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Kelsey Wells is one of the most followed fitness influencers on social media, with over 2.9 million people from around the world tracking her every move. She is also the creator of the PWR Workout, an increasingly popular exercise method. We spoke to Wells to get the full breakdown of her popular workout, including what you can expect during a session, benefits, and more. Read on for what she had to say.
Meet the Expert
What Is PWR?
Wells, Sweat Trainer & Creator of the PWR Workout Programs, explains to Byrdie that the three-letter acronym is short for Power. “PWR is a 52-week gym-based weight-training program that is designed to help women empower themselves through fitness by building strength and confidence and reaching their goals,” she explains.
PWR is based on the concept of hypertrophy; a term generally tossed around by bodybuilders and other avid weightlifters describing the growth and increase of the size of lean muscle cells.
“Hypertrophy training is a style of resistance training that is designed to increase the size and strength of your muscles through exercise,” Wells says.
Hypertrophy increases muscle size by causing small micro-tears in the muscle cell as you hold and move the weight for a period of time, known as “time under tension.” “Gradually, over time, as you become stronger and increase the weight and duration of each exercise, the muscles adapt and increase in size, strength, and endurance,” she says.
Wells took the resistance training style and made it extremely user—and female-friendly for even those with no background in weight training who want to tone up without lots of cardio.
“PWR incorporates classic, proven weight training exercises and techniques—such as activations, pyramid training, supersets, and burnouts—and blends them in a unique way to help maximize your time and effort spent training,” she explains, “My aim through PWR is to help women feel empowered to step into the weights section of the gym for the first time or level up after years of training. Having experienced a lack of confidence and intimidation in the gym myself during the beginning of my fitness journey, I wanted to design a program that provided an introduction to training with weights to really help women break down those fears and learn to lift with confidence.”
The goal of the method is to minimize the amount of time spent working out with maximum results. “You don't have to spend hours in the gym to get results, and there are so many benefits, both physical and non-physical, to training with weights,” she explains.
Type of Class: Hypertrophy
PWR is a hypertrophy-based weight training program.
Best For: Building Muscle, Lowering Body Fat, Increasing Fitness Level
PWR is a great workout for building muscle, blasting body fat, and toning up all over.
What to Expect During a PWR Class
PWR workouts incorporate large equipment and machines, free weights, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises. A typical PWR session in the gym takes about 45 minutes to complete and has the following structure:
- Warm-up (five minutes; optional)
- Activation (nine minutes)
- Pyramid Training (15-25 minutes)
- Supersets or Trisets (12-15 minutes)
- Burnout (two-to-three minutes; optional)
- Cooldown (five minutes; optional)
In addition to the weight training sessions, there is a cardio element to the program as well. There are three recommended low-intensity cardio sessions in week 1 and as you progress, the cardio workouts begin to decrease, which can be tailored to suit your lifestyle and preferences.
After week nine, there are six full PWR sessions available across various muscle group splits and you can complete four to six depending on your cardio preferences.
At-Home vs. In-Studio
There are two versions of PWR. The original, described above, incorporates more gym equipment and is a little more intensive.
Some of the equipment used in the gym based program includes a barbell, bench, balance ball, cable/dual cable, chair, deadball, decline bench, dumbbells, fitball, kettlebell, lat pulldown, leg extension, leg press, medicine ball, prone leg curl, seated leg curl, squat rack, step, resistance band, and weight plate. Simultaneously, the at-home relies on more accessible exercise tools, including dumbbells, resistance bands, a bench, a fitball, and a kettlebell.
“For those who may not be able to access a gym, may not have time to get there, or simply prefer to train in the privacy of their own home, I created PWR at Home to make weight training more accessible and provide women with the tools they need to workout and empower themselves through fitness, regardless of where they prefer or can train,” Wells explains.
The main difference between the gym-based PWR program versus the at-home program is that the pyramid section in PWR has been replaced with a circuit section in PWR at Home. “This keeps the training intensity without the need for a large range of weights or gym machines,” Wells explains.
Benefits of PWR
The benefits of PWR mirror those of weight training and other forms of exercise. “It’s important to note that the non-physical benefits are just as important as the physical benefits you can expect to see,” Wells points out. These include better sleep, increased energy, confidence, and memory, and mental focus. Additionally, following Wells’ plan can help transform your body.
