Rules to Lift By
Cool. You are ready to lift weights to get into awesome shape. But the thought of figuring out how much weight to lift, how often to lift it, and how to change up your program can leave you thinking, ‘I will just go for a little run instead.’
Don’t do it! Weights beat cardio for getting fit and lean in the long run. Take heart. I’ve got your back on this one.
Three Simple Steps to Get the Most From Your Strength Workouts
- How much?
Shoot for a total of 24-50 reps for each muscle group. Say you choose squats for the lower body, chest press for upper body, and triceps to look great in tank tops.
- Do a warm-up set of 10-12 repetitions (reps or times)
- Do 2 sets of 10 reps with a weight you can complete for at least 6 but not more than 12 reps. You need sufficient stimulation to gain muscle
- Work your abs
Begin with light weight—even bodyweight—and when you can outdo your previous workouts by even one more rep or an extra pound, increase the weight you were using and–
- Do a warm-up set of 10 reps
- Do 3 sets of 8 reps at your increased weight
- Take a longer rest interval between sets since you are increasing the weights (the ‘load)
This is the recipe to continuously improve body composition and performance. Changing your program variables like rest interval and sets/reps will place demand on the body to adapt and expend more energy to get used to it.
- How hard/intense?
Hit it hard and get out. Recent and abundant research shows that brief and workouts with progressively heavier weights (definition of intense) can build the body you aspire to. An effective strength training session can take just 30-40 minutes. Focus on strength vs. endurance (‘Total Fitness and Wellness,’ Stephen Dodd, Ph.D., and Scott K. Powers, Ph.D’s, Physiology). Exercise at a moderate to vigorous level.
When you work out, are you working hard or hardly working? How hard does it feel to you while you’re doing it—what is your ‘perceived exertion?’ You want to feel powerful while not over-stressing yourself. If you think you are working hard, your heart rate is likely elevated a bit in a good way. Back off if you feel it is too high.
Intense training can be a time-effective and potent stimulus for inducing many of the benefits normally associated with more prolonged workouts. Balance is important. Overdoing it can increase your risk of soreness, injury and burnout. If you’re new to regular exercise and physical activity, you may need to start out at a light intensity and gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous intensity.
- How often?
Consistency is the name of the game here. What works in your lifestyle? Can you do a short strength workout at LEAST twice a week? Commit to that and you will get results.
Phew. Now we relieved the confusion, you are ready to rock!