 servings (6-8 oz or about 170-228 g): two palms
  • Dudettes: 1 serving (3-4 oz or about 85-114 g): 1 palm.

PART B) HALF OF YOUR PLATE SHOULD BE VEGETABLES: Veggies can be the difference between weight loss success and failure.

Vegetables are the key to healthy eating.

Vegetables are nutrient-dense but calorie-light, which means you can eat lots of them, you’ll feel full, but you’re unlikely to over-consume calories (remember that mountain of broccoli was only 200 calories!).

A serving of veggies is about the size of your fist, and 2 servings of veggies should take up ½ the plate!

A serving of veggies should be the size of your first (or greater).

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

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash[8]
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Asparagus

“But Steve, I don’t like vegetables…yet!” 

That’s cool, I didn’t eat vegetables until I was 22. Now, they’re a main staple of every meal I eat. 

If this is you, read our guide on “how to make vegetables taste good.”

RECAP: In our quest for weight loss that doesn’t suck, we need to focus on foods that have lower amounts of calories but still make us feel full and satiated and happy.

Always start with protein and vegetables, and then the rest of your plate can have fats and carbs. 

Speaking of which…

Rule #3: Know Your Carbs and Fat Portion Sizes.

This LEGO knows that if you want to lose weight, you have to have portion control of your carbs.

If 3/4ths of our healthy plate is occupied by protein and vegetables, where do fats and carbs fit in? 

You can still lose weight by consuming fat and carbohydrates, when consumed in the right quantities

Remember how I said earlier “we UNDERestimate how many calories we eat every day?” 

Fat and/or carbs are almost ALWAYS the culprit.  

Batman is curious on how carbs and fat factor into weight loss.

Let’s discuss.

PART C) HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES FOR THE WIN. Everybody loves carbs, but most people overeat this macronutrient without realizing it.

Here are some examples of healthy carbohydrates that are less likely to be overconsumed:

This is a list of REAL foods, minimally processed, that also have plenty of fiber[9]

This then puts them in the “healthy carbs” category: when consumed in proper proportion, these are great foods that can help you feel full and give you energy and all that jazz. 

Just make sure you know your portion sizes!

EVERYBODY accidentally overeats carbohydrate-heavy foods, even healthy ones, and then wonders why they aren’t losing weight.

To help you get better at eyeballing carb serving sizes:

Showing you a serving of carbs

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

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

This picture will help you determine proper serving sizes for carbs!

PART D) DON’T FORGET ABOUT FAT! 

Fat used to be vilified, but now it’s considered a superfood by many. 

Here’s the truth: fat is neither a superfood nor evil. 

Fat can be part of a healthy diet, and is not evil, to the frustration of Dr. Evil.

It’s just a macronutrient that we can eat that can help us lose weight when consumed in the right quantity, or keep us from our goals if we eat too many calories of it.

Healthy fat can be found in foods like:

  • Avocado 
  • Almonds 
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Almond butter 
  • Peanut butter

Saturated fats – consumed in moderate quantities[10] – can come from things like:

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

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

A serving of fat should be about your thumb!

THIS is a single serving of almonds (162 calories):

Knowing the correct amount of almonds to eat can help you with your calorie goals.

THIS is a serving of olive oil (119 calories, taken from Runtastic):

Your thumb is about one serving of olive oil

What about cheese? Cheese is fine, provided you consume a proper sized portion of it! 

This is a portion of cheddar cheese (116 calories):

A serving of cheese is about the size of four dice

So bringing them all together, here’s the healthy plate for weight loss (from our Healthy Eating Guide):

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

If you can prioritize protein, fruit, and vegetables, and keep your carb and fat intake under control, you are going to lose weight. 

“But Steve, what about low-fat diets? Low-carb diets? No-carb diets?”

Low carb diets like Keto and Paleo are all the rage right now, but are they healthy and will they help you lose weight? 

Will a low carb diet help you lose weight? Maybe!

Maybe!

It depends on how your body regulates glucose (blood sugar)[11]:

Studies show that people who follow EITHER a low-fat OR a low-carb diet will lose weight, as long as they are in caloric restriction and can adhere to the diet for at least a year[12].

So, it comes down to: “which strategy are you more likely to stick with for a year or longer?”

If you think you can go Paleo or Keto or follow another low carb/low fat strategy for over a year, go for it.

Otherwise, make small changes!

MY ADVICE: Stick with changes that aren’t too scary. Work on reducing portion sizes or adding a new vegetable each week, and don’t get dogmatic, all-or-nothing about your diet! 

If you can find a way to reduce your total calorie intake without being miserable, you WILL lose weight over time, AND keep it off. 

There’s one other piece of the puzzle I HAVE to address.

Rule #4: Exercise for weight loss (Strength training and cardio)

For exercises, the important thing is you enjoy it. Like this LEGO enjoys football.

Although exercise isn’t necessary for weight loss (nutrition being the most important part), I would HIGHLY recommend you exercise. 

There are three forms of exercise that I’ll cover when it comes to weight loss, and ALL three of them are important:

#1) Fun cardio is doing any sort of exercise that gets you off your butt and moving.

Carlton knows any kind of movement is beneficial for weight loss, including his signature dance!

It makes our heart healthier, AND it can serve as a reminder that we’re doing things differently now, and that we need to eat better so we don’t ruin our efforts!

(Whatever you do, DON’T say: “Welp, I exercised – and thus I earned this donut and Coca-Cola” – you’d have been better off NOT exercising and skipping the donut and Coca-cola).

Here are 40 fun ways to exercise without realizing it. Feel free to do a fun activity as often as you can! 

#2) High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) burns more calories per hour than steady cardio, so you get more “bang for your buck” when it comes to efficiency. 

If you’re limited on time and trying to burn more calories, 20 minutes of HIIT burns more calories than 20 minutes of steady jogging. 

Here are 3 HIIT workouts you can do today, no gym required! 

Captain Marvel is pumped she doesn't have to head to the gym to do a HIIT workout.

Both of these activities can help tip the energy balance in favor of “weight loss” when combined with calorie restriction. 

When you’re in a “caloric deficit” for weight loss, the hope is that your body will mostly pull from fat stores, though depending on how you are exercising it will also break down muscle too.[13]

Said again: when you are eating a caloric deficit, your body will pull from both its fat stores AND existing muscle for energy.

Yes, if you're not careful you can lose fat AND muscle while losing weight.

