Workout? Make it effective.

My last post focused on weightlifting, and why you should lift weights. Also known as resistance training, you can use bands, gym machines, home gyms, or free weights  to improve muscle strength and metabolism and “lift.” Resistance training is an awesome way to improve your health, strength, longevity and quality of life, not to mention looks. This article provides the information you need to make this type of training work for you. These are the not so basic basics. The things that a trainer specializing in bodybuilding should be sharing with you.

There are all kinds of programs you could follow. Some are more effective than others. The key is that you find a program that you will follow. Consistently.  Some programs and trainers mix in some calisthenics bootcamp stuff. This is not really my passion. If you need the high energy in plyometrics like jumping jacks, burpees and all, go for it. There is even a whole sport of outdoor running and jumping obstacles in nature and using no more than bodyweight called Parkour. There are other programs in the CrossFit category that attempt to use heavy weight at cardio speeds. The issue I have with all of these are numerous including that:

  •  Movements, when uncontrolled  and high impact are more likely to cause injury.
  • A pace too fast and non-stop with a sustained high heart rate becomes cardio effective not muscle training effective.
  • Hey, I am a female, and mother, over 40. Near 50. I would need to show up in Depends to do that kind of jumping around stuff. Nope. Nada. Not for me.

My program is successful, as shown in my own success and in the successes of similar programs in others, from bikini models to bodybuilders some of the same philosophies apply! Read success stories on

To get in shape your muscles need a bunch of things.

  • Nutrition. Protein (chicken, eggs, fish), lots of green veggies, small amount of low glycemic starchy carbs (oats and sweet potato are my go-to) and a bit of dietary fats (avocado, Extra Virgin olive oil) 5-6 meals a day.
  • Water.  8 glasses =64 ounces up to a gallon = 128 ounces each day)
  • Time and consistency. Ya gotta do it more than once. More than a week. – a month and you can feel something. Clothes looser. Two months and the scale will move, three months and you may wow people. (Depends on your starting point). With consistent good nutrition, calorie deficit, and some cardio, expect about 7-10 pounds a month. If you have over 100 pounds to lose 30 pounds will be less noticeable to others right away. Keep on keeping on!!! You will get there.
  • Purpose. When you move through the exercise Squeeze your muscle and try to feel the squeeze mentally. Know the purpose of the exercise and feel that purpose in the muscle(s) worked. This is focus and mind/body connection. This is critical to an energizing and challenging workout vs. just going through the motions.
  • Challenge. A three pound weight will not challenge you unless you are recovering from an accident, stroke, or are over the age of 80 and just getting started in strength building. You need to actually stress the muscle.
  • Tension.  This is stress with a time factor commonly called “time under tension.” If you just pick up a weight and let is fall under gravity. Or worse yet, swing a weight up using momentum, and then letting it fall with gravity you have accomplished zero. Time under tension is lifting in a controlled manner.  Trainers may refer to this as tempo. That is the pace that you move the weight. You should not  sling the weight around like in an aerobics class. Lift by taking a full second or two (say 1001, 1002), squeeze your muscle, and then return the weight to the starting point even slower than your lifted it using 3 to 4 seconds. That is one “rep” short for repetition. Make your muscle do the work.
  • Muscle fatigue. One rep is not enough. If that weight was almost too heavy to lift one time then it is too heavy to use in a workout. Try to do between 8 and 15 reps back to back without rest. The first three to five reps should be challenging but comfortable. The next three you should be thinking ‘okaaay. this is getting heavy’ the last 2 or more should be a bit of a struggle. (Keep good form!)
    • My guideline for choosing a weight. 1) pick a weight you can control and lift to do the exercise with good form. 2) Go to it and try to get 15 reps. 3) Put it down at 15 reps. 4) rest 30 seconds to a minute. 5) Pick up the next heaviest weight! Try to get 15 reps. 6) Continue with this process until you can only get 8 reps. 7) Use that weight until you finish four total “Sets” of your 8-12 “Reps.”
    • Write down or log that weight in a notebook, an app, or your notes even, and start there the next time you do this exercise. Your ultimate goal: a weight that you can lift 8-to- 12 reps. But that you cannot lift one more time after that!!! Then rest 30 seconds up to a minute and a half and do it again. Target lifting 4 sets of 8-12 reps. Sometimes a weight will be too challenging. Drop the weight and get your reps in!
    • This is different than doing circuits. You want to stay with the exercise, and stay on that muscle to get it challenged and fatigued!
  • Don’t forget to Breathe!  Exhale when you lift!

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Summary: Lift controlled. If you can get more than fifteen reps go up in weight. If you cannot get eight then go down in weight. Then do that 4 more times in sets of 8-12 reps. That is one exercise. Your workout should have between 4 and 11 different exercises per session. No fewer than 4 exercises per body part for large muscle groups like chest, back, legs and even shoulders.  Four exercises at the pace described will take on average 30 minutes. Try for six exercises with a warm up, get your body warm and moving before lifting, and stretch after, and that is an awesome workout. If you need to shred fat as well, get right with your nutrition and do 20 minutes of cardio after your weights or do cardio (20-45 minutes) on the days you do not lift or first thing in the morning before breakfast.

This is what is missing in many workouts for folks to get that last 5-10 pounds firmed up! Trouble spots need top nutrition and the fewest empty calories. Firming your body is more than diet and cardio.  Need help putting together a plan? Contact me or go online to No burpees required. Unless you just want that kind of thing.