- Increased muscle mass: The biggest benefit of PWR over similar workouts has to do with hypertrophy—the idea that you can increase the size of your muscles via micro-tear in the muscle cell.
- Prevention of muscle mass loss: While building muscle mass, you prevent its loss.
- Preservation of and Increased bone density: As with most weight lifting and muscle-strengthening workouts, it can help prevent the loss of bone density and also help increase or maintain it.
- Faster metabolism: Building muscle mass is a scientifically proven way to increase your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories faster. In fact, due to the after-burn effect, directly after a strength training workout, your metabolism remains elevated through the process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)
Safety and Injury Considerations
According to Wells, PWR is suitable for all fitness levels, from minimal workout experience to advanced. “For anyone brand new to weight training, there are four weeks of beginner training available, so you can spend time getting used to the workout structure and get into a regular workout pattern,” she explains. “As the program progresses throughout the weeks, the workouts progress as well, so it will continue to be challenging each week to allow anyone using it to get results. The great thing about this program is you can work at your own pace — so you can increase the intensity or pull it back if the workout is too difficult.”
However, the biggest safety consideration for PWR training is to make sure you are confident with your weight training technique and understand how to execute movements with the correct form before trying to lift too heavy. “Correct exercise form is crucial to minimize your risk of injury and also helps you get the most out of your workout,” she explains. “Within the Sweat app, which is where my PWR program is hosted, we have taken every measure possible to help with technique—from videos of me performing the exercises to audio instructions; you can also tap on any of the videos which will give you a detailed written overview of how to perform the move correctly.”
She adds that it is also important to be realistic with yourself and understand your capabilities. “Small, consistent progression provides more opportunity for long-term success. Taking your time to complete a movement correctly is much safer than completing more reps and exposing yourself to a potential injury. Quality movements over quantity, always,” she says.
PWR vs. HIIT
HIIT style training involves short intervals of high-intensity exercise followed by short intervals of rest. It is a popular exercise style due to its time-efficient nature and the fact that most exercises require minimal equipment. While HIIT exercises are included throughout the PWR program to help raise workout intensity in key moments, the program's focus is primarily on hypertrophy-based weight training, in which workouts are usually split to target specific areas of the body. “A hypertrophy-based program will often contain two-to-five workouts each week,” she explains.
Dan Bowen, trainer and owner of HIT Fitness, explains that hypertrophy training helps build lean muscle, while HIIT effectively burns calories. “The sets and reps differ from each other,” he explains. For example, with hypertrophy, you are generally doing three to six sets with six-to-12 reps each, resting for about 30 to 90 seconds in between. With HIIT training, you will do more reps with less rest, “keeping your heart rate high.”
“The heavy weightlifting you do in PWR is much more effective at helping you build that lean muscle,” he continues. “The more muscle you have, the faster your body metabolism will have to work.”
So how do you know which is the right training style for you? That can really depend on your fitness level, goals, and type of exercise you enjoy doing - both styles of training styles are different, and each has different benefits. When it comes to selecting a training program, the key is to choose one designed by a certified fitness professional and is scientifically sound. It’s also important that you select a program that you actually enjoy doing and fits in with your day-to-day life.
Bowen also points out that you don’t have to choose one. “You could always do an eight to 12-week hypertrophy workout, then move onto a HIIT workout for three-to-six weeks,” he suggests.
What to Wear to a PWR Class
Wells suggests wearing anything that you feel comfortable in and allows you to complete movements with a full range of motion comfortably.
How to Get Started
The great thing about PWR is that you can get started immediately by downloading the Sweat app via the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. The cost of a membership is $20 per month or $120 per year. Once you have downloaded the app, select Wells as your trainer, and you will have access to all four of her PWR programs:
- PWR (gym-based weight training program)
- PWR at Home (home-based weight training program)
- PWR Zero Equipment (home-based bodyweight training program)
- PWR Post Pregnancy (home-based, low impact strength training program designed to help you safely begin or resume fitness postpartum)
PWR is an efficient and effective workout that will get your results. While it isn’t going to be a quick fitness fix, weight training is a sustainable form of exercise that offers many short and long-term health benefits, both physical and mental. Even if you choose not to stick with PWR, you can incorporate Wells’ workouts and tools into your gym routine. “If you’re starting weight training for the first time, always remember to listen to your body and how you feel,” she says, “Adjust your workouts to meet you where you're at to help you maximize the benefits of your time and effort spent training.”