But I have some pretty amazing motivation to share today. You see, a few weeks ago I begged my friend Suzanne to write a guest post for me. I adore and admire Suzanne. She knows her stuff! Especially when it comes to debunking the strength training myths (for women). Yep, she is raw and real about it and you just can’t get any better than that, in my opinion. So thank YOU Suzanne for setting things straight for us! Cheers!
I’ve known Lindsay for several years online now and am just like you – I love and admire her positivity and can-do spirit. Of course I was thrilled when she asked me to hang out here as her guest and chat with you about strength training, because her people are my people!
So let’s say you’ve had that gnawing feeling for awhile now. You know strength training will help you get a strong, sexy body, crazy energy to spare, and a feeling of overall well-being. But you just don’t know where to begin. Or you’ve stopped and started programs so many times that you’re just plain discouraged.
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been: You’re stuck now. You’re not seeing the muscle definition or strength you want and you’re not sure what to do next. How do we finally break free and see the results we deserve from strength training?
The problem is that we just don’t have the know-how to keep progressing with strength training. We switch programs too frequently, don’t lift heavy enough, and do the wrong exercises. Heck, we even do them in the wrong order and for the wrong number of reps. If it seems overwhelming, you’re not alone.
But I’ve got good news for you:
Progressing with strength training is simpler than you think.
All you need to do is stick to a few basic principles, and I’m going to give you five important ones right here.
1. Stay on the same program for at least 12 weeks. To see muscle definition, you need relatively low body fat, of course, but you also need to build muscle. That doesn’t mean getting all bulked up like a dude. It means growing your muscles a bit bigger so they stand out – look toned, if you will. And building muscle takes time.
Should you switch programs when you plateau or when you get bored? Nope. You should stick to the program and change a few variables of your program like the ones I’m explaining here.
2. Lift heavy. Again, don’t freak out about bulking up. It takes tremendous effort for your body to build muscle, much less mountains of it, so you must lift heavy to get anywhere. Keep lifting 5- and 10-pound weights forever and you’ll stay the same.
For example, if you can do 20 to 30 repetitions of squats (or any exercise), by golly, you are lifting too light. Doing very high reps all the time won’t keep your body adapting. You need to use different rep ranges, as I discuss next.
3. Do the right number of reps and sets. Please don’t think you can always do the same number of reps and build those sexy arms or that firm booty. I’ve had new clients lament that they always do 8 to 12 reps – so why can’t they progress?
You want to rotate among all rep ranges in a cyclic fashion – low (3 to 5 reps), medium (8 to 12), and less often, the high range (12-20 reps). The low range builds strength, enabling you to lift more. The medium range builds muscle, and the high range gives your body a break yet challenges your muscles in a different way.
As for how many sets to do, if you’re a beginner you can stick to two to three sets. Those who have been lifting more than six to 12 months can gradually move up to four to six sets for big muscles and two to four sets for small muscles.
Remember: The more sets you do, the fewer reps you should do. The fewer sets you do, the more reps you should do.
4. Do the right exercises. Stick to mostly compound movements for your chest, shoulders, back, and legs (like squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, pull ups, and rows). If you want defined arms and calves, you can add in some isolation movements (like calf raises, lateral shoulder raises, tricep pushdowns, and bicep curls).
So as you can see, if your goal is overall strength or full-body conditioning, you don’t necessarily need to train small muscles separately. But if your goal is muscle definition, you’ll want to give your arms and shoulders special attention, but in smaller doses.
5. Recover. One of the first things I look at when a new client comes to me is how often they train. Training too frequently or not enough are very common mistakes and can have a big impact on your progress. Your body needs a chance to recover between workouts because that’s when muscles are repaired (and grow). But you also need to stimulate it enough.
Depending on your goals, beginners can get away with strength training two to three days per week. More experienced lifters can get great results by training three to five times a week.
There are other variables, of course: rest between sets, tempo, and special techniques, to name a few. That’s what makes strength training so fun – there are lots of ways to challenge yourself and keep progressing!
Thanks Suzanne, I’m off to go “CRUSH IT!” –> Crazy Cotter
Questions for Suzanne? Hit me up right here. I love helping chicks crush it in the weight room.
Suzanne Digre is a NASM-certified personal trainer who coaches clients online and in-person. With over 15 years of lifting experience, Suzanne also writes at workoutnirvana.com, where she shares her passion for and expertise in strength training and clean eating.
Suzanne loves to connect on social media. Find her at:
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/WorkoutNirvana
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Slowdown Encouragement for today—> read HERE!