If you're on a mission to shed excess pounds, you may be focusing on (or even obsessing about) the numbers on your scale. But those shrinking numbers won't be as satisfying as you hope if you don't look firmer and more sculpted. That's why weight training is such an important part of the exercise equation.
With our eight-week, progressive plan designed exclusively by Deborah Mullen, CSCS, owner of Simple Fitness Solutions in Atascadero, Calif., you'll do eight moves that target all your major muscle groups. You'll vary the order of the exercises, as well as the amount of weight and intensity, and use a technique called supersetting to stimulate your muscles in fresh ways and to prevent plateaus. You'll also continually add resistance as you get stronger. "The majority of women don't strength train hard enough, [which is what you need to do] to change the shape of your body," Mullen says.
In addition to blasting calories, this training can help you rev up your metabolism, improve your body composition (giving you more muscle and less fat) and take your fitness to the next level. So what are you waiting for? Now's your chance to get a leaner, firmer and sexier bikini body -- in plenty of time for summer.
beginners, take note
If you're new to strength training, see "Beginners, start here" for a special plan to get you started.
You'll do 3 days of strength training a week for 8 weeks -- 2 "heavy" days and 1 "moderate" day, as follows:
days 1 and 3
("heavy") Do 2-4 sets of 6-8 reps of each move as indicated in the Workout Schedule at right, resting up to 2 minutes between sets.
("moderate") Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of each move as indicated in the Workout Schedule, resting 1 minute between sets.
Use as much resistance as possible on "heavy" days (when doing fewer reps) -- so you completely fatigue your muscles by the final rep with good form. Use less resistance (when doing more reps) on "moderate" days -- so that you could complete 1 or 2 more reps at the end of each set. As you get stronger, increase the resistance slightly. Use a 7-count lifting pattern: 2 counts to lift, 1 count pause, 4 counts to lower to starting position.
Begin each workout with 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio, preferably using a dual-action cardio machine that incorporates your arms and legs. End by stretching all your major muscles, holding each stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing.
For best results, do 30-60 minutes of cardio 4-6 days a week, varying your intensity (low, moderate and high) throughout the week.