From a physique and health standpoint, obviously we’d prefer that we don’t break down muscle when in a caloric deficit, and instead get our body to use ONLY fat stores.[14]

Your goal in fitness shouldn’t only be “weight loss,” despite the common vernacular used.

The goal instead is to reduce body fat while also keeping the muscle you have (or even building more muscle).

Which brings me to the most important form of exercise for weight loss:

Rule #5: Strength Training For Weight Loss

Of course Batman Strength Trains. Fighting crime is tough work.

#3) Strength training is the prizefighting champion when it comes to weight loss.

You can find study[15] after study[16] after study[17] that shows you the benefits of strength training for weight management when combined with “calorie restriction.”

Let me explain it here quickly, borrowing from Harry Potter:

(You know, the wizard.)

At the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, when each student arrives they put on the “Sorting Hat,” an actual hat that determines which House (group) that child will join for his/her time at Hogwarts.

The hat acts like a traffic director:

“Harry, you will go to Gryffindor! Draco, you will go to Slytherin!”

Your body is a lot like the Sorting Hat.

Your body operates in a VERY similar fashion: every day, it receives new calories (when you eat), and it needs to decide what to do with them!

It’ll sort those calories into one of three Houses:

A: Burn for Fuel.

B: Rebuild Muscle.

C: Store as Fat.

There’s a number of calories your body burns each day just existing: to keep your liver functioning, your heart pumping, your brain operating, and so on – it burns a good chunk of calories just keeping the lights on.

A beating heart requires calories, which factors into your calorie needs.

Here are two quick examples (from our TDEE calculator!):

  • A 6’, 34-year old male weighing 250 pounds burns 2,300 calories a day just by existing.
  • A 5’5”, 40-year old female weighing 140 pounds burns 1,350 calories a day just by existing.

When you start strength training, actual wizardry starts to happen.

When you do push-ups and pull-ups or do a strength training workout, your muscles are “broken down” during the exercise itself, and then they rebuild themselves stronger over the next 24-48 hours.

Guess what happens during those 24-48 hours?

Your body diverts as many calories as possible to “Rebuild Muscle!”

It also diverts additional calories to “Burn as Fuel” to handle this increased “muscle rebuilding” activity.

Which means two amazing things:

  • Rebuilding muscle is a calorie taxing activity!
  • Your metabolism is revved up for this period of time, burning more calories than normal.

There are significantly fewer calories available for “Store as Fat.”

AND THEN IT GETS BETTER.

This man wants to know more about strength training for weight loss.

When you consume fewer calories than your body burns each day, strength training will cause your body to get even more efficient. 

Your body can pull from “Store as Fat” to make sure all the work still gets done, including your daily functions as a human, and rebuilding the muscle. 

This is the Tri-wizard cup[18] of physical transformation victory:

This would be a “win-win-win” according to Michael Scott, Regional Manager, Dunder Mifflin Scranton.

So NO, you don’t need to lose weight first before you start strength training.  

You will lose weight BY strength training (and keep the muscle you have).

Here’s how to start with Strength Training:

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER: Doing a strength training workout 3 times per week is the most efficient way to lose the right kind of weight and look better naked. 

Gonzo knows strength training will help him lose weight. That's why he recruited his chicken pal!

Adding in intervals or fun exercise on your off days is a fantastic supplemental activity to strength training. 

Want help learning how to strength train? You can absolutely build your own workout, or you can work with one of our coaches who can create a custom program that’s specific to your goals and lifestyle.

We’ll even make sure you’re doing the movements correctly via video, because we’re nice like that 🙂

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner

25 Tips to Supercharge Weight Loss

This LEGO knows if he follows the tips in this article, he'll gain weight successfully.

The 5 Rules Above give you the best chance to lose weight in a way that doesn’t suck. 

Changing your nutrition is like playing a video game: if you attack too many high-level bad guys at once, you’re going to lose. 

Making too many changes at once is a sure fire way to lose momentum in weight loss.

Instead, you’re better off picking 1-2 smaller bad guys (changes) that you know you can win, and level up slowly. 

THAT’S how you make changes that stick. 

No more temporary dieting for temporary results! 

Permanent changes create permanent results

Here are 25 other quick tips that are supplementary to the above important ones!

1) Consider low-carb OR low-fat diets. Studies show BOTH low-carb and low-fat diets will result in weight loss, IF you can stick with it.[19]

Many people tend to have more success faster on low carb, but they’re also more likely to abandon the diet. You don’t need to do Keto or Paleo if you don’t want to, and instead, just work on reducing carbs overall. 

Kimmy is relieved she doesn't have to do strict Keto for weight loss.

2) Consider intermittent fasting. Fasting helps you keep your caloric intake under control by eliminating or narrowing your eating window  – it simply means skipping a meal or occasionally doing 24-hour fasts.

It affects men and women differently, but has tons of benefits and is backed by science. Read our Guide on Intermittent Fasting. I’ve been skipping breakfast since 2014!

3) Minimize liquid calories. Beverages with calories in them are probably sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

It should go without saying that chugging maple syrup will not help with weight loss.

Cut out the sodas and lattes and high-calorie smoothies (unless you account for them in your calorie goal!). Stick to sparkling water, black coffee or tea, or other zero-calorie beverages.  

4) Cut back on alcohol. Yes, you can still drink alcohol and lose weight, but you still need to account for the calories, of which there might be many!

And if you make poor food choices while drunk, it’s going to be tough to lose weight. Read our guide on alcohol and stick to low calorie beer, whiskey neat, or vodka with club sodas.

This dog uses plain soda water as his mixer for weight loss.

5) Know your condiments and cooking oils. Just because you’re eating grilled chicken and vegetables doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to lose weight!

If those foods are smothered in sauces or covered in 1000 calories of healthy olive oil, the calories still count! Keep an eye on the sauces and oils you use to cook with.  

6) Know your next meal. Most of our coaching success stories plan in advance what their next meal is.

Because it’s a pre-made decision, it removes emotion and makes them less likely to make a bad choice while hungry, sad, or angry.

Think of it this way: you can still eat unhealthy foods with this strategy because you plan ahead and can eat a healthy meal before and after. No harm done!

7) Look at restaurant menus before going. Restaurants give out notoriously large portions of food, often with hundreds of hidden calories.

Give yourself the best chance to succeed by looking up the menu online before going and decide BEFORE you get there.

