How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

13 Ways to Make Lifting Weights More Effective

How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

It’s easy to get stuck in an exercise routine that’s, well, a routine. While going through the motions of a “ho-hum” workout may be better than no workout at all, getting stranded on a plateau means you could stop seeing improvements, and nothing is less inspiring than that. The good news? There are lots of easy ways to inject life back into your workout. Here are 13 of our favorites.

1. Watch the clock

Workouts can suffer if you spend too much time chit-chatting or hiking to the water fountain.

Keep a close eye on the clock to make sure you’re not spending too much (or too little) time resting—hitting the sweet spot will lower your risk for injury, as well as make your workout as effective as it can be.

Depending on what your goals are, the right amount of rest time could be anywhere from one minute to five.

2. Skip the machines

While exercise machines do make resistance training user-friendly, free weights are your best bet if you want an extra-intense session. Without the help of a machine, you’ll engage more stabilizing muscles during each rep and work your body way harder.

The same goes for bodyweight exercises, which can be more effective at strengthening the core than workouts done on machines.Swiss ball abdominal crunch with added elastic resistance is an effective alternative to training machines. Sundstrup E, Jakobsen MD, Andersen CH.

International journal of sports physical therapy, 2012, Oct.;7(4):2159-2896.

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3. Combine strength and cardio

People often think of strength training and cardio exercise as two separate activites, but they really don’t have to be.

Adding cardio intervals ( jumping rope or running 20-second sprints) into your circuit will rev your metabolism while still building strength.Aerobic exercise does not compromise muscle hypertrophy response to short-term resistance training.

Lundberg TR, Fernandez-Gonzalo R, Gustafsson T. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 2012, Oct.;114(1):1522-1601. Win-win.

4. Hold your pose

Contracting a muscle and holding it in a flexed position (a.k.a.

isometric exercise or static holds) provides strength and endurance benefits that can’t be achieved through traditional isotonic exercises (i.e., lifts that are in constant motion).

Test it out with a stability ball wall squat. Start with a goal of staying static for 30 seconds, but increase that time as your strength and muscular endurance improve.

5. Embrace instability

Your workout doesn’t need to look a performance from Cirque du Soleil, but a balancing act can go a long way. Exercises that require balance stimulate more muscles—especially in your core—than the same exercise done in a stable position. To test this, try doing simple exercises squats or push-ups on a BOSU or stability ball.

6. Train one side at a time

Performing unilateral exercises that force each arm or leg to work independently (think: pistol squats or single-arm push-ups) will build strength faster on each side than bilateral exercises that work both sides of your body at once (standard squats or push-ups). Plus, if you strongly favor your dominant side, you can use unilateral exercises to help balance muscular development and equalize strength across your body.

7. Add resistance

There’s a lot of debate about whether lifting heavy weights or light weights is more effective.

The most recent research suggests they’re equally effective, so long as you’re working your muscles to exhaustion.

But you’ll exhaust your muscles sooner with heavy weights (maybe after 10 reps instead of the 25 or so with lighter weights), and harder work in less time means maximum intensity.

8. Build a circuit

Quickly moving from one exercise right into the next is a great way to create a time-efficient, cardio-focused workout.Physical performance and cardiovascular responses to an acute b heavy resistance circuit training versus traditional strength training. Alcaraz PE, Sánchez-Lorente J, Blazevich AJ.

Journal of strength and conditioning research, 2008, Aug.;22(3):1533-4287. When you’re creating your circuit, though, make sure to slot exercises that target different muscle groups back-to-back to avoid burnout. For example, perform squats before a chest press, and then a deadlift followed by a plank.

This gives each muscle group enough time to recover before they’re used again.

9. Get explosive

Old-school bodybuilders fed their muscles a diet of slow, heavy lifts to build bulk and strength. But explosive movements box jumps, kettlebell swings, and plyometric push-ups target fast-twitch muscle fibers, which produce more force than slow-twitch fibers.

The effects of endurance, strength, and power training on muscle fiber type shifting. Wilson JM, Loenneke JP, Jo E. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 2012, Dec.;26(6):1533-4287.Preferential type II muscle fiber damage from plyometric exercise. Macaluso F, Isaacs AW, Myburgh KH. Journal of athletic training, 2013, Feb.

