A lot of women make the mistake of thinking the path to a better body is paved with long cardio workouts on the elliptical, treadmill, or stair-stepper. Women tend to forget that increasing the amount of muscle on their bodies will actually boost their metabolism and help them stay leaner.
Neon athlete Ashley Hoffmann wants to remind you that building muscle mass is a necessary process in the quest for an improved physique! She has the plan and the tips to help you step off the treadmill and pick up some heavy dumbbells.
Even if you're already in the habit of lifting iron and are well aware of the metabolism-boosting effects strength training can have, you may need a program overhaul. Many women approach muscle building incorrectly and thus don't make progress as quickly as they can.
So, no matter your ability level, here are some of Ashley's effective tips for increasing your strength and muscle mass for a great-looking body. Forget the treadmill; it's time to train for more strength and bigger muscles!
Hoff Tip 1: Do Warm-Up Sets
One of the worst mistakes you can make during a workout is picking up a really heavy dumbbell or pulling on a heavy cable without first doing sets of lighter weight.
"Do a few warm-up sets before working your way to your heavier lifts," advises Ashley. "Although you shouldn't do too many warm-up sets because you don't want to fatigue yourself before the working sets, it's important to do at least two to ensure that your body is warm and your muscles are ready."
Lifting heavy weight while you're cold can increase your risk for injury and may even hamper your performance, so be sure to get your muscles and joints prepared before really attacking the iron.
Hoff Tip 2: Be Mindful Of Your Rest Periods
If you've been on a fat-burning program for as long as you can remember, you've probably been keeping your rest periods really short.
When you're building muscle and training for strength, your rest periods need to get a bit longer. "Since the weight is heavier, you need to take enough time to rest between each set to fully recover," Ashley advises.
When the goal of your workouts is increased strength, make sure you give your body everything it needs to build it. A rest range of 60-120 seconds is appropriate for people who want to increase strength and muscle. If you cut your rest periods short, you're not going to have the energy to do multiple heavy sets.
Hoff Tip 3: Pay Attention To Your Weight Selection
Yes, you're trying to build muscle and strength, but that doesn't mean you should be trying to do sets of your one-rep max. "You will not see much muscle-building improvement if you are hitting your max all the time," says Ashley. "Testing your one-rep max is great for finding out where to start, but you don't need to lift as heavy as possible every single day."
Ashley recommends using weight that is 70-85 percent of your max. You should be able to hit every rep, but those reps should be challenging. "Increase the working weight each week, even if it's only a few pounds. If you're flying through your sets without much effort, it's time to increase the weight."
Hoff Tip 4: Low Reps For Big Lifts, Higher Reps For Accessory Lifts
Depending on your lifts, your target rep range will change. "When I do big, compound lifts, I use sets of 1-5 reps. I think it's the safest way to lift heavy," explains Ashley. "During high-rep sets, stabilizing muscles often get tired before the prime movers. When that happens, you're more likely to do a lift improperly and injure yourself."
In the workouts below, you'll notice that some lifts have higher set and rep ranges than others. For big lifts like the back squat, Ashley lifts more weight and fewer reps. For accessory lifts like leg extensions and curls, she does less weight and more reps.
Ashley makes these changes because she wants to use big lifts to increase her strength and accessory movements to increase the size of her muscles.
Hoff Tip 5: Form First
At no point should you sacrifice good form for weight. No PR is worth putting yourself at risk for injury. "Having a spotter or workout partner can help detect when you're in a bad position and keep you safe," Ashley says.
If you're not sure what a lift is supposed to look or feel like, check out the Jyoto.info Exercise Database, which includes step-by-step instructions for hundreds of lifts.
Hoff Tip 6: Take Rest Days
Take your recovery sessions seriously. When you work hard and lift heavy, your body needs time to repair the damage you inflict and recover for your next gym session.
Remember, you don't grow when you lift, you grow when you rest. So, stay out of the gym at least two days per week.
Hoff Tip 7: Get Past The Fear Of Being Bulky
If you want to build muscle and strength, forget any of your preconceived notions about what weight training does to women. "It's impossible for women to build muscle to the same degree that men do because our bodies produce one tenth the testosterone of an average man," Ashley explains.
Most women will be lucky to gain around 1/2-1 pound of muscle per month. You can probably expect less. So, keep in mind that building muscle isn't an overnight process. You will not wake up one morning looking like a slab of beef.
The changes you make will be slow, and you'll be able to maintain control of how much muscle you'd like to gain. Once you feel like you've put on enough muscle, you can then transition into a maintenance or cutting phase.
Ashley Hoffmann's Strength Work
These tips aren't nearly as helpful without a concrete plan to apply them. Here are two of Ashley's strength workouts that you can put in your regimen today!