Do yourself a favor and look at the menu BEFORE you arrive if you're trying to lose weight.

Also, consider taking HALF the entree and boxing it up for an additional meal (A tip we mention in our Guide to Portion Control).

8) Eat the same foods over and over. The healthiest, most successful coaching clients we have tend to eat the same handful of meals over and over.

Once you learn portion sizes and calorie counts of your favorite meals, you’re much more likely to eat within your goals for the day.

9) Learn to batch cook. Read our guide on batch cooking! If you can prepare all your healthy meals ONCE at the beginning of the week, you are setting yourself up for success.

Once you get good at batch cooking you'll feel like the Swedish Chef.

Why? Because now your default, easiest, laziest option is to simply reheat and eat the food you have at home – much less work than ordering takeout or driving to fast food! Win-Win-Win.

Here’s how I batch cook chicken for the week:

10) Employ the “Never 2 in a Row” rule. If you ever eat an unhealthy meal, simply make the next one healthy.

One bad meal doesn’t ruin a day, so letting an unhealthy breakfast derail you for the rest of the day isn’t smart. 

Simply eat a healthy lunch and get right back on track.

11) Ask “What would Batman do?” If you’re not sure what you should eat, ask what would Batman do.

A study showed that children were more likely to pick an apple instead of candy when instructed to ask this question.[20]

Batman is stoked kids want to eat apples instead of junk food.

And we’re all kids at heart, right?

12) Track your calories. If you can’t lose weight, it’s most likely because you’re accidentally eating more calories than you realize. Use an app or spreadsheet and track your food for a week.

I bet your intake is 20-40% higher than you realize! You can calculate how many calories you burn every day too. 

13) Weigh your food (advanced): STILL not losing weight? It’s time to get your portion sizes fixed too.

Get a cheap food scale and weigh your food for 2-3 days. Doing this, I discovered I was eating an extra 400 calories without realizing it. 

14) Eat more slowly!

Like this turtle, try to eat slow for a weight loss strategy.

If we’re not careful, we can eat more than we realize because we eat too quickly for our body to understand it’s full!

Tactics to help with this include consciously working on chewing your food more frequently before swallowing.

Studies show eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women.[21]

15) Use smaller plates and forks! If we have big plates and big utensils, we’re more likely to pile more food on our plate AND consume it more quickly.

Throw out your big plates and get smaller ones. Get smaller utensils, and you’ll trick yourself into eating smaller portions without realizing it.[22]

16) Don’t “Eat AND [activity].” Just “eat.” We eat more food if we’re eating while doing something else (watching TV, scrolling through our phones, etc.).[23]

Why don’t you try JUST eating? Enjoy each bite. Savor the food. Make it an experience. You’ll tend to eat less.

Arnold knows not to watch TV and eat for weight loss.

17) Stop snacking. All calories count. Instead of snacking throughout the day, why not eat 3 regular sized meals that you truly enjoy?

As we cover in our Guide to Intermittent Fasting, it doesn’t matter WHEN  you eat, it only matters HOW MUCH you eat. Not snacking between meals gives you more leeway during your actual meals!

18) Seek professional help! If you have an emotional relationship with food, consider speaking about it with a therapist or doctor.

We believe mental health is really important here at Nerd Fitness, and we know food can be an emotional trigger for lots of people that struggle with their weight. You don’t have to do this journey alone! 

19) Fidget more! From tapping your toes to getting up frequently, fidgeting (small micromovements) can account for up to 350 additional calories burned per day.[24] It all counts. So get wiggling!  

20) Move more. From parking farther away at the grocery store to taking the stairs instead of the elevator, do whatever you can to MOVE MORE!

Get a cheap fitness tracker and try to get more steps than you normally do.

Our Fitbit trackers can help us with analyzing trends and getting in more steps.

Important note: don’t rely on the tracker for calories burned (they’re all notoriously inaccurate, some by as much as 90%[25]).

We show you just how inaccurate these fitness trackers are for calories burned in this infographic:

This infographic shows calorie discrepancies from fitness trackers compared to actual calories burned.

However, these devices are often a great ‘trend tracker.’ Do more than you did before and you WILL get results.  

21) Find ways to exercise in a fun way! ANY sort of movement helps, so check out our 40 ways to exercise without realizing it.

Dance, yoga, wrestling with your kids, rock climbing, hiking, it all counts! Just like your parents told you when you were a kid, “Go outside and play!”

22) Get strong as hell. Pick up heavy weights.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose fat.

Our bodies have to burn tons of calories to recover from a heavy strength training session.

Plus, you get to keep the muscle you have and burn the fat on top of those muscles.

As Coach Matt explains in the video below, that’s how you lose weight AND gain muscle at the same time:

23) Hack your Batcave: We are creatures of our environment, so use that to your advantage! Stop relying on willpower, and instead get smarter.

Increase the steps between you and the activity you’re trying to avoid (eat junk food), and decrease the number of steps between you and the NEW activity you want to do more of (eat healthily):

  • Throw out your junk food so you don’t need to waste willpower not eating it. 
  • Put a bowl of fruit on the counter so your default activity becomes “eat fruit!”

24) Surround yourself with people who are healthier than you. We’re the average of the 5 people we associate most with.

Two people just realizing they are the average of the 5 people they spend the most time with.

Join a running club. Eat lunch with healthier people than you at the office.

We subconsciously adopt the traits of the people around us, so use that to your advantage! 

25) Forgive yourself. We are all flawed. If you eat a bad meal or have a rough weekend, who cares?!

The month is not ruined. Make the next decision a healthy one and get right back on track. Remember “never two in a row.” 

I know this is a lot to absorb, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re totally overwhelmed! 

If you want help implementing these tactics and supercharge your weight loss journey, that’s what we do bestClick below to learn more!

How fast can I lose weight?

Now you know that any kind of movement is beneficial for weight loss, including tossing a football.

There are MANY factors that are involved in how quickly you can lose weight, but here are the big ones:

  • How much weight do you need to lose? Somebody who needs to lose 250 pounds will be able to lose more weight than somebody who needs to lose 10 pounds, simply because there is more weight to lose. 
  • How big of a caloric deficit below your TDEE are you doing? If somebody normally eats 5000 calories per day and switches to 1500 calories per day, they’ll lose weight faster than if they switched to 4500 calories per day. Now, reducing calories significantly can create all sorts of “I’m miserable and hate everything” feelings as our body learns to stop expecting a ready supply of food and has to start burning fat instead. 
  • Are you going low-carb like Paleo or Keto? As you’ll see below, cutting out carbs can create significant weight loss in the first weeks due to a reduction of  ‘water weight and bloat.’ But cutting out carbs might also make you miserable! 

