Healthier & Happier Living: Lifting Weights & Protein Shakes

January 27, 2014

This week in my 'Healthier and Happier Living' series I wanted to go into more detail about lifting weights.

I covered why you should life weights in *this post* and today I wanted to show you how.

I am not a personal trainer, I don't have any qualifications in the area but I have been a gym 'bunny' since I was 16 (eek, 10 years!) and my husband (who has helped my write this post) has been going to the gym regularly since the same age (15 years for him!) so we have about 25 years of gym experience between us... My husband knows A LOT about lifting weights... you only have to look at him to know that! (I'm a bit proud lol)

So, if you don't know why lifting weights is great for burning fat then make sure you read my *previous post* to get you on-board with the idea and get rid of the notion that you are going to get beefed up and manly from lifting.

Little Disclaimer:

Always double check your form in a mirror, don't over exert yourself, get some one to 'spot' you if you lift anything close to your limit and get a qualified professional to check your technique if you are a real newbie.

The general rule I use is: the weight should be tough to lift but not impossible, I should be struggling to finish my 'sets' but not failing to finish them. If it hurts I stop immediately.

What you need:

Technically you don't NEED anything... If you are a member of a gym you can use their machines or free weights, if you are at home you may want to buy some dumbells or kettle bells and I personally feel I need a mat and a swiss ball for my work out. If you really don't want to spend any money then you can use things around the house - tins of beans, bottles of water, (plastic) pints of milk, etc! Anything with any kind of weight to it that you can comfortably hold will increase your resistance and there for you are lifting 'weights'. It doesn't matter if you later eat your weights ;-)

Just Weights?

Personally, I cannot do 'just' weights. I like to do some kind of cardio followed by a bit of stretching and then I start lifting. The ratio of cardio to weights has dramatically shifted in favour of weights over cardio but I do still like to get my heart racing a bit and my blood pumping.

If I have a lot of time on my hands (pft! time, what's that?) then I go for a jog (typically 5-7K) first. If I am short on time I do a few jumping jacks, etc OR I bounce on my daughter's trampoline for 5 minutes, much to the amusement of my neighbours!

How many sets and how many reps?

I do three sets of eight, I think this is the right amount to build a bit of muscle. It pushes me to my limit but not completely past it. 

What you do:

So here are some very basic exercises you can do at home or in the gym.

Bicep curls
This tones the top, inside part of your arm... or bicep if you want to get technical.

Hammer curls
This works your bicep as well, but its worth doing because it works a different part of the same muscle, and they are harder to do.

Tricep Dips
This works the three muscles at the back of your arm. This part makes up about two thirds of your arm mass so it's not a good idea to skip... also this is the part responsible for those dreaded bingo wings! So love your triceps, or pay the price!

Tricep Raise:
This works the same area again, but as I said it's a good one to focus on!

Lateral Side Raises
For nice, shapely shoulders try out this exercise.

Lateral Front Raises
Again, still working on your shoulders but a different part.

For strong quads and shaply glutes (that's the tops of your legs and your bum in lay man's terms) try out some lunges, with our without weights.

This does almost exactly the same job, work that booty!

Calf raises
Banish those cankles ladies! Simple, easy but very effective. (Basically just going up onto your tip toes with weights in your hands)

Leg raises
One of the only exercise that really targets the bottom two muscles in your abs.

Start with legs slightly raised:

Then use your stomach/core muscles to bring your legs up.

Bring your legs back down in a slow and controlled way

My personal favourite! This is a simple but tough exercise that you can add lots of variations to as you increase in confidence. Engage your core and keep your bum down!

Bicycle sit ups
A more advanced one but one of the most effective. If you struggle with these just stick to normal crunches.

I also like to use weights like so:

aka muffin top! Again, very easy but also a good one to work into your routine... I mean, who wants to spill out of their jeans?

Bent over Row
This helps with your core strength by working your back, shoulders, etc. It will make you look toned in strappy tops and backless dresses.

Protein Shakes - Why I use them

Proteins are the building blocks of life, we need protein for growth and repair. If you are lifting weight or doing a lot of cardio then you are tearing your muscles and rebuilding them. (Hence the ache the next day three days.)

