If you're looking to lose weight or just maintain your physique, try cutting back on cardio for a few weeks to focus on these strength training exercises for women that increase metabolism and build lean muscle
Are you cardio-ing yourself to death? Yes, running, cycling, and hitting the elliptical religiously can absolutely help you drop pounds—especially when you have a lot to lose. But, at some point, you’re going to hit a plateau, says Holly Perkins, CSCS, founder of Women’s Strength Nation and author of Lift to Get Lean.
To get past it—blast past it, really—you need strength training in your life. Why? Lifting weights helps to amp your metabolism for long after your gym-time ends since the more muscle you have, the more cals you torch when working out—and while sitting perfectly still. (Learn How to Get the ‘Afterburn’ Effect In Your Workout.)
If you’re new to weight training, don’t worry. Perkins created this four-week program to help you to build a solid foundation of strength training and shift your body into a new place after all that cardio. The really great news? You only have to do this routine twice a week. Each week, the moves will stay the same, but we'll make the routine harder by changing the program variables (like rest, sets, reps, or load).
Put at least two days of rest between strength training days, but you can do cardio on those rest days (to be clear: cardio is not bad—it’s just not the best method for long-term weight loss or maintenance!)
Now, stay with us: we're going to break down the weekly workouts for you.
Complete the exercises in each workout as Straight Sets. For example, you'll do one set of leg presses, rest for 30 seconds, do a second set, rest, do the third set. Then, move on to the next exercise. You'll complete all movements in both workouts this way. Complete 12 reps of all movements for 3 sets each, and rest for 30 seconds in between each set. Choose a weight load where the last two reps of every set are extra hard, where you wouldn't be able to do a 13th rep. You may find that you increase the weight load for each set while keeping the 12 reps for all three sets.
This week, you'll continue with the Straight Set format for both workouts. But now, you'll complete 15 reps of all movements for 3 sets, and you will only rest for 15 seconds in between each set. Therefore, this week, you'll complete more work in less time. This is a great stimulus to take your fitness to the next level.
We're going to mix it up this week! Instead of Straight Sets, you're going to complete your workout in a circuit style. This week, you'll complete 1 set of each exercise for 15 reps, then you'll immediately move on to the next movement with no rest in between. For example, on the Day 1 workout, you'll perform your first set of leg presses for 15 reps, then you'll immediately go to the goblet squat and perform 15 reps and then continue on to the next exercise with no rest in between movements. At the end of these four movements, you'll rest for one minute, then complete the circuit two more times.
This week you're going to continue with the circuit-style sets; this time you'll perform only 12 reps of each movement, but there are two (tough!) changes: You'll complete a total of 4 full circuits (that's four sets of each exercise for both workouts) and there will be no rest in between each circuit. This week is all about keeping you moving! After you finish the last movement of either workout, you'll immediately return to the first movement and begin a new circuit!
Got it? On to the moves! Below, see demos of the four moves that make up Workout 1, and the five moves that make up Workout 2. Watch and learn, then mark your calendar—four weeks from now, you won't believe how strong you'll feel.
Seated Cable Row
Dumbbell Hammer Curl
Dumbbell Bent Arm Side Raise
Lying Dumbbell Chest Fly
Straight Bar Tricep Press Down