First Week Weight Loss Expectations: Depending on how poorly you eat now, if you swap out unhealthy food for protein and veggies – reducing your calorie intake significantly – you might lose upwards of 5-10 pounds (5kg) in your first week. 

The Tick is stoked you are having losing weight your first week.

It’s awesome to see the scale drop by that much in the first week, but it’s important to note that this type of weight loss won’t be typical week to week. 

If you normally eat a lot of carbs and sodium, your body is carrying a lot of extra bloat and water weight. When you switch to mostly protein and veggies, you’ll lose TONS of water weight and some fat initially.

We’ve seen many Coaching Clients lose 5-10 pounds in their first week, again mostly due to the reduction of water weight with SOME fat loss. 

First Month Weight Loss Expectations: Depending on how strict you are with your nutrition – you can lose 1% of your body fat, or 1-3 pounds per week after that (heavily dependent on how much weight you have to lose). 

We have seen people (who have a lot of weight to lose) lose 20 pounds in their first month, mostly due to large water weight reduction in the first week, with a steady consistent drop after that. 

(Curious how quickly you can lose weight? Use our Total Daily Energy Expenditure TDEE Calculator.) 

There’s nothing wrong with losing weight quickly, provided you’re doing it in a healthy, SUSTAINABLE way – like following the rules and strategies laid out in this article. 

Quick weight loss doesn’t guarantee long-term success. 

It comes down to making PERMANENT changes!

If somebody reduces their calorie intake by 1000+ calories a day, they might be so damn hungry and angry all the time that they abandon their journey after a week or two.

This is bad news bears.

Malcolm just realized temporary changes create temporary results.

They would have been better off reducing their calories by 200 calories a day for 6 weeks, and then by another 200 6 weeks later, and so on.

We want sustainable changes, and sustainable weight loss, creating permanent progress. 

So it doesn’t really matter how much weight you lose in your first week or first month, but rather how much weight you have lost after 1 year, and how you feel after that year. 

As we cover in our “Why can’t I lose weight?” guide, this is a lifelong journey, and one you should be thinking about as a lifestyle adjustment and not a temporary diet change.

Put your focus on building the habits and fixing your environment. Focus on the changes you can make on a day to day basis, and with each meal. 

And over time, your weight WILL drop in a way that’s sustainable and healthy.  

How to Lose Weight Quickly

Move wherever, even on the beach, it'll help you lose weight.

“STEVE JUST TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT TO DO TO LOSE WEIGHT QUICKLY.”

Fine! But you don’t need to yell at me like that! 

Here’s what I would do if I needed to lose weight quickly but ALSO didn’t want to hate life:

I’ll leave you with some final words of wisdom: this is NOT all or nothing.

If you can implement just ONE change and stick with it, that’s a victory. That’s better than doing 10 things and giving up after a month. 

I realize I threw a LOT of information at you, but I hope you can implement this stuff in your day-to-day decisions, because these rules WILL change the scale, and they WILL change your life. 

If you are looking for more guidance, support, and instruction, we have 3 options for you to level up:

#1) JOIN OUR COACHING PROGRAM: We provide nutritional guidance, constant feedback and support, customized workouts for your goals, and keep you accountable wherever you are. 

We are really good at this stuff and would love to help you reach your goals.

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for how to eat better and get in shape, 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 (it’s free)! Sign up for our biweekly newsletter and join the Nerd Fitness Rebellion!

I’ll send you tons of free nutritional guides and bonuses to help you get started on your journey today.

Sign up below:

If you were just trying to start building healthier habits and lose weight sustainably, instead here’s what I would do:

Make 1 change per week

Change ONE meal a week, or cut back on ONE soda. Make a change that’s so small that it doesn’t make you sad or scared. 

Wayne is stoked that he made his small change for weight loss.

And then repeat. 

What’s the ONE change you’re going to make this week to make your weight loss journey SLIGHTLY easier? 

-Steve

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Sustainable Weight Loss Content:

###

Photo Source:[26]

Does the Perfect Workout Exist? 9 Steps to Find the Best Workout Plan (For You).

This Lego has found his perfect workout.

So you want to get in shape and start getting fit, but you’re not sure what the perfect workout is?

Not only that, but you want a workout program that you’ll ACTUALLY do?

Great. This is what we do, and we’re pretty dang good at it.

We help people find their perfect workout program

We create personalized workout programs for our Online Coaching Clients, and this guide walks you through the exact 9 steps we follow to create each program:

 

This may seem like a lot, but ALL of the steps are important!

In our step-by-step guide to picking the best workout plan and getting fit, we’ll cover:

Let’s jump right into #1!

How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do? (Building The Correct Workout Plan)

If this plot asked how many reps and sets should he do, what would you tell him?

If you’ve ever asked yourself “Am I doing too little or too many reps and sets?” then this guide is for you.

This article is part of our Strength 101 series, and we’ll show you exactly how to determine the number of repetitions and sets for specific exercises, so you can build your own workout routine.

It sounds easy, but depending on your goals, the answer to “How many reps and sets should I do?” can vary greatly.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose fat.

We work hand-in-hand with our Online Coaching Clients to create the correct workout program that suits their goals, needs, and available equipment

In today’s guide on workout programing, we’ll cover (click each to get right to that answer):

Strength Training For Women: 7 Things You Should Know First!

Squats and deadlifts helped me build muscle and changed my life.

So you’re a woman who wants to start strength training? 

Well you’ve come to the right place! 

We help women just like you grow strong, and today we’ll get you started on your strength training journey.

Here’s what we’ll cover in our strength training guide for women:

After today’s guide, you’ll know exactly how to transform yourself into a superhero! 

What makes me so confident? How do I know so much about women growing strong? 

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Staci Ardison.

This is me deadlifting 455 pounds:

Staci showing you how to deadlift 455 pouds.

I’m currently the Senior Coach here in the Nerd Fitness Coaching Program.

And no, I wasn’t born this strong (that would be strangely awesome). It’s only after discovering a love of strength training that I learned how to handle weight like this.

Obviously, we won’t start you out lifting that much at first. But we will set you up on a path that if you want to, one day you’ll be able to.

