Know Your Strength

Whether dumb­bells are a faint ac­quain­tance or your best bud, these pro tips will up your game

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Marissa Gains­burg

Want to up your weight game? We got you


It only takes two weeks to im­prove your strength, even if vis­i­ble changes can be a bit slower to show (three to six weeks). Know­ing your base­line be­fore you be­gin al­lows you to mea­sure real gains and spot suc­cess early, help­ing you stay on track when mo­ti­va­tion dips, says trainer and WH US Next Fit­ness Star win­ner Betina Gozo. On day one, write down how many reps you can per­form for one minute each of push-ups, pris­oner squats (hands be­hind your head) and in­verted rows (pulling your­self up to a bar or sus­pen­sion trainer). Re-test and record ev­ery four weeks.


No mat­ter how lit­tle time you have, al­ways take at least two min­utes to wake your sleepy mus­cles. De­vote the first minute to a mo­bil­ity ex­er­cise, which in­creases your range of mo­tion in key joints you’ll use dur­ing your work­out (like your shoul­ders and hips – try shoul­der rolls and puls­ing squats). Spend the next 60 sec­onds on an ac­ti­va­tion drill, like slow moun­tain climbers or bridges, to prime your mus­cles for the ac­tions ahead.


Avoid watch­ing your re­flec­tion un­less you’re di­rectly fac­ing it – cran­ing your neck to check your form only com­pro­mises it. In­stead, ask a trainer for a glance-- over and try to fo­cus on how any cor­rec­tions feel (core tight, back flat, shoul­ders re­laxed etc). No trainer to ask? Record a video on your phone – you can as­sess your tech­nique be­tween sets or show it to a fit friend or trainer to get feed­back af­ter­wards.


For the first month, your goal is to cre­ate a solid foun­da­tion – one with­out in­jury or im­bal­ances – that you can build on. To do that, stick to ba­sics. With lowerand to­tal-body ex­er­cises, re­move com­bi­na­tions (say, a dumb­bell lunge rather than a dumb­bell lunge to press) and vari­a­tions (a plank in­stead of a plank with leg raise). For up­per-body moves, try tar­get­ing one arm at a time, which helps re­veal dis­par­i­ties be­tween sides and re­duces the use of mo­men­tum to power the ac­tion.


Mov­ing slowly and with con­trol maxes your mus­cles’ time un­der ten­sion, mean­ing they spend a greater part of your rou­tine fight­ing re­sis­tance. Most work­outs should be at a 2-1-1 tempo: take two sec­onds to do the first part of an ex­er­cise (e.g. low­er­ing into a lunge), one sec­ond to pause, then one sec­ond to per­form the sec­ond part (re­turn­ing to stand). Once a week, try a 4-1-1 tempo to break through plateaus.


There are seven move­ment pat­terns to know. “Push” in­volves mov­ing weight away from you and strength­ens your chest, shoul­ders and tri­ceps. “Pull” brings weight to­wards you and hits your back, bi­ceps and shoul­ders. “Squat” and “lunge” are knee-dom­i­nant ex­er­cises that mainly tar­get your quads and calves, while “hinge” moves are hip-dom­i­nant and work your glutes and ham­strings. “Carry” (walk­ing with a heavy ob­ject) and “ro­tate” (twist­ing your torso) strengthen your core. Ev­ery cir­cuit should in­clude the first five, but the best ones touch all seven.


How you feel af­ter your ses­sions should vary. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 be­ing can-hardly-walk sore), week one might leave you feel­ing like a 4 or worse. But by week two, you may find your­self closer to a 2 (mild stiff­ness). Don’t fear: that doesn’t mean you aren’t work­ing hard or pro­gress­ing; your body is sim­ply ad­just­ing. Aim for a 3 at least once a week to en­sure your mus­cles are prop­erly chal­lenged. Hit a 4? Take the next day off to re­cover.

“I’m ob­sessed with the men­tal clar­ity you get from fo­cus­ing on a phys­i­cal chal­lenge.” – Betina Gozo

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