6 ways to maximize your strength training routine

If you're going to take the time and effort to do strength training, these tips will help you maximize your routine.

6 ways to maximize your strength training routine

1. Focus on legs over arms

  • When we think of weight training, we tend to think of lifts involving arms and shoulders. That's not quite right.
  • Strengthening the lower-body muscles around your hips, knees and ankles is particularly important for healthy aging and mobility.
  • Be sure that at least half of your exercises target your legs, hips, and lower back.

2. Posture matters

  • How you hold your body determines whether you get the most out of that movement.
  • Stand or sit erect with your back straight, your hips aligned, your shoulders pulled down and your neck stretched high.
  • Most importantly, try to move just the target muscles as you exercise. If the exercise is for your arms, for instance, only your arms should move.

3. Don't rush

You'll get twice as much benefit if you take your time returning the weight to its starting position. For instance, once you lift that weight over your head, count to four as you slowly bring your arm down.

4. Build in recovery time

Always give yourself a day off between strength activities to give your muscles time to rebuild and recover. It's this recovery period that leads to stronger muscles.

5. Keep your joints loose

Locking your knee and elbow joints can result in pain and injury. Doing so puts all the stress of the weight on the joint instead of the muscle, where it belongs.

6. Try Nordic walking

  • If you're interested in getting a full-body workout while taking a walk, consider Nordic walking, basically walking with poles.
  • A relatively new sport, it was developed in the late 1990s as a way to train Finnish cross-country skiers in the summer.
  • Using the poles is simple: You plant one pole in the ground and "push off" against it with the foot on the same side.
  • Studies find that pole walking can burn up to 50 percent more calories than regular brisk walking, and give up to 90 percent of your body's muscles a work out.
  • A bonus for people with achy knees or hips: some of the force of walking is transferred to the poles instead of your joints.
  • You can buy a pair of walking poles at most sporting goods stores or online.

Whether you're training for competition or yourself, you need to do it properly. With the right focus and a well-rounded strength training routine, you can see the results that you want.

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