Before we get to it, if you’re in a hurry, I want you to know we’ve compiled all our strength training material into a friendly guide so you can read it at your leisure (I’m picturing you reading the guide poolside, sipping a lemonade).

Download Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know when you enlist in the Rebellion (that’s us!) below:

Should Women Lift Weights? (Why You Should Start Strength Training)

Today we will learn why all women (even LEGOs) should strength train.

Everyone should start strength training: people of every sex and gender, the young, the old…everyone.[1] 

We discuss the benefits heavily in our introduction to strength training, but I’ll highlight some examples now.[2]    

#1) When you’re stronger – 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. 

You can see that Staci has changed the way she looks from strength training!

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

Although strength training is one of the best things you can do for your health, it’s estimated that only about 20% of women do it, far below that of our male counterparts.[8] 

That sucks. 

It’s part of my life’s work to reverse this trend and to do so, I’m going to need your help.

You in?

This girl is ready to strength train. Are you?

Perfect!

Is Strength Training Different for Women?

Should these two super villains train differently?

Here’s something that may shock you: there’s no reason everybody – of any gender or sex –  shouldn’t strength train the same way!

Yep, you don’t need 3-pound pink dumbbells, unless you like 3-pound pink dumbbells!  You can train with free weights and barbells just like everybody else at the gym.

Yes, there are biological differences between the sexes. For example when strength training, people with typical male anatomy will produce more type IIa fibers than people with typical female anatomy, who will in turn produce more type I fibers than men.[9] 

Don’t worry about any of this though. 

A woman looking relieved

We don’t need to get you lost in the weeds.[10]

The American College of Sports Medicine doesn’t differentiate between sexes in their strength training recommendation.[11] So neither shall we. 

So what exactly is strength training, you may be asking?

“Strength training” of any kind can be explained by two things:

#1) Movement of any weight (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: exerting slightly more effort than last time (lift a heavier weight or do 1 more rep) consistently. Your muscles will constantly have to adapt and will constantly be rebuilding themselves to get stronger.

Coach Jim walks you through different strategies for progressive overload in this video:

Before we get into the ins and outs of strength training, I need to address a question we get over and over from the women in our coaching clients:

Will I get bulky if I lift weights?

If you see a woman who is incredibly muscular and at an extremely low body fat percentage, I guarantee she has been working her butt off for a very long time with the very specific goal of building muscle and looking that way.

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

We simply don’t have the same amount of testosterone as people with male anatomy to get there easily.[12] It’s something we cover in great detail in our guide on How to Build Muscle as a Woman.

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. 

So strike “I don’t want to get bulky” from your vernacular. 

Yes, please delete "I don't want to get bulky" from your vernacular.

Alright, let’s talk about how to actually get started strength training. 

Strength Training Level 1: Bodyweight Workouts

This dancer has advanced her bodyweight training to include catching some air!

If you’re just starting your strength training journey, our first stop will be a bodyweight workout.

Bodyweight training is simply doing an exercise in which your own body is the “weight” you are “lifting.”

Duh.

This is the BEST place for anybody – regardless of weight or age – to start their strength training journey.

Why is this the best place to start?

Here are two big reasons to do bodyweight training:

#1) You always have your body with you (unless you are a ghost, in which case, this is awkward). This means you can work out ANYWHERE with bodyweight training:

#2) Using your body for resistance training is the most “human” thing ever! By learning to push and pull and hang and squat and lunge, you are doing what your body is literally designed to do.

By getting strong with bodyweight movements, you’re making yourself antifragile and less injury-prone.

Bodyweight training isn’t as easy to ‘scale’ the difficulty as some of the other strength training methods (“put more weight on barbell”), but you can get REALLY strong with just bodyweight training.

For example, you can start with knee push-ups:

Knee push-ups like this are a great way to progress to a regular push-up!

Then go to regular push-ups: 

This gif shows Staci doing a push-up in perfect form.

Then elevated push-ups: 

Elevated push-ups like this are a great way to bodyweight train.

Then even up to things like handstands: 

When you have both legs off the wall, you are doing a handstand! Woot!

And even handstand push-ups:

If you can do push-ups like this, you are hardcore.

You just have to know HOW and WHEN to scale up (we can help there too).

Want a sample bodyweight workout you can try? You got it:

This is the Beginner Bodyweight Workout (3 Circuits): 

  • 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.

Want some variety? Try 8 other “at-home workouts.”  

You can also create your own “no equipment workout” by reading the 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises.

Strength Training Level 2: Dumbbell Workouts

dumbbells in gym

The next stop on our strength training journey includes lifting some actual weights!

Woot.

Dumbbells are a great first step into the world of weight training and strength training:

  • Most gyms will have dumbbells, even if it’s a basic gym in your apartment complex.
  • A set of dumbbells doesn’t take up a lot of room, which means you can have a pair at home without a large footprint.
  • Dumbbells make it easy to add difficulty to a bodyweight movement: holding dumbbells while doing lunges, for example.
  • Dumbbell exercises can be less intimidating than barbell training for some, and are a step towards barbell training.
  • Dumbbells have an added stabilization challenge, and will point out muscle imbalances pretty easily (“oh my right arm is stronger than my left arm.”).
  • You can scale easily. Once the 10 pound weights become too easy, pick up the 15 pound ones!

Here’s a beginner workout that you can, taken from our Level 4 Gym Workout, “Dumbbell Division”: 

  • 10 goblet squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 dumbbell rows per side

Here’s how to perform a goblet squat:

The goblet squat is a great way to build muscle for women.

This is a push-up done in proper form (in case you skipped the last section[13]): 

This gif shows Staci doing a push-up in perfect form.

And here is how to do a dumbbell row:

This pull exercise can help you build muscles so you can eventually do pull-ups!

If you’re following along at home, you just did your first full-body workout using weights!

Lisa celebrating her first strength training session.

Want a custom-built dumbbell workout? Something designed for the weights in your apartment’s gym?

Our Nerd Fitness Coaches can do just that! Plus they’ll scale your workouts as you grow stronger, turning you into a superhero!

Strength Training Level 3: The Wide World of Barbells

Barbell training is very important, which is why we covered it at camp!

You made it! It’s now time to start training with barbells! 

This is going to help you become ultra-powerful and strong.

It’s how I transformed myself into the person I am today.

You can see that Staci has changed the way she looks from strength training!

