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8 Tricks to Make Weight Training More Effective

Count in Another Language

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10, 9, 8... blastoff to better biceps? As reported in the March issue of SHAPE, researchers found that using a different method of counting out your reps than you're used to—say, counting in another language—distracts you by diverting your mind from the (good) burn of building new muscle without being so distracting that you drop the weight on your foot.

No se habla Español? No worries, all those Sesame Street skills you learned as a tot will come in handy now. Try counting backwards or up by threes. Just don't use your fingers, those should stay firmly on your weights!

Post-Workout Shake

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Research shows that eating a mix of easily digested protein and carbs within 15 minutes of finishing your weight lifting session gives your body the nutrients it needs to repair and build muscle fibers. Michael Schiemer, CPT and CEO of Frugal Fitness, recommends tailoring your shake to your goals. If weight loss is your primary goal, opt for a shake with "a moderate amount of protein (15-30 grams), low carbohydrates, and low fat."

If you're looking to build strength, Schiemer suggests adding "a moderate amount of carbohydrates (15-40 grams) and possibly small amounts of unsaturated fat (omega-3 fatty acids are a plus), in addition to the content listed above. "This will help to increase overall calorie intake, refuel muscles even quicker and more completely, and promote muscle mass gains," he says.

Short and Heavy

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Think lifting a weight just means moving it up and down? Okay, technically it does. But there are a lot of different ways to approach that moving! Confusing your muscles by trying something different forces them to work harder to adapt.

Try doing short and heavy sets in which your load is heavy enough that you can do no more than five reps. Other options include super slow sets (count to five as you extend and then again as you contract), isometric holds (holding the weight in a contracted position without moving it), and drop sets (starting heavy and moving to lighter weights until you are fatigued).

Weight Gloves

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Pink, purple, or plaid: no matter the color, a good pair of weight gloves can significantly increase the comfort and safety of lifting weights by protecting your hands and helping you maintain a better grip. Plus, they make you look tough, and sometimes that little boost is all you need to try lifting a little a heavier!

Bodyweight Exercises

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Sometimes getting a great weight workout means dropping the weights. (Not literally! That hurts. And it's usually against gym rules.) Using only your own body for resistance can help you make sure your form is correct, is less likely to cause injury, and can be just as intense as pumping iron. To get started, try these deceiving moves (they tone a lot more than you think!).

Have a Pro Check Your Form

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You may not notice your knees turning in slightly as you squat—until you suddenly have a lot of hip pain. A professional trainer can watch you in ways you can't see in the mirror and make minor corrections to your form that will both help you build muscle faster and prevent injuries down the road. If you plan on lifting weights regularly (as you should, it's great for your physical and mental health!), then investing in a personal training session to get your form checked out is well worth it.

Keep a Journal

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Weights, sets, reps, workouts, body parts, days... there are so many things to remember when it comes to lifting weights, as opposed to cardio classes where all you need to remember is what time they start. This complexity may be one reason why some people are intimidated by strength training. Make it simple by buying a cheap notebook at the store (we recommend the kind with a plastic cover just in case your water bottle spills!) and using it to track your workouts. Not only will you be more organized, but it's an awesome ego boost to look back and see how far you've come!

No Flashing

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Low-cut tanks and super-short shorts are great for outdoor runs, but get into proper deadlift form, and suddenly you have cleavage popping out both ends. Weight lifting can require you to be in some pretty odd positions so check your outfit for flashing potential by bending and stretching in front of a mirror before you leave the house. Remember this girl? Don't be her.

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