Name: Nia Shanks
Occupation: Personal trainer, health writer, and leader of the "lift like a girl" revolution.
With summer quickly approaching, many people hit the gym with the goal of burning fat and getting rid of that extra jiggle. That's a fine goal, and definitely understandable if you plan on spending your summer in a bathing suit.
To many of us, losing fat means spending a lot of time on the ol' treadmill or doing laps around the track. Sound familiar? Doing lots of cardio may be the norm for weight-loss goals, but I'm going to propose a better way to lose fat and build a better-looking body. The main point is simple: Don't focus on losing fat!
Confused? Don't be! There's a method to my madness, and I strongly believe you're going to love this approach. Instead of jogging around and hoping to get skinnier, you're going to focus on one thing: improving your performance each workout.
Get Strong to Burn Fat
By putting the thought of fat loss out of your mind and committing instead to getting stronger and improving your performance, you're going to experience some incredible benefits. First, you'll start enjoying and looking forward to your workouts. Focusing exclusively on getting stronger allows you to appreciate your body for what it can do. It also means that each time you repeat a workout, you have a clear—and fun—goal: beat last week's performance. This is much more motivating than just trying to burn as many calories as you can.
Second, working on your performance is incredibly easy to track. The training log doesn't lie. If you performed one more rep than last week or increased the weight you used, then you improved your performance. The scale, on the other hand, is not always a valid way to measure progress.
Third, getting stronger and improving your performance will cause those fat-loss and muscle-building changes you want to see in your physique. You may not be focusing on improving your look, but it's going to happen anyway. Win!
The Get Strong and Lean Plan
It's time to put this information into action! Perform each workout once per week on nonconsecutive days. For example, do Workout 1 on Monday, Workout 2 on Wednesday, and Workout 3 on Friday. Perform this program for 4-6 weeks, or until you are no longer making progress.
Use weight that challenges you for the allotted rep range, but never use so much that you sacrifice correct form. For example, in Workout 1, begin with a weight or variation for each exercise that allows you to perform 12 reps, but no more.
Begin with the low end of the provided rep range and use the same weight until you can perform all allotted sets with the same weight at the high end of the rep range. For example, on Workout 1, do 10 reps for every set of each exercise in the first circuit.
Once you can use the same weight for all sets and can perform the high end of the provided rep range, increase the weight for the following workout and start back at the low end of the provided rep range. Repeat this pattern for the duration of the program.
Single-arm dumbbell row
Remember, improving your performance each time you repeat a workout is your sole focus with this program! So, keep a training log so you know exactly what you did every workout. Every week, try to use more weight or do more reps than you did the week before.
There's no mandatory cardio for this plan, but you can certainly include it. A tried-and-true approach is to include some form of cardio (or any physical activity) on days you don't strength train. Choose anything from a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, to participating in a sport or favorite physical activity, to even doing traditional cardio such as an elliptical machine or stationary bike.
For this training program however, remember that the goal is to focus on the strength-training workouts and to improve your performance. The additional cardio is meant to supplement your efforts, not overpower them. Keep cardio simple.
Go Forth and Get Strong!
Perform this routine for at least 4-6 weeks and you'll experience for yourself how awesome it is to focus on strength over fat loss!