The reason barbell training is so important is that it allows you to pick up heavy weights and do movements that recruit every muscle in your body. This is great for building powerful, strong muscles in your core, legs, glutes, and so on. 

We’re talking about exercises like the Back squat:

The back squat will help you transform into a superhero.

And the Barbell Deadlift:

I promise you, learning how to deadlift will change your life.

Show me somebody that’s strong at both of these movements, and I’ll show you somebody that’s in better shape than most of the human population.

But wait!

Even an empty barbell can be heavy (normally 45 pounds or 20Kg), so before we jump into the deep end, let’s make sure you are strong enough to proceed.

You’ll need to be able to complete a goblet squat with a 45 pound dumbbell (shown earlier) and the Romanian deadlift with 20 pound dumbbells.

Here’s how to perform the Romanian deadlift with dumbbells

Our test to see if you can handle barbell training will be the Level 4 Gym Workout: Dumbbell Division C (taken from our Beginner’s Guide to the Gym).

You’ll need to be able to go through the following before you start training with barbells: 

  • 10 goblet squats – 45 lbs (20Kg dumbbell), 
  • 10 Romanian deadlifts with 20 lbs dumbbells (9-10 Kg)
  • 10 push-ups (on knees or regular)
  • 10 dumbbell rows with each arm  – at least a 20 lb dumbbell

Can’t do those movements at that weight? Stick to the Level 4 Gym Workouts until you build up the strength to progress to barbells.

Once you CAN do the above, the real fun is going to start! 

We’re gonna replace the goblet squat with a back squat and the RDL with a barbell deadlift.

Here’s a video demonstration on how to perform the barbell back squat:

I would also encourage you to read How to Squat Properly for a full tutorial, especially if you’re just learning how to squat.

Here’s a step-by-step video on how to do the deadlift:

Again, make sure you read How to Deadlift Safely With Proper Form if you’re just starting your deadlifting journey. 

Once you get the handle of these two moves, it’s time for a full-body workout using barbells!

We’ll give you two different days to alternate between.

NF BEGINNER BARBELL STRENGTH WORKOUT: DAY A

Do 3 rounds of:

NF BEGINNER BARBELL STRENGTH WORKOUT: DAY B

Do 3 rounds of:

  • 5 barbell Romanian deadlifts
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 dumbbell rows per arm

That’s it! Do each of these once a week and you’ll be rocking an awesome strength training practice.

Are you doing the workouts correctly?

A good way to tell would be to record yourself doing the movement and then match them against the gifs and videos in this guide. If they look close you’re doing great!

We also provide form checks in our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. Through our snazzy app, a Nerd Fitness Coach (like me!) will review your movement to make sure you are training correctly and safely!

How Much Weight Should Women Lift?

Barbells in a gym bar bells and rope

We have a FULL resource on how to determine your starting weight for lifting, but I’ll give you the gist here.

The simple to learn but tough to implement answer: lift enough so that you can get through the set, but not too much that you have NO fuel left in the tank at the end.

And then, try to lift sliiiightly more than last time.

If you don't have a spotter, the dumbbell press can be a great chest alternative.

How much weight should I start with?

  • If you are using dumbbells or a kettlebell, always err on the side of “too light” versus “too heavy.” You want to learn the movement correctly and build correct form.
  • If you are training with a barbell, ALWAYS start with JUST the bar, no matter the exercise (as a reminder, a standard barbell weighs 45 pounds).

“How fast should I add weight to the bar?”

Here’s what we teach all of our coaching clients: add the minimum amount of weight each week you can, even if you THINK you can lift more. It’s better to finish a workout full of momentum and say “I can do more!” than defeated and saying “that was too much, crapola.”

Think of it this way, even if you are adding just 5 pounds per week to the bar, within a year you would be lifting 300+ pounds!

So go SLOW. Team NF’s Steve even bought little half-pound weights and increases many of his lifts by just 1 pound per week.

It’s a big part of how he transformed (jokingly) from Steve Rogers to Captain America.

And if you are looking for this content in an easily digestible form, make sure you download our free Strength 101 Guide when you join the Rebellion below:

Can Strength Training Help with Weight Loss?

This LEGO knows strength training will help her burn off all that rum.

We get questions relating to weight loss and strength training all the time, and it’s something we cover throughout our Strength Training 101 series

Let me quickly address it here:

Fat and muscle are two different things – one can’t transform into the other.

We all have plenty of muscle right now (otherwise we wouldn’t be able to move, walk, sit upright, etc.), the muscle is just hiding underneath a layer of body fat.

In order for us to lose weight and look better, we want to do two things:

  • Build our muscles stronger and tighter.
  • Reduce the fat covering those muscles!

And luckily, both of those things happen simultaneously through strength training!

Coach Matt explains exactly how in this video on losing fat while gaining muscle (also know as “getting toned”):

So NO, you don’t need to lose weight first before you start strength training.  

You will lose weight BY strength training (and keep the muscle you have).

You do NOT need to do hours of cardio for weight loss – weight loss is 90% a result of your nutrition. So honestly, you don’t need to ever set foot on a treadmill again (unless you WANT to).

Homer likes a treadmill...as long as he can watch TV. We'll get him to strength train soon.

Strength training will help you lose weight and look better IF you do two key things for effective weight loss:

As we cover in our “Why can’t I lose weight” article (full of fun Harry Potter references), combining a caloric deficit and strength training is magic:

  • You’re not consuming enough calories to carry out your body’s daily functions.
  • Your body needs to use lots of calories to rebuild the muscle that was broken down during the strength training workout.
  • Your body has no choice BUT to pull from fat stores to get stuff done!

Just by doing those two things (get strong, reduce calories), all sorts of wizardry and witchcraft takes place in your body:

  • Get stronger and keep the muscle you have.
  • Build tight dense muscle.
  • A revved up metabolism while rebuilding muscle.
  • Burning of body fat to get things done.

Yeah, you’re hearing me correctly.

Lose the body fat that sits on top of your muscles and you’ll make your muscles tighter and denser = look better without clothes on.

So how do you put this into practice?

  1. Pick one of the strength workouts we covered earlier (start at the Beginner Bodyweight Workout if you feel unsure where to begin).
  2. Calculate your daily caloric needs.
  3. Learn which diet is best for you and make a small change.

Oh, what’s that? You just want somebody to tell you exactly how to train for your body, and how to eat for your goals?

Fine!

