Thanks for the support on my good news! And all the sweet comments on what we can learn from children. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I hope you do. Children sure do wear their hearts on their sleeve.
Remember my Power class from Tuesday that felt tougher than usual? Well, I was feeling the remnants of it yesterday. So after warming up my muscles in spin and doing a good stretch with the foam roller, I took 15 minute to relax and get a “massage” using my gym’s hydro-massage bed.
I don’t know if it does much, but it does feel good. And my use of this equipment has absolutely nothing to do with getting an extra 15 minutes of childcare time for me to lay back and read a book. Nothing I tell you. Nothing! *cough cough* I hope that doesn’t make me a bad mom. But in my eyes a relaxed mommy is a happy mommy and a happy mommy is a good mommy.
Where am I going with all of this? Well, during the “massage” I thought about my slightly sore muscles and considered something our instructor was saying at the beginning of class while I was half-listening and setting up my area. She told us that she chose tracks that would challenge us and give us an effective workout. I agree with that. There were quite a few things I know bring an effective weight workout included in the class. I have explained some of my favorite ways to get an increased challenge during a lifting session below. These may apply to weight classes or your own weight training. Include some of these and feel the difference. I promise if done right, you will notice a challenge.
- 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 each, or 3 up and 1 down, etc. 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. Lifting classes usually do many of the same moves to accommodate the equipment available for classes, but they still have variety from a different setup every class. 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 and even your glutes by working to maintain proper form. It makes sense that using 3 muscles will use more energy and strength than working one. Compound movements can do that for you.
Do you enjoy weight training? What ways do you like to challenge yourself and get an effective workout? Are you surprised by any of these suggestions?