You’ve probably dabbled with lifting weights, or even do it regularly. But whether dumbbells are a faint acquaintance or your best bud, there’s always something to learn. That’s why Women’s Health joined forces with the US 2017 Next Fitness Star, Betina Gozo, to create The Woman’s Guide to Strength Training. The plan is full of wisdom, workouts, and warmth, to take your weight-room game up a notch.
Consider this your exclusive primer to seeing result every time you hit the gym.
1. SET YOUR STARTING POINT
It only takes two weeks to improve your strength, even if visible changes can be a bit slower to show (three to six weeks). Knowing your baseline before you begin allows you to measure real gains and spot success early, helping you stay on track when motivation dips, says Betina. On day one, write down how many reps you can perform for one minute each of pushups, prisoner squats (hands behind your head), and inverted rows (pulling yourself up to a bar or suspension straps). Retest and record every four weeks.
2. EMBRACE THE WARMUP
No matter how little time you have, always take at least two minutes to wake your sleepy muscles. Devote the first minute to a mobility exercise, which increases your range of motion in key joints you’ll use during your workout (like your shoulders and hips—try shoulder rolls and pulsing squats, respectively). Spend the next 60 seconds on an activation drill, like slow mountain climbers or bridges, to prime your muscles for the actions ahead.
FOCUS & PRIORITIZE. When I get busy and overwhelmed (which is, recently, all the time for me ?), I have to stay focused on what it is I want to accomplish and what is important to me. ?Don’t “busy” yourself with things that aren’t going align with your goals or where you want to go. Get rid of the fluff and give your self LOVE and FOCUS ?Prioritize yourself. Write those goals down, be specific, figure out how to accomplish it, and don’t be afraid to say no to distractions. As long as you communicate, don’t step on or flake on people, and do the right thing, everything will be OK! ? ?Do you, boo boo ?
3. MIND THE MIRRORS
Avoid watching your reflection unless you’re directly facing it—craning your neck to check your form only compromises it. Instead, ask a trainer for a glance-over, and try to focus on how any corrections feel (core tight, back flat, shoulders relaxed, etc.). At home? Record a video on your phone—you can assess your technique between sets or show it to a fit friend or trainer to get feedback afterward.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE
For the first month, your goal is to create a solid foundation—one without injury or imbalances—that you can build on. To do that, stick to basics. With lower- and total-body exercises, remove combinations (say, a dumbbell lunge rather than a dumbbell lunge to press) and variations (a plank instead of a plank with leg raise). For upper-body moves, try targeting one arm at a time, which helps reveal disparities between sides and reduces the use of momentum to power the action.
Everyone wants some ? work! Four of my favorite simple moves that get you some strong legs ?? ❤️RFE Split Squat ?Lateral Step Up ?Hip Thruster ?Sumo Squat ?If you’ve done these move before, grab some heavy weight – those legs are strong! If they’re new – try without the weight, then add some on! Move through 8-10 reps of each(on each side) – pair up with a core movement to give your legs a rest, then do it 4x through! #TRAINwithBETINA #TwBGymWorkouts #WHStrong @niketraining @womenshealthmag
5. DON’T RUSH YOUR REPS
Moving slowly and with control maxes your muscles’ time under tension, meaning they spend a greater part of your routine fighting resistance. Most workouts should be at a 2-1-1 tempo: Take two seconds to do the first part of an exercise (e.g., lowering into a lunge), one second to pause, then one second to perform the second part (returning to stand). Once a week, try a 4-1-1 tempo to break through plateaus.
6. MEMORISE THE MOVES
There are seven movement patterns to know. Push involves moving weight away from you and strengthens your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Pull brings weight toward you and hits your back, biceps, and shoulders. Squat and lunge are knee-dominant exercises that mainly target your quads and calves, while hinge moves are hip-dominant and work your glutes and hamstrings. Carry (walking with a heavy object) and rotate (twisting your torso) strengthen your core. Every circuit should include the first five, but the best ones touch all seven.
Spending Valentine’s day with one of my loves while the other is at work! ❤️ ?Lots of kisses and licks to you all on this day full of love! ? ?Also, how cute is this @yellow.willow.yoga mat? You can get it at @nordstromrack! ? Fits in nicely in our new home full of plants! ? #happyvalentinesday ?: @coreybarnacletaylor ??
7. SIZE UP YOUR SORENESS
How you feel after your sessions should vary. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being can-hardly-walk sore), week one might leave you feeling like a 4 or worse. But by week two, you may find yourself closer to a 2 (mild stiffness). Don’t fear: That doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard or progressing; your body is simply adjusting. Aim for a 3 at least once a week to ensure your muscles are properly challenged. Hit a 4? Take the next day off to recover.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US
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