Today’s post is from the lovely Tina of Faith, Fitness, Fun. Tina’s incredible outlook on life always brings a smile to my face. She’s constantly reminding all of us that working out fits into your life, not the other way around. And if you need a little bit of motivation, go read her blog- she’s a new mom for the second time and has found ways to put exercise back into her routine from almost day 1- she’s even taken up running.
I love weight training. It was the first aspect of fitness I fell in love with almost a decade ago. Once I got the taste of strength, I never stopped turning to weight workouts. Very few things feel quite as satisfying as pushing my body to new limits and gaining new strength.
I truly believe strength training should be included in all workout plans. It does so much to benefit our bodies. And no – it will not make you bulky! Promise. On my blog I have some insights on how I set up strength plans, but I want to take this chance to let you in on ways I like to take it to the next level. Who doesn’t want more of a challenge, and more results, in a quicker and smarter way? I know I’m all for it! Which is why I include the following practices regularly in my strength training.
Take it slow. Doing movements in a slow and controlled fashion helps to decrease the amount of momentum used. Less momentum helping you along = more of your true effort doing the work. A good pace is two counts, small pause, two counts. For example, during a barbell bicep curl take two counts to curl the bar up, hold a moment, and then take two counts to release the bar back down. You can mix it up though and do a variety of eccentric and concentric contractions. You can take 4 counts up and 4 counts down. You can do 3 up and 1 down. Taking things slow also helps you to focus more on the move instead of just quickly going through the motions.
Use proper form. Proper form ensures that you are using the correct muscles to complete the exercise. You don’t want to be trying to work your glutes and hamstrings with a deadlift and end up working your shoulders from bad form.
You will likely feel the move more by not allowing other body parts to assist due to not doing the move correctly. Proper form also decreases any possible pain or the chance for injury, so you are able to continue improving your lifts.
Emphasize the use of free weights. Machines do have their place in weight training, namely in adding variety or helping to learn weight training moves, but the use of barbells and dumbbells are more effective.
When you don’t have a machine assisting you, your body has to work harder to stabilize itself and will naturally use more energy to do the same type of move. You also have a wider range of movement with free weights so it is common to feel more comfortable using them. Another benefit is you can challenge muscles one arm/leg at a time with dumbbells to help balance weaknesses.
Include variety. Try to do something new at least every few workouts. That doesn’t mean you have to do new moves every lifting session, but try to switch up how many reps or sets you complete, do a slight variation of a move (like on an incline or decline/with a barbell instead of dumbbell/etc), or even in a different order. Doing things differently will keep your body from becoming too accustomed to your workout. It helps to continue challenging yourself.
Play with bodyweight exercises. We may think we need some iron in our hands to get a quality weight training workout. That is not true. Things like pushups, pullups, walking lunges, squat holds, and tricep dips can challenge your body in new ways.
Consider the moves I mentioned, Pilates classes, or holding yoga poses. Tough, huh? Bodyweight moves help build up more practical endurance and incorporate new movement into your workout.
Compound movements. Things like squats, bench press, deadlifts, and rows use more than one muscle group to complete the move. These moves are more challenging and therefore more effective. In squats, you train your quads, glutes, calves, abs, and even your arms and shoulders with lifting and stabilizing the bar. During rows, you will train the various parts of your back (lats, traps, rhomboids) as well as your biceps from the pulling action. It makes sense that using 3 muscles will use more energy and strength than working one. Compound movements can do that for you.
Play around with new training methods. Include workout techniques that provide a new approach to push your limits.
- Supersets – completing two moves back to back without rest
- Circuits – doing all moves straight through with no rest
- Drop Sets – on the last set, drop your weight and then continue with more reps until you can’t do any more
- Pyramid Training – complete a set of 15, for the next set increase your weight and do a set of 10, then increase your weight and do a set of 6 on the last set
- Timed Training – instead of counting reps, do a move for a specific length of time
As you can see, there are many ways to train smarter and not harder with weights. I hope you give some a shot and have fun with it! Feel free to catch up with me on my blog, where I openly share about all topics related to living a healthy life to the fullest – body image, recipes, workouts, a positive attitude, my body after baby progress, motherhood, and more!
Do you enjoy weight training? What ways do you like to add a challenge to your workouts?