At the top of 2022, there were a few things on my bingo card I hoped to tick off by its end. Travel! Risk my safety deposit and paint my walls. And on extraordinary days, read a book in lieu of zoning out to the audio copy of said book stashed in my phone (sublime). Some resolutions turned out swell; others were relegated to the bench that is my endearingly distractible brain. But at-home weightlifting? It just clicked. I'm addicted to the strength I feel sans gym, its Tiger Balm after-effect for my squiggly mind, and of course, a new FAQ, "Wow, are you working out?"

But I must share a teeny secret. Even with my months-long commitment, I can admit it took more time than I liked to get the cute, "toned" return on investment I was aching for with at-home weight training (cue the track). So, I noted the mistakes I made, threw myself into fitness wormhole upon fitness wormhole, and sussed out a strategy for a lasting routine. Here's what I've learned so far:

Full body regimen or bust

Join me, and release the chokehold of spot-reducing workout routines from your fed-up core, limbs, shoulders, knees, and toes. Spot-treating is a mirage — yes, you'll feel the burn, but those exercises alone don't have the intensity to create the energy deficit you need to tone areas radically. And word to the wise: working out a certain area doesn't mean your body chooses to oxidize fatty acids from that area.

To see more muscles or "look toned," you'll need to rework your total body composition to a lower overall body fat percentage. (Fitness speak is fun, huh?). Ironically, by putting larger muscle groups to work with full body movements — think: planks, weighted squats, and lunges — you'll build more muscle, oxidize more fatty acids, and tackle the problem areas that made you want to work out in the first place.

If you want, you can try my exertion of choice, Caroline Girvan's Epic Endgame program, which gleefully hits different muscle groups each day with accessible, limit-pushing moves. Super chic and Scandinavian @gainsbybrains has at-home workouts you can download for $free.99 as well.

Reject plateau, embrace intensity

The more you grow your delicious muscles and fall into a workout groove, the lighter your dumbbells will feel. The twist? Your new ease makes you more prone to plateau. Don't be like me and ignore signs that it's time to switch things up when your workouts feel easier. Take a scroll through Facebook Marketplace and scout heavier dumbbells to use. You can also find them for cheapsies on Craigslist. Consider ramping up how often you train per week, the reps you hit in a set, or shortening your rest between sets of reps. This process of increasing the sweet, sweet exertion that encourages your muscle tissues to repair and rebuild is called progressive overload, and increased intensity is next to godliness.

Whatever you do, eat protein, PLEASE

The amount of protein widely recommended for weight training seemed mind-boggling at first: a whopping .6 - 1g of protein per pound of your ideal body weight per day. (To put it into perspective: For a 150lb person, that's 90–150g of protein, or 15 eggs at a minimum.) As expected, I knocked the goal off as too lofty and enjoyed my protein servings laissez-faire. But twiddling my thumbs just postponed the results I wanted as science would have it, eating a good amount of protein after a good workout gives muscles the amino acids needed to repair and rebuild the muscle tissue broken down after your workout. I don't always get 100% of the amount of protein I "should" eat per day, but I aim for at least 60% of the amount per day — keeping in mind I'm doing lower-key weightlifting at home rather than the gym, anyways. More protein = the more gains you can see.

Ways to add more protein:

  • Think of it as the main event of a meal and supplement it with some veggies, fruits, and carbs of choice. I doubt I’I'llver get that serious about macros (too much counting for my taste!) but centering protein is key, ok? <3
  • Steal my high-protein gogo-to'sprotein powder, greek yogurt, chickpea pasta, tuna, quinoa, tofu, almonds, peanut butter, salmon, and chicken!

Bonus: go for a walk when you get a chance

To be an all-around healthy person, cardio needs to have its place. It’s greIt'sor the heart and soul. Cardio can also increase the deficit that lowers your overall body fat percentage since it burns extra calories. (Of course, everyone has their own relationship to food, so feel free to decide if a deficit makes sense for your body and fitness goals!) I like to go on a walk in the evenings when I’m eithI'm

1. Feeling extra ambitious

2. Didn't gDidn'tund to lifting that day. It’s kinIt'sike the icing on the top of the work I’m alreI'm doing! I’ll worI'll way up to runs one day, but who’s inwho'ssh?

Ok, so how are we feeling? Ready to get shredded? Yay! See ya on the mat.


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