‘Work your chest on Mondays, your back and biceps on Wednesdays, and legs on Fridays.’
The idea that you need to split up the body parts you strengthen into separate training days doesn’t make any sense, says Rachel Cosgrove, the creator of the Women’s Health Spartacus 4.0 Workout in the Women’s Health Personal Trainer subscription tool. Your body works as one component, she says, and so by breaking up the areas you train, you won’t take advantage of the benefits of a full-body workout—like ramping up your heart rate or spending less time working out. Instead, Cosgrove says you should do a full-body strength-training routine three times a week. See how you can work every major muscle group with this 15-minute total body workout.
‘Keep going until your muscles give out.’
When you perform reps past the point where your form breaks down, you’re asking for injuries and for your muscles to take forever to recover, says BJ Gaddour, certified strength training and conditioning specialist and author of the Men’s Health book Your Body is Your Barbell. He says the smarter option is to stop when you can’t perform the move with proper form. Doing this will help you improve your strength without putting your body at risk—which is always a good thing.
‘This strength-training exercise can create longer muscles.’
Whether you’re an avid yogi or enjoy lifting weights, the length of your muscles will never change, says Albert Matheny, an exercise physiologist and trainer at Soho Strength Lab in New York City. He says that your muscles have an origin and an insertion point on your bones, so there’s no exercise you can do to make them “longer.” What strength training can do for your muscles? Make them more defined and stronger, he says.
‘If you’re new to strength training, head straight to the machines.’
If you think machines are the easiest and safest way to tone your muscles as a beginner, you should know that this probably isn’t true, says Mike Boyle owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Woburn, Massachusetts. You see, strength training machines use lever systems, which have to be designed for a certain body type—and a majority of the time, that body is a dude’s, he says. That means the machine isn’t exactly the safest choice for women looking to tone up. Another downside to using weight machines, especially the ones that require you to sit, is that most don’t force you to utilize your stabilization muscles for balance, says Boyle. Instead, try to use machine-free exercises that imitate every day movements like squatting, pushing, and pulling, he says. For more free-weight workout inspiration, check out when you should use each kind of weight while strength training.
‘You HAVE to do this move.’
“Whenever I hear someone say you have to squat or you have to deadlift to get stronger, I think, ‘You don’t have to do anything that’s not right for you,'” says David Jack, a fitness expert and certified strength and conditioning specialist. He says that if a move doesn’t feel right to you or you just don’t like it, it’s fine to skip it if you can find a good substitution. “There are so many different ways to develop strength,” he says. For example, if you are not a fan of pushups, try this non-pushups-required arm workout instead.
‘Never lift a weight so heavy you can only move it three to five times.’
When you go into the weight room and pick up a weight that you know you can do 12 to 15 reps of, you’re probably going to get stronger, but not as strong as you could be, says Tony Gentilcore, a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist, and co-founder of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. “If strength is your goal, basic exercise physiology says that you need to lift heavier loads in lower rep ranges,” he says. “Lifting heavier weights for less reps helps burn fat and create definition.” This is because the amount of work it takes to lift a weight you can move 15 times is less than the effort it takes to lift a weight you can only move five times, he says. The next time you pick up a pair of weights, think about how many sets and reps you normally do. If you regularly do two sets of 15 reps, try doing 10 sets of three reps, he says. That way you’re still doing the same amount, but you’re making your muscles work harder.
Image courtesy of womenshealthmag.com