This episode is the second of a special 2-part mini series intended to help you figure out how to make this oh-so important component of strength training exercise a regular part of your routine in 2019 and beyond. If you missed part one, be sure you go back and listen to that.
This after all is the time of year we’re all committing, or recommitting to our health and fitness. Just a shameless plug, this special series is brought to you by my program STRONGER, a 12-week strength training programthat has been a super hit with women for all the reasons I love both inner and outer strength. Stronger enrollment opens just a few times a year and it closes very soon… so if you want in you need to get in now!
If you’re listening after doors close… you can get on the list so you become aware when we have a special and get the lowest possible rate provided for newbies. Right now you can still enjoy the bonus yoga videos we’ve created for STRONGERparticipants, and two separate core videos as well. The link to check it out is flippingfifty.com/getstronger (and yes, it’s below in the show notes too).
Now, let’s get started with how to…
Make any strength training exercise more effective [without more weight]:
- Slow down.
- Speed up.
- Challenge balance.
- Change the order.
- Reduce the rest.
Hold your position the end of each pull or each push or both. This makes the muscle have to decelerate at the end of each movement, come to a complete stop, and then accelerate again. If you liken this to driving a car, you can see it requires more exertion to do this than to stay in motion. You’re going to use more energy and in this case more effort. A lighter weight will feel heavier quickly with this technique – without stressing the joints.
Generally, the recommended speed of lifting is 1-2 seconds to lift and 3-4 seconds to lower. However, depending on your goals, your needs, there are all different kinds of variations to consider.
First… know that very few people actually do this speed. We all tend to go much faster. Test yourself. Use a partner to get the best feedback. Have someone time you when you’re doing your normal speed of repetitions. See what I mean?
Then try slowing down even more. It will be painful for you… not your muscles or joints… your personality!
I shared some information with a client about the average of 10 repetitions in a minute. She was like, “what?!” She was getting twice that… which means? It’s all momentum. There’s very little muscle being recruited to do that. Yes, you’ll get tired. But for muscle fibers to reach fatigue and thus have a powerful effect on your metabolism, you have to slow down and use them.
Combine the pause and the slow down to do manipulate “tempo.” Tempo training inserts a lift phase, a pause, a lower phase, and a pause and assigns a time (in seconds) to each. You might instead of lifting in 2 seconds and lowering in 4 seconds for instance, change to a 2-2-4-4 that means you’d lift in 2 seconds, hold for 2, lower for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. You’ll find it makes the work significantly more purposeful.
This is one of the 99 Flips in Hot, Not Bothered. For more info.
Seriously, I’m not schizophrenic. I realize I just gave conflicting instructions. But adding power to the first contraction- as you lift the weight or go against resistance can significantly increase the workload with either the same weight or lower weight. You can also find that lifting less weight with the “power” component I’m talking about here is effective. If for instance I have a client lift about 80% or fatigue at 10 reps normally, to employ power I will often have them reduce weight to about 60% (or what would fatigue them at about 15-20 repetitions going slower) and use power.
Adding power is something we use in the 12-week STRONGER program– the way I recommend you plan your quarter – but not until there is a good foundation of strength and integrity at the joints. You never want to add speed first you want to be sure you have the mobility, the strength and then add speed, which makes for the power component. Power is what you use when you’re riding uphill on a bike or you’re catching your car door or store door in the wind.
You have to be careful with this one. In the last decade and a half so many products have emerged featuring balance that it’s become the norm to use a ball as a bench, to squat on a Bosu and have someone tell you it burns more calories because you involve more muscle. You do engage more muscle groups but you don’t necessarily reach fatigue in muscle fibers.
How did you interpret this suggestion? Most would have thought of these things or standing on one leg to do an exercise. Instead, what I suggest is doing one side at a time. Challenge the balance of strength on your body by doing your right arm (or leg) and left arm uniquely while doing an exercise.