Check out our 1-on-1 Coaching Program – it’s helped hundreds of women lose weight through strength training – and proper nutrition. We work with you on habit building and lifestyle design to actually get stuff done!

The Best Strength Training Exercises for Women

It was awesome to see so many women lifting weights at camp!

Great news: 

The best strength training exercises are universal. No matter your size, shape, sex, gender, age, or whether you love Star Trek more than Star Wars, these are the best exercises to build a great physique. 

I’m going to share with you the 9 best strength training exercises that every beginner should master (scroll down for full video and explanations!):

  1. Push-up: uses every push muscle in your body (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  2. Bodyweight squat: uses every muscle in the lower body (quads, hamstrings, glutes, core)
  3. Bodyweight row: works every “pull” muscle and helps prepare you for a pull-up!
  4. Pull-up or chin-up: the best “pull” exercise in history! Everybody should have a goal to get their first pull-up.
  5. Bodyweight dip: advanced “push” movement that targets your push muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) in a different way than push-ups.
  6. Barbell squat: the best bang for your buck on muscle building. Recruits nearly every push muscle in your whole body, and a great core workout.
  7. Barbell deadlift: the favorite exercise of every coach at Nerd Fitness. Uses every “pull,” leg, and core muscle in your body.
  8. Barbell benchpress: as basic and powerful as they come. Uses every “push” movement in your upper body and can get you strong as heck!
  9. Barbell press: press the bar above your head! Targets shoulders and triceps more than chest.

Click on any of these exercises to get a FULL explanation of the movement, step-by-step:

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 as it’s 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 (back, biceps, and forearms).

4) The Pull-Up and Chin-Up: Once you can support your bodyweight 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?)

5) The Bodyweight Dip: As you start to get stronger with push-ups and need to find a way to increase the challenge, consider doing dips. Warning: these are very advanced, but incredible strength-building exercises.

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

6) 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:

7) 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 do it with proper form:

8) The Barbell Press: Press a barbell above your head. This recruits all of the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms in order for you to lift the weight over your head.

As a bonus, you need to really flex and brace your core, which gets those muscles working too.

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

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.

And if you want somebody to help you put these into a workout program, teach you HOW to do these movements properly, and have the confidence to know you’re training correctly for your goals…

A Meal Plan for Strength Training (Healthy Eating 101)

Is this breakfast part of a healthy diet?

So far, we’ve been more or less just talking about exercises when it comes to strength training.

This is logical, because this is in fact a guide on how to perform certain exercises to grow strong.

Yeah, naturally, we'll be talking about exercising in a strength training article.

However, we constantly remind our coaching clients that 90% of their success or failure on their fitness journey will come down to what they eat.

“Success” in this context really comes down to your goals.

  • Are you looking to bulk up? You’ll need to eat more calories than you burn.
  • Are you looking to slim down? You’ll need to eat fewer calories than you burn.

At this point, you might be thinking “Staci, how many calories do I need?”

To answer that question, it’s time for the Nerd Fitness Calorie Calculator!

Nerd Fitness Daily Calorie Requirements Calculator
Male/Female
Use age in years.
Your answer won't actually affect your calorie requirements, but Nerd Fitness tracks this data.
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.
For "Activity Level," veer toward the side of less active. Studies consistently show that people are not as active as they self-assess.
Your Daily Calorie Requirements 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! [14]).

  • If you want to bulk up and gain weight, take your TDEE and add 250 calories to it to get our daily goal. This should result in gaining half a pound per week.
  • Want to lose weight? Take your TDEE and subtract 250 calories to receive your daily goal. This should result in losing about a half-pound a week.

The other piece of the equation outside of a caloric surplus/deficit is protein.

Since you will be strength training and building muscle, you’ll need to make sure you are eating protein at every meal. It’s the number one macronutrient for creating new muscle tissue.[15]

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (steak, bison, pork).
  • Fowl (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![16]
  • 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 woman to woman).[17]

Here is our recommendation:

  • If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to build muscle, aim for 1 g per pound of bodyweight (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 bodyweight (2.2 grams per kg).”

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

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

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. Rebel Leader Steve and I both supplement with shakes daily to meet our protein goals.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re getting enough!

Whenever we speak with new Online Coaching Clients, protein is the macronutrient we begin every discussion with! It’s THAT important when it comes to either weight loss or building muscle. I’m not kidding when I say it should make up a portion of every meal you eat. 

The Top Frequently Asked Strength Training Questions for Women

This merwoman looks like she means business.

Here are some of the most common questions we receive from women beginning their strength training practice in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program.

#1) Will I get bulky lifting weights? I really don’t want to.

I have GREAT NEWS! 

Strength training will not make you bulky, UNLESS you want it to!

And if you want to bulk up? That’s AWESOME!

This gif shows a woman flexing.

Here’s how to build muscle correctly.

You get to pick how you want to look, so you do you.

Just remember that women who compete as bodybuilders didn’t start looking like overnight:

  • They have eaten, trained, and potentially taken supplements specifically so they can look like that! Which is great. Good for them.
  • They’ve been working towards that goal for years, probably decades.

Here’s the truth: when you pick up heavy things (like barbell training), your muscles get STRONGER (but not necessarily bigger).

If you actively eat for the goal of building muscle and getting bigger, you CAN build muscle and size. 

Again, if you want bigger arms or stronger glutes, AWESOME. You do you.

Let’s talk about the reverse: If you pick up heavy things and eat a caloric deficit, your muscles will get stronger and denser; you will burn the fat on top of your muscle, and you will lose weight and get that “toned” look that many women are after.

Jump back to our healthy eating section for more on caloric deficits and surpluses. 

#2) Can I spot reduce fat with certain exercises?

Sir Mix-A-Lot was wrong. Don’t do side bends and sit-ups, because you’re wasting your time!

  • Side bends don’t get rid of love handles. They will simply strengthen your side muscles without actually reducing any fat there, potentially making you bigger around the waist unless you change your diet as well.
  • Sit-ups will not remove belly fat. They can also wreak havoc on your lower back, and are an incomplete exercise.

Your body cannot spot reduce fat in specific locations. If you have flabby arms or a big stomach, doing thousands of bicep curls and thousands of crunches won’t help.

Your body is genetically predisposed to storing fat in certain locations in a certain order.

When you start to lose weight, your body will lose the fat you currently have in a certain order as well – it might come off your arms first, then your legs, then your belly, then your chest, and THEN your butt.

