Secrets Of The Fittest: Bonus Tips
Freeze and squeeze
Momentum is a great thing in life, but in strength training, it can cheat your muscles out of toning. "When you get to the connecting point of an exercise—the moment in which you go from contracting your muscle to releasing it, before lowering a biceps curl or rising out of a squat, for example—freeze for a second, then squeeze and contract the muscle you're focusing on for a second or two," says Lalo Fuentes, a top trainer in Los Angeles. "Stopping releases the momentum of the movement, so you can't rely on it for the second part of the exercise. When you freeze, then squeeze, it fires up more muscle fibers for better toning."
Maximize each minute
Blast fat during set breaks. "I think up a move of the day and do it for one minute between each set," says Blahnik. "Explosive, plyometric moves such as jump squats or side leaps or jumping rope boost your heart rate, burn a few extra calories a minute and firm your lower body." You can burn up to about 100 extra calories a session.
Make like a superhero
Transform standard strength training into a super-duper sculpting session as easily as Wonder Woman slinks into her shiny one-piece: While doing any move in which you grip a bar or both feet touch the ground, imagine trying to fold the bar or floor in on itself. Without actually moving your hands or feet, engage the muscles you would need to bring your hands or your feet together as if you were infused with extraordinary power and could, in fact, crumple the objects. You will feel the extra contraction from trying to exert force on the bar or floor. During your next session, exert the same type of force, but in the opposite way: Instead of trying to make hands and feet meet, pretend you're trying to stretch the bar or floor like taffy. "The exercise looks the same, but adding these forces will work additional, new muscles in your arms or legs," says James Bowman, co-owner of Next Step Conditioning Systems on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Be a class act
Up the calorie-burning ante of any cardio class such as dance, kickboxing or step aerobics by imagining you're being graded on participation and form. "Following steps and learning new ways to move makes me forget I'm exercising until I realize I'm sweat-soaked," says Coopersmith. Strive for an A and at the end of the "semester," you'll have a 4.0 body.
Feel the slooow burn
In strength training, you contract a muscle, relax it and start again. "Try taking as many as six counts on the release phase. If you don't let the weight simply drop, the muscle fibers stay more engaged during the entire move because they can't relax," says Michelle Kennedy, an exercise physiologist in Washington, D.C. You'll spend a little extra time on each move, but the better-body results you see are worth it!
Photo Credit: Riccardo Tinelli