Everyone’s swapping silly fad diets for strength training, and it’s great. Getting strong and lean is so much healthier than restrictive diets. But like anything, it can take a little while to get to grips with.
Before slamming the barbells down in frustration, take a minute to read up on our essential strength training tips. Good form and technique is critical to your fat-burning success, and we can prove it.
1. Stop Lifting Any Old Weights
You’ve braved the free weights at the gym, did a couple of reps and retreated back to the safety of your stationary bike; that’s enough right? Wrong. If you want change, you really need to push yourself.
Lifting well below what you’re capable of is wasted effort. Strength training isn’t supposed to be easy. You need to feel the burn, up to the point where you physically can’t lift another rep after your last set.
Leave the puny pink dumbbells to one side, embrace the challenge and really work up a sweat with weights that get results.
2. Stick To Strength
You’ve finally accepted that cardio isn’t everything. Don’t get us wrong; it brings its fair share of health benefits – but lifting heavy is a big deal too!
If your gym session is dedicated to strength training, make sure it stays that way. A quick cardio warm-up on the bike or treadmill is great for getting the heart pumping, but don’t overdo it. Pushing yourself too hard on the machines will only leave you feeling fatigued when it comes to lifting weights.
Concentrate on exercises that match your goals. If you’re looking to burn body fat fast, excessive cardio isn’t the answer, which Penn State University supports.
Researchers conducted a study comparing the fat-burning effects of cardio vs. strength training on obese participants. And whilst both groups lost a similar amount, around 21 pounds overall, they found that those who lifted weights shredded an impressive 6 pounds more fat than those who didn’t – that’s 40 percent greater fat loss!
Whilst cardio helps you slim down, it can also take muscle with it, stopping you from achieving that lovely lean look. Strength training burns and tones, so stick to it.
3. But Keep Your Routine Varied
It’s easy to get in the habit of sticking to the same routine. But unfortunately, this only gets you so far. Avoid hitting a plateau by keeping your training varied. Every 5-6 weeks, shock your body into development by revamping your workouts.
You could try new exercises, increase the intensity, up the speed of your reps or even slow down; opting for measured and controlled movements rather than a high quantity of reps. Now and again, try 4-6 reps 3x on the heaviest weight you can manage without risk of injury.
Then there are compound exercises; these instantly enhance your strength training game. If you haven’t already, fit barbell squats into your routine – this targets the whole body, strengthening the core and improving flexibility.
4. Ditch Super-Long Workouts
It’s always quality over quantity with strength training. 15 squats in good form is far better than 50 done badly. Rushing reps not only opens you up to injury; it also stops you from working the muscles effectively. To start with, take time to master the technique of each movement.
Pick the best exercises for your ‘problem areas,’ acknowledge your weaknesses and know that your workout is getting the job done – which doesn’t need to take more than 45-minutes.
5. Eat The Right Things
If you’re committed to fat burning, tweak your diet habits to really maximise your gains. Don’t starve yourself of calories – you need them! Eat little and often, 3 staple meals coupled with 2 snack breaks to keep the metabolism ticking over nicely.
A good rule to shop by: avoid fizzy drinks, refined sugars and processed foods, and stack your fridge with fruits/veg, lean proteins and lots of h2o.
If you’re a budding strength trainer, remember to consume protein up to 30 mins after exercise. This is the best time to feed those tired muscles with the amino acids they need to repair and grow. Low-fat Greek yoghurt and chocolate milk are just 2 post-workout protein favourites for gym goers.
6. Be Aware Of Portion Control
Don’t take regular workouts as a green light to binge eat! Be careful that you aren’t consuming more calories than you’re actually burning, as this can limit your strength training progress too.
Without calorie counting too much, try to keep track of what you eat throughout the day. Snacks and nibbles creep into your diet without you even realising, and it all adds up! Food diaries aren’t new, but they are a useful way for you to see your eating habits in black and white. Be mindful of the foods you’re eating and don’t undermine your hard work with a poor diet.
We can’t emphasise this enough; you need your rest. People go from one extreme to the other, they’re either a) well into their new found love of weights and unwilling to put them down, even for 1 day’s rest or b) take the concept of ‘rest day’ a little too liberally – every day’s a rest day!
Listen to your body and find the right balance of work vs. rest. 1-2 days a week is the advised rest time for regular gym goers; choose yours wisely.