The guessing game, in other words, is finally coming to an end. Read on to discover how the nation’s top fitness coaches are incorporating lab-tested strength secrets into their workout plans, and how you can do the same to lift more weight, build more muscle, and lose those 10 extra pounds you’ve been complaining about since college. The path to the body you’ve always wanted starts here.
Old Way: Stretch for strength
New Way: Warm up with jumps
There’s a reason why sprinters hop a few times before stepping into the starting blocks: Jumping kick-starts the central nervous system, helping to activate more muscle fibers. “The name for this neuromuscular priming is postactivation potentiation (PAP),” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. “And it’s a key to greater strength both in and out of the gym.” Consider this: Separate studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that inducing PAP through jumps can help you leap more than 7 percent higher and squat nearly 18 more pounds.
Old Way: Go hard or go home
New Way: Do less work
You don’t have to push your body to the limit to see results, says Martin Rooney, C.S.C.S., CEO of Training for Warriors. “Training eventually becomes less effective as you tire and your form breaks down.” After that threshold, gains dwindle and injury risk increases. The key is to figure out the dose that helps you meet your goals without jeopardizing your health.
Old Way: Always lift heavy
New Way: Go light to grow big
“High weight, low reps” is the classic mantra of men who are trying to pack on size and strength. But a new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that lifting lighter weights for more reps—3 sets of up to 30—can boost growth as much as lifting heavy weightsin the 8-to 12-rep range. “As long as your muscles reach fatigue, they’ll grow,” says John Romaniello, N.S.C.A.C.P.T., owner of Roman Fitness Systems. “And some muscles, like those in your lower body, respond better to high reps.”
Old Way: Hoist more weight
New Way: Haul more weight
Most men are accustomed to lifting, pushing, and pressing heavy loads. But when asked to carry one—whether it’s a sandbag, kettlebell, or air conditioner—many become a stumbling mess after a few paces. That’s because “loaded carries” simultaneously test your stability, mobility, balance, and grip while keeping your muscles under constant tension. “They challenge your entire body, especially your lateral core strength, which is critical for everything from fast cuts to powerful serves,” says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., author of the seminal study on the subject, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Old Way: Watch the clock
New Way: Personalize your rest
Trainers know that exercise affects everyone differently, and Brazilian researchers recently confirmed that notion when they found that people differ significantly in their recovery needs. And without proper recovery, performance suffers, especially if you’re doing circuits. “Use a heart rate monitor to customize your rest,” says Rachel Cosgrove, co-owner of Results Fitness in California. (Search: Affordable Heart Rate Monitors) “Waiting until your heart rate reaches a certain level results in true recovery between work periods, which is particularly beneficial for losing weight.”