;47(4):1938-162X. Working them could mean a stronger, more powerful you.

10. Aim for failure

Failure occurs when a muscle is so spent it can’t complete one more repetition of an exercise while maintaining proper form. In this case, pushing your limits is well worth the effort—research suggests training to fail can increase the strength and size of muscles.

11. Keep track of what you’re doing

Remembering every exercise performed, every repetition accomplished, and every weight selected during past workouts is impossible. But without a record of your lifting history, it’s difficult to see measureable progress. Using a workout journal or fitness app provides motivation to rock every workout, and you might find yourself doing better than you thought possible.

12. Find a partner

People who have an exercise partner are more ly to get active and stay active than those doing it on their own.

Finding a workout buddy instantly increases the accountability factor and has been found to make people workout harder and more often.Received social support and exercising: An intervention study to test the enabling hypothesis.

Rackow P, Scholz U, Hornung R. British journal of health psychology, 2015, Apr.;20(4):2044-8287. Plus, it’s way more fun.

13. Make it social

Not sure the world really needs to hear the details of your exercise or weight-loss targets? Apparently it does! Sharing goals and accomplishments on social media is motivating for you and for the people around you. What’s social media good for if not providing hundreds of accountability partners, right?

Originally published December 2012. Updated May 2017.


16 Tips to Triple Your Workout Effectiveness

How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

You don’t want to spend long hours at the gym, but you want to get stronger, fitter, leaner, and just plain look good. It’s possible that you’re not getting the most your workout time.

It’s possible to get a super-effective workout in 30 minutes, and only do a few workouts a week, if you maximize your workouts.

Disclaimer: First, I’m not a certified trainer. These are tips I’ve read elsewhere that work well for me. Second, you should always get a doctor’s approval of any new workout plan.

This plan is especially intense, so if you have a heart condition or other condition that might be affected by heavy exercise, you should definitely refrain from trying it until you’ve gotten checked out by a doctor.

And even if you have gotten checked out, or even if you don’t bother doing so, it’s still important to start out an exercise program slowly, until your body has the chance to adjust, or you will face burnout or injury.