In 'green' circles the jury is out on protein shakes, I am personally convinced that they are essential to ME and MY needs. If you are veggie or vegan you can get protein shakes from different sources i.e. pea, rice, etc. Although, when we've tried it in the past it has been much harder to drink and a lot more powdery- just my personal opinion (and that of my husband too!)

I use a very simple whey protein (from the whey in milk) if you look into buying protein shakes you may be baffled at first by the startling array of different types, flavours, etc.

I love the prices and products on and they have never done me or my husband wrong in the years we have ordered from them.

If you want (totally optional) you can use this code for 5% off your first order: MP815332 

I personally buy this one: *Impact Whey* as it is simple, tastes nice and seems to work well for me. Hubby buys something a bit more in depth as he is really bulking up and has a passion for all things gym! (If you do want to know what he has I can tell you, it just seemed a bit too much info for this post)

I drink my protein shake with unsweetened almond milk (soooo yummy!) Hubby likes to have full fat milk for his but you can just use water if you like. (Or even a mixture of both)

Little tip: When buying a protein shaker I suggest getting one with a little metal ball whisk in, it will mean you can mix your shake really quickly and there will not be any horrible lumps in it!

I am very fussy with foods, flavours and textures but I have never had a problem with drinking protein shakes - although I really thought I would! If you really, really do struggle then you could add something in to help it down - honey, hot chocolate powder, etc. Obviously I don't really recommend that but you could start like that then gradually wean yourself off it by reducing the amount you add in.

Final word: 

NO AMOUNT of gym time or exercising can undo a bad diet. You must back this up with a reasonable/good diet. Plus, you will be more effective in your work out if you are well fuelled.

Final, final word:

Have fun, enjoy it, put time and effort into your body and be proud of the results. Don't worry about 'bulking' up, trust me it won't happen. I know someone who trains for bikini competitions (posing in stage in a lot of fake tan and not much else) and she has been on a special diet plus a ridiculous excercise plan and it still struggling to add muscle- us women are just not wired that way. We are designed to hold fat not build muscle! Sad but true ladies!

The above are just some simple, basic exercises to target a few trouble spots, sorry if they are a bit too 'beginner' but I wanted to go back to basics... and hey, if this is all new to you then don't be daunted or overwhelmed, it was new to all of us at some point.

I hope you've enjoyed this post, I enjoyed writing it and taking the pictures! 
Out takes ;-)

Hubby showing off!

Photo bomb!

Maddie 'Planking'

Me failing!


  1. Haha love the photos at the end!! Great post - I'm doing 10k Race for Life again this year and need to start training again soon. I've ust signed up to its £5.99 a month and you can do live classes at home or look over old ones that are recorded! I've got a free 30 day trial at the minute though so I've been doing those twice a week! xx

    1. I do like to show a bit of 'behind the scenes' when I can ;-) Well done you going for the 10K, I did the 5K before and thinking of doing it again this year... I like to use YouTube videos to get me motivated, there are some great ppl on there with great at home 'classes' you can do... Biloglates is a good one, that girl is CRAZY lol. So full of energy and passion. Thanks for reading and commenting! Great to hear from you as always Amber :-) xx

  2. Feeling very motivated to get back to the gym (thank you!) the Christmas holidays knocked me a quite a bit and I've been incredibly lazy with both my diet and exercise and it's definitely starting to show :S
    P.s love the end photos!!

    1. Excellent! Glad to hear it! The holidays knocked me out a bit too, you start to feel it don't you? hopefully you're back on the right track now. thanks for reading xx

  3. I´m not sure weight lifting is for me but I have done some Zumba with weights in the past. I also use my children´s trampoline in the summer as I think it´s a fantastic and free form of exercise. I love the pictures with Maddie in them.

    1. You have to find what's right for you... that was the section of the gym I used to avoid full stop but now I find it the most rewarding thing, each to their own though. Exercise should be what works for you - it is your body after all. Thanks for reading, glad you like Maddie's camio ;-) xx

  4. Great post, Can't wait to give it a go! Jess x

    1. Thanks! Don't lose motivation, it sounds like you're doing well and working hard don't let a little dip worry you :-) xx

  5. Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”.


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