You want to look at the best way to problem solve for the goals you have as well as for the limitations you have. If bone density is a high priority you’ll want to find a way to lift the heaviest load using a specific muscle group surrounding the spine, wrist and hips for instance – osteo zones. If you also have shoulder issues, loading the spine will be more of a challenge so you’re not going so heavy that it is adding stress there.
Adding balance using a ball or Bosu would not be reasonable option in this case. Going slow using lighter weight or adding pauses would increase the safety of the exercise, and potentially the strength in the shoulder, while providing the best stimulus even if it’s a lighter load. Eventually adding speed to a stronger joint would be directly tied to bone density.
Change the Order
Sequence is everything. This is so much so that studies for cellulite (more on Flipping 50’s new Strong & Smooth soon) provide insight into what works best for cellulite. Debates still exist about what’s more beneficial first cardio or strength, but they for the most part are inconclusive. Or maybe it’s better said that it’s conclusive that doing either cardio or strength first provide benefits. The relative perceived difficulty of what is second increases, such that the intensity may decrease. That is, you may be able to lift less weight, or do fewer repetitions of the same weight, or not go as fast or cover as much distance compared to doing the strength or cardio segments first.
For most sports performance then, you would want to do your sport first. A swimmer for instance would swim then lift if she were doing both in the same workout or day. A runner would run first and then lift.
But what if you wanted neither specifically and you wanted to say target cellulite?
Then your protocol is different. If you have osteoporosis or arthritis I would also challenge the order for my clients based on their highest priority.
Within your strength training workout is the best place to challenge the sequence of exercise. While it’s true when you begin alternating upper and lower body exercise allows recovery for the muscle groups – in fact the body parts – but it also creates slightly more peripheral heart action when the heart has to pump the blood upstairs and then downstairs, essentially.
But for someone who wants to progress and can’t any longer with weight alone (or who chooses a slower safer means of overload) sequencing several upper body (or lower body) exercises back-to-back can provide more overload to muscles.
On the other hand, sequencing exercises in a way that allows recovery between use of the same muscle group but still increases overall work in a given time by doing exercises in a circuit is also a proven tool for beginning exercisers – provided enough recovery time is allowed.
Sequencing exercises can be tricky. It’s one of the biggest errors seen in the gym with newcomers who randomly do exercises as the machines or equipment is available instead of having a specific plan. If you want support, consider STRONGER, but don’t wait too long. Access is open January 1st! Learn more at flippingfifty.com/getstronger
Reduce the Rest
To apply this last method of increasing difficulty without increasing weight you have to know it’s a match for your goals. If you want true strength you will not want to reduce rest between uses of the same muscle groups. (I introduced this in the prior example.)
If muscle endurance is the goal then reducing rest between uses of the same muscle group will work.
When you first begin strength training, rest of 3-to 5 minutes is documented as best for allowing recovery and building strength. That again is easily accomplished – without adding tons of time to your workout – by sequencing exercises thoughtfully.
Rest between exercises when you start should and just naturally will be longer. You’ll be more thoughtful and cautious as you set up each exercise. As you progress you want to be sure that you’re remaining thoughtful about rest and have a purpose for it because it does matter.
Similar to interval training intervals, rest time should be longer at first and may or may not progressively shorten depending not on mood or the rush you’re in but on goal.
You may opt to reduce the rest to 1-to-2 minutes or to 30 seconds if you don’t want strength and muscle fiber recruitment but are purely focused on endurance. I will emphasize that for weight loss (specifically fat loss) and bone density, rest periods will stay on the moderate to longer side.
Consider the exercise format you’re currently doing and whether it’s been planned for your specific goals. Small changes not just to the mode sequence (cardio or strength), the exercise sequence, and to the rest between exercises for the same muscle group or even body part can have a big impact on your success.
There you have it, I hope to see you soon in a Flipping 50 program, or hear from you a comment about something I’ve shared.
Until then… if you have a question, leave it below the show notes at flippingfifty.com/start-strength and I would be so grateful if you’ve found value in a tip or confirmation that you are on the right track if you would
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Hurry! Doors close the first week of January until the next program begins in a few months.