Strength Training Tips for the Body You Want

Strength Training
Photo: Pond5

While the temperatures in some parts of the country aren’t feeling quite so spring-y yet, if you’re like us, it’s the season around the corner that you’re more worried about. That’s right… summer — the months of the year where ladies and gents take off their shirts and let the sunshine touch as much skin as possible. But what if your guns aren’t exactly loaded, and the only six-pack you’re showing off is the one you drank last night? There is still time for you to get in shape for summer, but don’t go running straight for the dreadmill. If you want to look better in time, you need to start strength training, too.

Cardio Vs. Resistance Training

“There’s no negative to either,” says Harley Pasternak, M.S., exercise physiology and nutritional science, celebrity trainer, and New York Times bestselling author. “Cardio is about aerobic activity and the main focus is to burn calories and fat by moving. Whereas, resistance training’s main goal is to raise the rate at which we burn calories by creating more muscle.” Strength training — with or without weights — focuses on toning, sculpting and shaping the body, and can be done in as little as five minutes a day if you know what to do. “I have clients who are over-aerobicizing, doing just cardio, and are not getting the results they want,” says Pasternak. “When we introduce resistance training, they get better results.”



You cannot


a bad diet.



Knowledge Is Power

Even just hearing the words strength or weight training can conjure up images of bodybuilders or football players with massive muscles. But what many people — women, in particular — fail to realize is that these men naturally have the hormone testosterone, which helps them build these muscles. And many of them do high-volume training, focusing on one body part a day — four to five exercises, for four to five sets, with 16 to 25 reps per body part per workout. “You would also have to eat a lot to build that kind of muscle,” says Pasternak.

Men might not be as hesitant about strength training, but they can tend to over train the chest and back, or “beach muscles,” as Pasternak calls them, thinking that’s the best way to get in the best shape. “They end up having short-looking arms and bad posture because of it,” says Pasternak. “The focus should be more on the upper back and the back of the arms to help open up the torso and create more definition.” And that hard work shouldn’t end in the weight room.

You Can’t Ignore Diet

Unfortunately nutrition is the hardest component of health and fitness for most people. “You cannot out-exercise a bad diet,” says Pasternak. So kiss goodbye the days of justifying what you eat by saying you burned 500 calories during an aerobic class earlier that day. “If you burned 500 calories, keep in mind you would have burned 150 to 200 doing nothing,” says Pasternak. “So doing that class burned an extra 300 calories, but if you go and have two tablespoons of peanut butter, you wiped that class out.”

On top of adding resistance training to your routine, Pasternak recommends three balanced meals a day and two snacks. The meals should consist of fiber, protein and healthy fat (think: chicken with brown rice and avocado), plus lots of non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and asparagus. Snacks shouldn’t be more than a third the size of a meal, and can be anything from bean dip and hummus to sweet potatoes and Greek yogurt.

Know What to Avoid

While you may already be resistance training, it’s important that the exercises you’re doing and the machines you use are the most beneficial for you. According to a recent study done by Cybex, 67 percent of single station machine users believe machines are the most important option for choosing a new gym. There may be some moves or machines that you think are important but really may just serve as a waste of time. For women? “I would have to say stop doing the outer thigh machine,” says Pasternak. Women have wider hips than men, and doing this machine over time will cause the muscle on the outside of the hip to get tighter, creating a muscle imbalance. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as target reduction training.

For men? Pasternak thinks there should be less calf raises, forearm curls and shrugs. “Those are three muscles that don’t need to be trained because they get hit during many moves,” says Pasternak “They should train the muscles opposite these ones, which, because of biomechanical deficiencies, are disproportionate.

The Fit-for-Summer Strength Workout 

Ready to get your strength on? Try Pasternak’s five favorite resistance training moves. Perform each exercise for three sets of 20 reps.

Harley's Summer-Ready Workout


Exercise How-To’s

1. Skater Lunge
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Step to the right and lunge into your right leg keeping your knee directly over your ankle, not letting it go past your toes, while you cross your left leg behind the right, reaching the foot as far to the right at you can (a). Pushing through your right leg, stand up then repeat on the opposite side (b).

2. Lying Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
Lie on your back and rest the heels of your feet on top of an exercise ball. Pushing through your heels, roll the ball slightly forward while lifting your back and shoulders off the ground (a). Your head and arms remain on the ground. Return to start position (b).

3. Dumbbell Curl to Overhead Press
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your elbows tucked against your sides, curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders (a). Rotate the palms of your hands so they’re facing away from you, and push the dumbbells up overhead (b). Reverse the movement bringing the weights back to starting position. That’s one rep.

single arm dumbbell row

4. Single Arm Dumbbell Row
Holding a single dumbbell in your right hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees. Lean slightly forward, pushing your butt backwards to keep the spine neutral. Keeping your elbow as close to your body as you can, lift the right elbow up as high as you can, while squeezing your shoulder blades together (a). Return to start position. Repeat for 20 reps then switch to the left arm.

5. Bird Dog
Get on the ground in tabletop position, shoulders directly over the hands, hips directly over the knees. Lift and extend the right arm forward while simultaneously lifting and extending the left leg backward (a). Try to keep your body in as straight a line as possible as to not round the back. Return to tabletop (b). Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. That’s one rep.

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