Are you stuck with doing the traditional 3×10 set up of most strength training programs?
Strength Training is one of the fastest ways to improve your bone density, increase metabolism, shape your body and prevent metabolic diseases, such as Diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
However, most people get bored easily.
When I first started training, I was highly motivated, as I wanted to learn the proper form of each exercise to fight scoliosis. However, after a while, when strength training showed its effects and my back pain was gone, I noticed my workouts weren’t as fun anymore.
I researched for new training techniques and strategies to keep exercising enjoyable, while improving strength and speeding up fat loss.
I now that this article will be useful to many of you advanced trainees, as I got a lot of requests to share tips on how to make training more interesting. You can also utilize these strategies if you are a beginner, though you need to adjust intensity to your fitness level and strength.
This is by far the most effective and important strategy of all. You will not change your body if you keep lifting the same weights and doing the same amount of repetitions. It has been shown in several studies that progressive overload is best both for strength gaining and muscle-building, as well as metabolic boosting benefits of exercise.
Progressive overload means that each session you do your best to improve. There are two ways to achieve progressive overload.
Increase weight and/ or increase repetitions
I am sure most of you would think of this at first when they hear the term “progressive overload“. You should not assume that you need to lift heavier each session, though. Unless you are a competitive power-lifter, how much weight you lift is not important. What matters is how much you can lift safely.
Thus, you do not need to increase your weights each training session but you should aim to get stronger over time. So, if you are doing 10 repetitions of Reverse Lunges with 12 pounds per hand (approximately 12 kg), aim to increase that to 10 repetitions of 14-15 pounds per hand in the future. Once you have reached that goal, you can work yourself up again.
The most important factor here is to lift safely. If you feel unstable during an exercise, notice that your knees start shifting to the side or lose your balance, you are using too much weight. Sometimes, people fail to feel the proper muscles working when they lift too heavy weights, especially when it comes to glute training. Lower the weights, try to engage the proper muscles and then increase weights.
How do I know when to increase weights or repetitions?
My basic guideline to increase weights is the number of repetitions I can completely with perfect form for a specific exercise. If I aim to do 10 repetitions but I can do 12 repetitions, I will increase the weight for the next set, until I can only complete 10.
Just as a reference for you, so you can see that with higher repetitions, the weights you lift should decrease, here are my numbers for Bulgarian Split Squats (my favorite exercise):
10 repetitions: 20kg (total)
12 repetitions: 18kg (total)
15 repetitions: 15kg
20 repetitions: 10-12kg
I just recently started using 20kg for 10 repetitions. I can barely complete the 10th repetitions with proper form, so I will keep using the same weight for the same repetitions, until I feel safe and stable. Then, I will either try to increase repetitions or weights. Typically, I would increase repetitions first because I don’t have a huge weight selection at home.
Lastly, progressive overload will increase time under tension, metabolic stress and “shock” your muscles, which are scientifically proven methods to create a stimulus for your muscles to grow and burn more calories.
I love Circuits.
There is no other more time efficient, fun way to do strength training. You may not be able to lift as much weight, as you are not resting at all between exercises but that does not decrease effectivity of your workout. It will increase metabolic stress and time under tension, so there is enough stimulus for your muscle to grow.
In a circuit, you can choose as many exercises as you like and then complete the desired repetitions for each of them, without taking any rest between exercises.
Having completed 1 round, you can rest for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. You can adjust the intensity to your fitness level. By using circuit training, you will get done a lot of work in half the time but not burn half the calories.
If you are a full-time student or have long working hours and struggle to find time to work out, you need to start circuit training. I do not recommend to do a circuit workout that takes longer than 45 minutes. Your muscles will fatigue quickly with this exercise strategy and thus the risk for injury increases.
Another favorite of mine, are combo moves. This means that you choose 2 to maximal 3 exercises and perform 1 repetition of each back to back until you have 10- 12 repetitions of each exercise.
An example of this I use frequently is the Curtsy Lunge to Reverse Lunge.
Here you would do 1 Curtsy Lunge and then immediately a Reverse Lunge on the same leg. That equals 1 repetition total. You can complete as many repetitions as you like but typically 10- 12 repetitions is more than enough.
You can get creative here and try to pair all kinds of different exercises. I like to pair a bent over Row with a Deadlift, or a Goblet Squat with a Step up. Just make sure that you still keep your form for each exercise perfect.
Reduce Resting Times
If you are trying to lift as much weight as you can, rest between sets is crucial. However, if you would like to train more time efficient and get a cardiovascular benefit, similar to Circuit training, just time your resting period between exercise.
You will be surprised how much time is lost by resting during your workout! I like to do some kind of low intensity activity, like butt kickers or boxer shuffles for 30 seconds and notice my muscles recover more quickly than simply standing around.
You could also work a different body part as an “active” rest. If you planned to do a full body workout, you can do a lower body exercise followed my an upper body exercise and don’t need to rest between those two.
High Intensity Interval Training is not only efficient for burning fat, building muscle and increasing metabolism, it is also fun. Sure, it hurts to do burpees and jump squats but I am sure you can all relate to the rush of endorphins when you are done.
If you are an advanced trainee, incorporate HIIT in between strength training exercises. It will increase your heart and burn more calories and keep the workout interesting.
This is the first part of this article. I hope you liked these tips and will implement them in your own workouts. The next part includes some fun exercise variations as well, so come back for that!
What do you do to motivate yourself to work out or have fun while training? Comment below!
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