Don’t dive right into this program — it’s designed for people who have already been working out but want to see better results, quicker, and spend less time doing it. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Limit your workouts to 30-40 minutes. Though the tendency of some people who really want to get a lot their workouts is to spend a lot of time at the gym, the truth is that after 30 or 40 minutes, the benefit isn’t as great. To go that long, you’d have to lower the intensity of the workout, and that means that you’re spending too much time working out. It’s better to work out at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time.
  2. High-intensity workouts. If you’re just starting out with exercise, it’s best to take it slow. If you’re running or cycling, for example, build up your endurance for at least a month before you get into anything more intense. That means going at a rate where you can easily talk without being breath. However, once you have that base of endurance, step up the intensity to step up the effectiveness of the workout.
  3. Protein. Many people don’t pay enough attention to getting the protein their muscles need to rebuild. If you don’t, you are going to get very little your workout, as both cardio and strength workouts require protein for building muscles. I recommend either whey or soy protein shakes.
  4. Water. Be sure to hydrate throughout the day. It takes a couple of hours for your body to absorb the water, so you can’t just drink right before exercise. Make it a habit to drink water regularly throughout the day.
  5. Carbs. Although the low-carb craze might say otherwise, carbs are our body’s main source of fuel. If you do intense workouts, you will need carbs, or you won’t have enough energy. If you do a shake, be sure to include carbs — or a banana is a great source of low fiber/high glycemic carbohydrates that you need for exercise.
  6. Shake before and after workout. It’s best to take a protein/carb shake just before your workout and then just after. Taking it before your workout increases the flow of amino acids to your muscles during training, giving them the building blocks they need. After the workout, the shake stimulates muscle growth. Also take a small protein/carb meal 60-90 minutes after a workout — a meal replacement bar would work fine.
  7. Slow lifting. Many people contract their muscles slowly and then release more quickly. But if you lift slowly in both directions, you are maximizing each move. Lift and lower to a 5-second count in each direction.
  8. Heavier weight. When you’re starting out, it’s best to start with lower weights so you can focus on good form. But once you’ve gotten your form down, it’s best to lift the heaviest weights you can lift while still keeping good form. Don’t sacrifice form for heavy weights — that is ineffective. But heavy weights, with good form, can give you better results in a shorter amount of time. Heavy weights are not just for those who want to bulk up — that’s a common misconception.
  9. One set, to failure. Instead of doing 2-3 sets, as many people do, maximize your effectiveness by doing just one, with heavy weights, until you can no longer keep the proper form. Lifting to “failure” doesn’t mean that you should lift the last few times with a wobbly or inefficient form.
  10. Compound exercises. Instead of isolating your muscles with exercises such as the bicep curl, you can maximize the time you spend in a workout by doing exercises that work out multiple muscle groups at once. With just a few exercises, you could get a full-body workout. Another benefit is that your muscles are working together as they do in the real world, rather than alone. Some great compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, good mornings, lunges, pushups, bench presses, military presses, rows, pullups, dips, and more.
  11. Balance lifting. Instead of having exercises where you’re sitting down or holding on to something or otherwise stabilized, it’s more effective to do them standing up, or on one leg, or on a Swiss exercise ball. These types of exercises force you to balance yourself while lifting, which brings your core muscles into play. This gives you a stronger overall body and allows you to lift more over time.
  12. Pick a cardio exercise you enjoy. It’s no fun to exercise if you hate it. And you won’t keep it up for very long. Pick something that’s fun — running, walking, swimming, biking, hiking, rowing, stairmaster, etc. After the initial phase when you’re getting used to exercise, you’ll start to have a blast and look forward to it.
  13. Mix it up. Don’t stick to the same workout routine for too long, or your body will adjust to the stress level and you won’t be getting an effective workout. For strength training, change your routine every few weeks. For cardio, it’s best to cross train rather than, say, to run every time.
  14. Good form. For strength training especially, and swimming, form is very important, but it’s also important for other types of exercise. If you’re strength training, start with lighter weights so you can work on your form. It’s good to have an experienced spotter or trainer who knows good form to help you for the first month or so. Never sacrifice form for heavier weight. For swimming, you’ll need to get a coach to teach you form.
  15. Hills. If you run or bike or walk for cardio, you’ll want to incorporate hills (after the first month or two of doing it at an easy pace on flat ground). These will make you stronger and make your limited workout time even more effective. Take them easy at first, but once you’re used to hills, you can get a good pace going. Either use a hilly route or do repeats on one hill.
  16. Circuits. One mistake that people make is to do multiple sets of the same exercise without rest between the sets. This doesn’t allow your muscles to recover and it’s a waste of your workout. But instead of doing a set, resting, and then doing your second set, it’s more effective to move on to multiple exercises in a circuit, so that you don’t rest between exercises but do rest each muscle group.This will give you a good cardio workout while you do your strength training.

The ideal workout plan
If you take all of these tips into account, the ideal plan would be to alternate 2-3 days of high-intensity strength training with 2-3 days of high-intensity cardio. You could get by with 4 days of exercise if you do them at high intensity.

The high-intensity strength training would be 30-40 minutes of circuit training, with no rest or little rest between exercises within a circuit, and a short rest between circuits if you do more than one.

The circuit should work out your entire body, using compound exercises such as the squat, deadlift, pullups, good mornings, etc., and either standing or using a Swiss ball so that you are working out your core.

You should use heavier weights, one set for each exercise, doing them slowly (5 second up, 5 seconds down), and to exhaustion, making sure to have good form on each exercise.

You would have a protein/carb shake before and after the workout, and a small meal of protein/carbs within 60-90 minutes of the workout. Water is also important for both types of workouts.

The high-intensity cardio would be something you enjoy doing. You would do interval training, at a rate where you couldn’t talk, with short rests in between intervals. On some workouts, you would incorporate hills.

Remember, these high-intensity workouts are not for people just starting out. You should build up an endurance base before doing the high-intensity cardio, and start the weights with lighter weights, stressing good form.


5 Ways to Make Your Workout Harder And More Effective!

How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

Some things you just don't do. spitting into the wind. Or pulling on Superman's cape. Or ending a workout without giving it everything you've got. After all, your body is an adaptation machine, and it will only change if you give it ample reason. In other words, you can't just show up at the gym; you have to push yourself to grow!

