Lifting weights is one of the best ways for women to sculpt a strong, lean physique.
However, even seasoned weight lifters sometimes stop seeing the results of their efforts in the gym. Increasing the intensity of your workout is one of the quickest ways to jumpstart progress and break through plateaus (not to mention decreasing your workout time so you can get out and enjoy the rest of your day sooner).
Follow these six tips to up the intensity of your strength workouts.
Emphasize compound exercises over isolation exercises. Compound, multi-joint movements burn more calories than single-joint exercises. Trade those bicep curls for a lunge and curl combination. At the very least, place isolation exercises near the end of your workout, after you’ve exhausted the big ‘guns’ (so to speak)
- Choose supersets over straight sets. Alternating two different compound exercises not only saves time, it keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn burns more calories than traditional straight-set training. Try pairing opposing muscle groups to maximize muscle recovery time while minimizing the time spent in the gym. My current favorite superset pair? Chest press on the ball and bent-over reverse flys.
- Rest less. Long between-set (or between-superset) breaks result in a lower overall workout intensity than moving quickly from one exercise to another. Save the socializing for later. Keep moving to keep burning calories and reveal those muscles sooner!
- Lift heavier than you think you can. Most women underestimate their own strength. If you can easily perform 8 to 12 repetitions of an exercise, it’s time to increase the weight you’re lifting. The heavier the load, the more intense the exercise (and the faster your muscles will grow). Note that when you first increase the weight on a particular exercise, the number of good form repetitions you’ll be able to do should decrease. Slowly work your way back up to a complete set before increasing the load again.
- Add a plyometric move between strength supersets. In addition to elevating your heart rate and increasing your calorie burn, plyometric (or ‘jump training’ exercises) are a great way to maintain and improve bone density. Well-sculpted muscles look particularly fetching a top a posture-perfect frame!
- End your workout with a ‘finisher’. After all your reps and sets are done, throw in a single Tabata interval or my favorite leg ‘finisher’; 20 squats, 20 squat jumps, 20 alternating lunges, 20 split lunge jumps. NOW, you’re done!