Updated: August 26, 2011

Admit it. Seeing results from hard work in the gym gives you a wonderful boost. And that sort of lift provides the incentive to stick with your workouts from winter to summer - and way beyond. That's why we asked Karen Andes, a trainer/dancer in Marin County, Calif., to design a strength regimen that gives quick, obvious benefits. "You can usually see results in a couple weeks," says Andes, author of A Woman's Book of Balance (Putnam/Penguin, 1999).

The key to visible results is working the muscles that respond most quickly to exercise, with heavy weight. The sculpting aid here is "drop setting": For the second set of most moves, you'll lift as heavy a weight as you can, but for fewer reps. "Your muscles will fatigue or fail a few times in each set." says Andes. "That puts more muscle fibers into play."

Inspired by newly buff muscles, you'll soon discover the less-visible benefits of weight training as well. "It focuses your mind," Andes says. "It's a wonderful stress relief. It's like having sex for your muscles!

THE PLAN

Why these exercises? They offer the most "bang for your buck," work many muscles at once and make you strong quickly. You should feel results immediately and see them in two to three weeks.

The basics: Warm up for about 5 minutes on a cardio machine of your choice, programmed at low intensity. At the end of your session, cool down by stretching all of the major muscle groups. Hold each stretch to a point of mild tension for about 20 seconds without bouncing.

How often: Do this workout 2-3 times a week, with at least a day off in between. If your workouts are committed and intense, you can get by with 2 workouts a week; if they're less intense, do 3 workouts a week.

The numbers: Do 2 sets for every exercise. The first set is higher reps; the second set of most of the exercises is a drop set, in which you'll do heavy weights for fewer reps, then "drop" to a lower weight and do a few more reps. On some of the exercises, you'll continue to lower the weight until your muscles are completely exhausted.

Speed: The fastest way to get results is to slow down while you lift. Slower lifting uses more muscle fibers and builds body awareness. Take at least 4 seconds to complete a full repetition.

Between sets: Stretch or psych up for the next set. Don't get into a long conversation or you'll lose your momentum.

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