#1: Floor Crunches are History
This isn’t your grandparents’ fitness manual: studies show that thrusting your back down against a hardwood floor will eventually work your spine out of its natural alignment. To save your neck a premature chiropractor appointment, and reach a new, more extensive range of abdominal muscle work, try incorporating an inflatable ball.
Using a simple tool like the inflatable ball, pressure is spread evenly across your spine and lower back – and the ball’s surface is more comfortable and supportive than stiff, cold flooring. But if rolling around in suspension doesn’t suit you, try “planking:” face down against the floor, and lift your torso up by your toes and elbows. Hold that position for a couple minutes at first. Trust us, it’s not harmless as it sounds.
#2: Weights and Interval Training Save Time
It doesn’t matter what you’re gearing up for, be it a half-marathon or swimsuit season: short, alternating bursts of intensive running are the most efficient way to shed calories. Don’t let the downtime fool you however. Walking for five minutes is meant to cool off your internal temperature, and ramp up energy for increased run-time intensity during the next sprint.
“Time is the limiting factor,” according to Alwyn Cosgrove, esteemed fitness trainer and author of The New Rules of Lifting For Women. Don’t let the slow-walk plateau keep you from achieving the results you crave.
#3: Weights Will Not Make You Huge
It bears repeating: Weights will not make you huge. The jury was out just long enough for this unfounded, malicious rumor to take hold – that thick muscle was the eventual outcome of working with free weights.
For women in particular, thank a naturally low level of testosterone for limiting that large muscle growth. Unless you harbor some genetic proclivity to bulk up like Swedish oxen, three days of lifting a week will actually slim your body, and hone a more petite frame over time. Which leads us to our next suggestion…
#4: Lift Three Times a Week
Hitting the free weights once a week is better than nothing, and lifting twice comes with a few gradual health benefits over time. But according to Cosgrove, three times a week is the perfect balance between hard work and ample recovery time: the key to building lean muscle.
#5: Lift Enough to “Feel the Burn”
If you have a history of shying away from grueling workouts that leave you sore for days on end, that’s okay. No health guru is going to recommend a regimen that is likely to burn you out as it is accomplish your goals. Slow and steady wins the race; but isolating every individual muscle wastes time and is bound to yield less results overtime than dumbbells.
Instead of sitting on machines for half an hour repeating leg extensions, spend five minutes doing squats with free weights. You work five times as many muscles, and in a fraction of the time, like the body was designed to do.
#6: Increase Your Weight Over Time
The final healthy suggestion on our list is the most important for both physical and psychological reasons. Nothing keeps you away from the gym longer than failing to see the results of your own hard work paying off. But if you aren’t tracking your successes, how can you ever surpass them?
Find a weight that you can manage to lift ten times. If the lifting motion is not straining your body, go for another set of ten. The goal is to reach three or four of these sets as a rule of thumb, and when it’s easy, add another five pounds. It’s that simple! All you really need is patience, conviction, and a desire to see yourself in the best shape of your life.