Or in a different order, depending on your personal genetic makeup.

No amount of targeted exercise will change how that fat disappears.

Want to lose weight? Reduce your caloric intake in a way that doesn’t make you miserable:

We cover ALL the popular diets, and why they will ALL work…temporarily in our article on “which diet is right for you?” (Just don’t do the Military Diet!)

Here’s the truth: your diet – specifically how MUCH you eat – will be responsible for 80-90% of that fat-loss equation.

The other 10%-20% can come from strength training and fun exercises.

Big compound movements that recruit lots of muscle (and thus force your body to rebuild lots of muscle, which requires extra calories burned, even after the workout is done). Our section on the best strength training exercises for women would be good examples of compound movements. 

#3) How many days a week should a woman lift weights?

Unless you’ve been strength training for years and know what you’re doing, we recommend that you pick a full-body routine that you can do 2-3 times a week.

You build muscles while resting, not working out, so you generally want 48 hours before engaging the same muscle group again.

If you made it up to our “The Wide World of Barbells” section, you can do the DAY A workout on Monday and the DAY B workout on Thursday. That’ll give you plenty of time to recover. 

Want more? Maybe on the weekend, you sneak away for a short hike

Strength training and hiking go very well together!

Read “Exercise Without Realizing It” for more ideas on how to keep your body moving!

Don’t worry if this doesn’t seem like a lot at first. We are interested in building the habit of strength training initially. We can up the frequency once you’re rocking and rolling. 

Learning to meal prep would also be a good use of your time between training sessions. 

4) Can I do strength training at home?

You sure can!

Many of our coaching clients have gotten in great shape simply by doing bodyweight exercises at home. 

Here are a few resources to get you strength training in your living room:

We can also build you a custom workout for your exact situation, whether you’re stuck at home or in an office, we can create a solution that fits your busy life!

How to Begin Lifting Weights as a Woman (Next Steps)

A woman pressing as against a beautiful sky.

Since 2009, Team Nerd Fitness has learned a tremendous amount about how to best serve the ladies of this community.

I want to share with you my favorite success story.

Meet Leslie, a very sedentary single mom who works long hours that managed to lose 100+ lbs with the Nerd Fitness Coaching Program:

How did Leslie transform? Strength training. with pull-ups

What spurred her epic transformation?

In two words: strength training.

Leslie learned to train the right way, picked up a barbell, fixed her diet, and now does crazy things like handstands and ring work!

So if you’re tired of the same ole same ole and you’re ready to start strength training, you’re in the right place!

Not sure what to do or how to get started?

1) Check out our 1-on-1 Coaching Program! Our philosophies help women like Leslie above and they can be the philosophies that help you become strong inside and out.

Click on the image below to schedule a call and see if we’re a good fit for each other!

2) If you want a daily prompt for doing workouts at the gym (or at home), 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! Our free community numbers in the hundreds of thousands scattered throughout the globe, and we need good people like you!

You can join by signing up in the awesome yellow box below, and I’ll send you a bunch of free guides and printable workouts, including our Strength 101 guide!

4) Do a strength training workout this week! The most important step you can do is to actually start. 

You got this. You can do it. I know because we’ve seen it countless times here at Nerd Fitness.

Enough from me though, now it’s your turn:

Are you just starting your strength training journey?

Do you strength train at home or the gym?

Any weight lifting tips or tricks we missed?

Let us know in the comments!

-Staci

PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our Strength Training 101 series:

###

Photo source: Women’s day 2015, Goodbye Batman, Scenes from an empty lot in Brooklyn, DSC_0254, tonobalaguer © 123RF.com, Pirate girl, The Breakfast of Jedi, Cecaelia has comeLance Cpl. Tayler P. Schwamb.

GIF source: Thumbs up, Emma Stone Yes, Bird Delete, Lisa Simpson, Duh, Ninja Turtles, hiking

 

40 Fun Ways to Exercise (Without Realizing It)

Have fun while exercising!

I know plenty of people who hate exercise but WANT to find a way to like it.

And that’s what today’s post is all about:

Exercising in a way where life doesn’t suck AND helps you reach your goals.

Luckily, this is exactly what we do for a living!

I know what it’s like to hate exercise, and ALSO want to lose weight and see results. Ugh.

We’ve built an entire company and community around helping people overcome these obstacles – our Online Coaching Program helps people find exercises they love, and also how to make the right nutritional choices.

We are all on a unique journey and we’d love to help you with yours!

What is Progressive Overload? (+How to Do It)

So you want answers to the question, “What is Progressive Overload?

Well my friend, you’ve arrived at the perfect place.

Progressive overload is one of the key principles of strength training, which is why we focus on it extensively with our coaching clients. Today, we’ll share these same principles with you too.

Here’s what we’ll cover today:

Alright, let’s do this thang.

“Why Can’t I Lose Weight?” 8 Uncomfortable Truths Holding You Back

This lego wants to know why he can't lose weight.

“Why can’t I lose weight, Steve?”

This question breaks my heart every time I hear it. And I hear it multiple times per day from frustrated people like yourself.

Some of those people are our 1-on-1 coaching clients, who we work closely with to uncover the truth.

And that’s what we’re after: the truth on why weight loss is so tough to achieve.

Why “Eat less and move more” sounds nice in theory, but is insulting to those who KNOW this, try their best, and yet the scale just doesn’t budge.

We’ll tackle today’s topic with statistics, science, and plenty of Harry Potter analogies. This is Nerd Fitness after all.

We’ll go over:

Let’s jump in, Scuba Steve style, so you can start seeing results!

If you’re somebody that wants a Yoda in your corner to coach you through the ups and downs of your fitness journey, we’re here for you with our Online Coaching Program!

No shame or judgments – just a supportive person who works hard to help you succeed 🙂

Our Online Coaching Program changes lives

A Beginner’s Guide to Training with Gymnastic Rings (Do a Ring Workout Today)

After today, you'll know everything you need to get started with gymnastic rings!

If you want to get started training with gymnastic rings, you’ve come to the right place!

We teach many of our coaching clients how to incorporate gymnastic rings into their workout, and today we’ll share with you the same lessons!

Here’s what we’ll cover so you can get started training with gymnastic rings:

If you’re interested in training with gymnastic rings (which you are, ’cause you’re here), you may want to try our new app! It contains workouts that will have you level up to working out with rings. No guesswork needed, just log into the app and follow the next steps.

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

Previous View Archive