If you're looking to increase your lean muscle mass, get in better shape or just look better in your clothes, you've probably been encouraged to add strength training into your workout regimen. But to get the most bang for your buck, expert trainer Brian Cygan, Co-Founder & CEO of The Exercise Coach, shares the four "C's" of how women should weight train.
Compound Exercises: Exercises that utilize large groups of muscle are called compound exercises because they involve movement at multiple joints. Examples include leg presses, bench presses, shoulder presses, pulldowns, rows, and squats. The effectiveness of these exercises has to do with their impact not only on the muscles involved but on their ability to trigger the release of muscle building (and fat-burning) hormones.
Controlled Movements: You should lift weights using a slow and controlled pace. This is not only safer than rapid movements but it also reduces momentum and keeps the muscles you are working under constant tension. In other words, moving slowly prevents you from finding ways to cheat yourself and rest a little from rep to rep. Try to take at least 5 seconds to lift and 5 seconds to lower the weight you use every repetition.
Clock-Work Metrics: Your body doesn’t respond to how many reps you perform. It responds to the challenge that it faces. So, rather than counting reps, try using a stopwatch. Use a weight you can lift in a controlled manner for 90 seconds. Progress the weight a little each workout until you find it impossible to maintain form or continue for 90 seconds. When you can’t reach 90 seconds in good form, leave the weight the same for several workouts until you can. This will encourage good form as counting reps can really encourage cheating. Once you have this method dialed in, one set per exercise is all you will need.
Complete Recovery: You don’t build muscle and get stronger while you are working out. It’s during your time away from the gym that your body gets better. Remember to get 48-72 hours of rest from strength training before heading back for more.
If you're not sure how to perform these exercises, hiring a certified trainer is a good idea.
Brian Cygan is a 17 year veteran of the personal training industry. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in fitness leadership from Northern Illinois University in 1997 where he played baseball and earned NSCA All-American honors. In 2000 Cygan and his wife, Gerianne, founded The Exercise Coach to bring visionary fitness concepts to the general population. They operate successful Exercise Coach studios in Chicagoland, and now have expanded The Exercise Coach to more than 30 locations open throughout the US with another 35 in development.