Strength Training Doesn’t Have to Be a Slog—Here Are 7 Ways to Make It More Fun

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If you've been making your way to the weight room lately, listening to the clear evidence that strength training can improve your overall health and fitness, nice work! But unless you’re one of those people who just love picking things up and putting them down again, the inherent repetition of strength routines can be a bit… monotonous.

It's natural to get bored with workouts, even ones less repetitive than lifting weights. So if you find yourself dreading strength work, what can you do to stay engaged enough to actually stick with it?

We asked several top trainers for their best advice and are already working some of their tips into our week. Not every suggestion will work for every gym-goer, but one of these seven strategies just might keep you from making excuses to skip the gym again.

Experts In This Article

7 strategies to make strength training fun

1. Hype yourself up before heading to the gym

Don’t wait to start your workout routine until you arrive at the gym—use music to get yourself in a pumped-up mindset as you get ready.

“Create your favorite playlist of anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour [to play] while you're changing, while you're commuting, so that you can really let loose when you get to the gym,” says Tony Vacharasanee, CPT, a senior coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City.

Using music to set the mood is a science-backed strategy: “Studies have shown that music can motivate and increase the performance of some of the world’s top-performing athletes,” says Amina Barnes, CPT.

It might be something that amps you up, or reminds you of good times in the past, or calms you down so you can leave the stress of the rest of your day behind you. The right music can put you in the mood to enjoy some movement and the feeling of strength in your body. If you’re already in that headspace by the time you get to the gym, you'll likely find all those sets and repetitions more appealing.

2. Find a goal that feels exciting

If you’re grabbing those dumbbells just because you feel like you’re “supposed” to, it will feel like a chore. But giving yourself a meaningful challenge to conquer can make your workouts feel more like playtime.

“Even if you don't care that much about strength training, finding a goal or an accomplishment that you can make in the gym motivates you to keep working toward it,” says Lauren Pak, CPT, who owns a fitness training business with her husband Jason.

Maybe you want to do a pull-up, or deadlift your own body weight, or hold a handstand. Seeing yourself make progress toward a specific goal will keep you engaged in the process and help make strength training fun.

3. Change your surroundings

Sometimes it’s the tedium of returning to the same environment day after day that gets to us.

“There's no concrete rule that you have to be in [a gym with] four walls,” says movement and run coach Aaliyah Earvin, CPT.

Maybe you feel more comfortable strength training in your bedroom with Netflix on, or maybe going out to a park with a couple of resistance bands in tow feels like a more fun way to spend your time, she says. Mix things up in any way that appeals to you.

4. Increase the complexity

While consistently repeating the same exercise over and over is how we build strength, we eventually need to make things more difficult.

“Your body needs that stimulus to continue improving, but also to create emotional buy-in,” Vacharasanee says.  For instance, you could progress your split squats to reverse lunges, and then do walking lunges and step-ups to increase the demand and that feeling of accomplishment, he says.

Being continually challenged this way helps focus our attention to get us “in the zone;” otherwise we’ll mentally check out.

5. Add variety

Sometimes, novelty beats out consistency—especially if it helps get you moving. Even though by-the-book training suggests sticking with the same exercises for four weeks, Pak makes the point that the gym can become more appealing if you know you're able to change things up slightly.

“If somebody is going to skip workouts or not do it because they're bored, then they're not going to make progress,” she says. Allow yourself enough novelty to stay engaged.

"Stepping outside of your comfort zone with new exercises or a new instructor can keep things spicy and interesting," says Barry’s instructor Garret Caillouet. Take this to heart if you’re feeling sluggish in your routine or if you’re lacking motivation. Maybe you’re a little burnt out on weight training—that’s okay. Mix it up with Pilates or barre to target your smaller muscle groups and build overall strength.

6. Enlist a friend or join a group

Science shows we’re more likely to enjoy exercising when it’s a social event than when we’re sweating solo. Maybe you sign up for a group class or make a date with an accountability buddy. Vacharasanee says several of his semi-private training clients have become close friends, which helps them look forward to sessions together.

7. Find the exercises you enjoy

There are multiple ways to achieve the same goals. If you always find your mind wandering during, say, deadlifts, Earvin suggests trying something like glute bridges, which work most of the same muscles in a different way.

Especially for beginners, Pak suggests asking yourself what exercises you actually enjoy doing. “It doesn't have to be the perfect thing that everybody says is the perfect exercise,” she says. “Find the thing that you really do enjoy and get consistent with that thing. And then over time, you may start to be like, I'm curious what those machines do over there. And then you realize, Ooh, I actually like how that feels. And it just snowballs.”

“It’s much easier to stick to your fitness goals if you enjoy the work you’re doing," agrees Caillouet. If you don’t love a particular workout, ask yourself: Was it the trainer? The type of exercises? The style of the workout? The music? Get specific, and fine-tune from there.

Maybe try a new trainer, a new workout (there are different types of strength training), or take a class again on a different day to see if the moves change. Treat it like an experiment until it clicks, and the workout feels more joyful and energizing.

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