Whether it's your arms, chest, back, or even legs, chances are some part of your body will be on display for the big day (and if it's not, it will be for that beach getaway honeymoon!). With that in mind, if you're planning to embark on a pre-wedding workout regimen, you should highly consider a weight training plan. We know what you're thinking: you don't want to bulk up. Well, we're here to tell you: this popular belief is actually a misconception.
"It is impossible to bulk up, as women don't produce enough testosterone and don't lift heavy enough weights," says Sue Fleming of Buff Fitness, a personal trainer to brides and more. "Those women body builders you see that look bulky eat and take supplements specifically so they build muscle."
Jennifer Dene of Mind Body Bride, who is of the same mindset, adds that another side to not seeing women in the weight room is because it can feel very overwhelming to venture into new fitness territory. But, the benefits are completely worth it. According to Fleming, weight training allows you to get stronger and denser, meaning you will burn the fat that is the top layer on the muscle.
"It builds lean muscle mass, which improves the overall tone of the body," adds Dene. "In fact, having more lean mass decreases overall body size as muscle is more compact than body fat (this is why it's common to drop a dress size on a weight training program before noticing a change in the scales)."
And while any exercise boosts feel good endorphins, Dene, who uses strength training as a release for the stress and anxiety that come with the wedding process, maintains that weight training actually increases the production of these endorphins.
Ready to get started? While it depends on your goals, Fleming suggests the longer you give yourself to weight train, the better — a year if you have bigger goals and at minimum, six months. "Start slow," she advises. "Many brides-to-be begin a workout regime way too aggressive. This leads to soreness, which leads to frustration, which leads to 'I'm not doing this anymore.'"
If you're new to weight training, Dene recommends easing into the workout by taking the first two weeks to learn basic movements. "Exercises that give you the best bang for your bridal buck include weighted walking lunges, squats, step-ups, bicep curls, overhead presses, and push-ups," she says, adding that you should check out videos on YouTube that break down each of the movements, and then practice them back-to-back in a series. "It's vital to focus on form and technique before increasing weight, speed, or repetitions. Some of the popular workout programs on the market at the moment encourage very high repetitions at a fast pace, which isn't a great starting place for beginners."
Fleming points out that more reps and less weight builds muscular endurance, while less reps and heavier weights tone and build dense muscles. What's best depends on your goal.
According to Dene, the perfect mix of programming includes three strength-based sessions a week, alternated with cardio days, stretch days, and rest days. Try her sample strength program below for two weeks to get started:
Movements: Walking lunges, step ups, bicep curls, squats, overhead press, push-ups
Day One: Repeat 8-10 repetitions of each movement, back-to-back. Rest and repeat three rounds.
Day Two: Cardio
Day Three: Repeat 15 repetitions of each movement, back-to-back. Rest and repeat three rounds.
Day Four: Cardio
Day Five: Repeat 15 repetitions of each movement, back-to-back. Rest and repeat four-six rounds.
Day Six: Stretch + Rest
Day Seven: Gentle Cardio
Always listen to your body, prioritize making every movement precise and always stretch after a session, adds Dene. Both she and Fleming recommend booking a personal trainer for the first few sessions to master proper form (as improper can lead to injuries) and to determine ideal starting resistance for different exercises.
And while the wedding may be your end goal, keep Fleming's words in mind: "At the end of the day, this is a lifestyle change. Getting healthy and staying fit should not end when the wedding is over."