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The 30-Minute Weightlifting Workout That Maximizes Your Rest Time

When it comes to lifting weights, you hear a lot about the merits of going big in CrossFit or using baby 'bells in barre class (which don't even really count as strength training). But the middle ground—choosing which hand weights to hoist for your everyday sets—is where you can really determine how sculpted you get. "Grabbing a weight that's a little heavier than you might normally go for is important because you need to stimulate the muscles to build—that's how you get toned, strong, and lean," says Radan Sturm, the founder of Liftonic, a group weight training studio in New York City. 

The signature Liftonic workout has exercises that work multiple muscle groups while you gradually increase poundage to push yourself to go harder—whether that's leveraging your bodyweight for decline push-ups or adding dumbbell weight to a side plank. In the total-body routine Sturm created for Shape, you'll do supersets of dumbbell exercises alternating with active recovery moves. 

"It's best to wait at least 45 seconds before targeting the same muscle again, but that doesn't mean you should just stand there," Sturm says. "Doing things like Supermans and oblique twists as active recoveries allows you to capi­talize on that downtime." The idea is to give you just enough rest so you can not only do a sec­ond set but actually increase your load. That means you may do your first set with 10-­pound dumbbells, perform the second with 12­-pound dumbbells, and finish with a third set using 15­-pound dumbbells. Apply the Liftonic litmus test as you do each 12-rep set of this routine: If you can perform the last four reps at the same speed as you did the first eight, it's a sign that those muscles aren't sufficiently fatigued—reps typically become slower as your muscles get tapped out, Sturm says—so reach for a heavier weight on the next set. (Here's more info on how to choose the right weights.)

As you trade up for heavier weights over time, it's easy to see that you're making real strength gains, which is empowering. And all that newfound muscle you've added means you're also revving up your metabolism: The more muscle you have, the more energy your body needs to operate day to day, so you'll burn fat with greater efficiency. (And don't worry; you won't bulk up from lifting heavy.)

Do this workout twice a week, with three days between sessions to allow those muscles to repair and build. And stick with it—you'll love the truly sleek, sculpted look you get by going out of your comfort zone, plus that priceless boost in body confidence. Says Sturm: "There's just nothing quite like feeling strong and powerful."

How it works: Do a 3-minute warm-up consisting of 30 seconds each of jumping jacks, inchworms, and air squats. Repeat. Then do 2 to 3 sets of each move as indicated, performing a 45-second active rest interval between sets.

Total Time: up to 30 minutes

You will need: Free weights

1. Kneeling Side Plank Snatch

A.

Prop up into a modified side plank on right forearm with knees bent; straighten left leg and raise about 6 inches to start.

B.

Bend left elbow to row dumbbell up to chest for a count of 1.

C.

Quickly extend arm up toward ceiling on the same count. Reverse arm motion to return to start, lowering dumbbell for three counts. That’s 1 rep. Do 16 reps. Switch sides, repeat. Do the active rest exercise.

Sets:

2 to 3

Reps:

16 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale down: keep left leg bent and resting atop bent right leg.
Scale up: increase the weight.

2. Active Rest: Back Extension

A.

Lie facedown on bench (with chin over the front edge) or floor, head in line with spine, arms extended straight down if on bench or out to sides if on floor.

B.

Lift arms, head, and legs up so thighs and chest lift off bench/floor as you squeeze glutes and shoulder blades together. Return to start.

Sets:

2 to 3

Reps:

45 seconds

3. Balance Dumbbell Row

A.

Start on all fours (tabletop position) on bench or floor with one dumbbell in left hand; extend right leg behind you, parallel to floor.

B.

Bend left elbow to row dumbell to chest for two counts. Lower dumbbell to start for two counts.

Sets:

2

Reps:

12 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale down: do not extend right leg.
Scale up: increase the weight.

4. Active Rest: Oblique Twists

A.

Sit on bench or floor with legs bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent with dumbbells in front of chest. Raise lower legs to be parallel with floor and lean torso back 45 degrees, coming to balance on tailbone, to start.

B.

Rotate torso left, bringing dumbbells outside left hip. Repeat, rotating to the right. Continue for 45 seconds.

Sets:

2

Reps:

45 seconds

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale down: place feet on bench.
Scale up: extend legs up into a “V” position.

5. Reverse Lunge Press

A.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding one dumbbell in left hand an inch above left shoulder, elbow bent and palm facing right.

B.

Step right leg back, bending both legs to 90 degrees.

C.

Press dumbbell overhead for two counts. Return to start for two counts.

Sets:

2

Reps:

12 per side

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale down: reverse step without lowering back knee.
Scale up: increase the weight.

6. Active Rest: Push-Up Crouch

A.

Start in plank with palms on bench or floor.

B.

Press hips back, lowering them to heels to come into a crouch position.

C.

Return to plank and do a push-up.

Sets:

2

Reps:

45 seconds

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale up: do on the floor instead of bench.

7. Crush Press with Leg Extension

A.

Lie faceup on bench or floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Extend arms straight toward ceiling, palms facing each other and dumbbells touching, and raise legs to 45 degrees to start.

B.

Slowly lower dumbbells to chest and legs toward the floor (bring them to hover a couple inches off bench or floor) for 2 counts. Return to start for 2 counts.

Sets:

3

Reps:

12

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale down: start with knees in tabletop position and extend to 45 degrees.
Scale up: increase the weight.

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