If you've been stuck at the same level of strength and muscular development for way too long, you may just need to make your workouts more demanding. Here are five quick tips, techniques, and strategies to help you dial up the difficulty.

These techniques run the gamut from simple to borderline brutal, but I recommend you try them all to see what works best for you!


Attach bands or chains to a barbell movement

Sometimes you have to use unconventional methods to make your workouts more challenging, and chains are one such method. If you haven't been using chains to jump-start your progress, you just might be letting one of the best tools in the gym pass you by.

When training with bands, the further the stretch, the greater a band's resistance becomes.

With most exercises, the weight of the object you're lifting doesn't change: what weighs 90 pounds at the bottom of the lift weighs 90 at the top.

Chains, however, provide linear variable resistance training (LVRT)—as the range of motion increases, so does the load. And when you're at your strongest biomechanically, toward the top of the movement, the “chains + bar” are requiring the most of you.

When training with bands, the further the stretch, the greater a band's resistance becomes.

In the bottom portion of the squat, bench press, or deadlift, most of the chains are resting on the floor (or the band is loose), but as you lift, more links come off the floor, and the weight increases as you go higher.

So as the weight gets heavier, you obviously have to (and are best able to) recruit more muscle fibers—especially the fast-twitch variety that allow for greater gains in power, strength, and size—over and above what you might be able to recruit doing standard dumbbell and barbell movements.


Extend your sets

In extended-set training, you use multiple versions of the same movement in one set, but you quickly change your body position after hitting failure to make the movement slightly easier as the set progresses. Different versions of the same exercise are placed in order from hardest to easiest to allow you to get the most each extended set.

With this style of training, you're able to continue doing reps at the same weight after failure because you adjust your body position to gain a mechanical advantage every time you hit failure, which lets you get more reps of the same movement. This is one reason this type of training is also called a mechanical dropset, or mechanical-advantage dropset.

For example, let's say you're doing lateral raises. To extend this set, you'd start with the most difficult version of the movement, which is a seated dumbbell lateral raise.

Choosing a weight you can do for about 10 reps, you'd take that set to failure.

But rather than dropping the dumbbells, you'd immediately stand up and complete the standing dumbbell lateral raises with the same weight.

The exercise is now slightly easier because you're able to generate a bit of body English through your knees and hips that you couldn't when you were seated. With this mechanical advantage, you can continue doing reps until you reach failure one more time.

In this example, the extended-set technique has just enabled you to do a pair of sets of the same exercise with the same weight without rest! You can knock out even more variations of the same movement— a cable fly from the low, middle, and high pulleys—in one extended set, too. This is brutal and effective stuff, and it'll help you grow in no time!


Stop, drop, and grow

Dropsetting or “stripping” is an advanced training technique that's both easy to learn and very effective at adding difficulty to your workout. Let's say you're using 225 pounds on the bench press for a maximum of 10 reps. You may not be able to complete an 11th rep with the 225 pounds, but you could probably perform a couple more reps with 165 or even 185 pounds.

In a dropset, as soon as you complete your last possible rep with 225 pounds, you quickly rack the weight and take off 25-35 pounds per side, then continue repping to a second point of muscle failure. Keep your rest period to an absolute minimum while reducing the weight, and have a training partner strip the plates to help speed things up even more.

In a dropset, as soon as you complete your last possible rep with 225 pounds, you quickly rack the weight and take off 25-35 pounds per side, then continue repping to a second point of muscle failure.

Voila! That's a dropset.

Dropsets are not limited to barbells. You can do the same with dumbbells, but have all sets on hand before starting—you don't want to waste time searching for one during the middle of a set. You can even have multiple drops, or perform a technique that's commonly called “running the rack” with dumbbells. Just start heavy and work your way down the rack until you hit total failure.


Improve the density of your training

If you do abs or calves at the end of your workout, you're probably guilty of skipping over them as you grow more fatigued over the course of your training session.

Why not train these smaller muscle groups—which can even include middle delts or forearms on leg day—between sets of other muscle groups you're already training? This approach is often called “density training” because you're doing more work in the same amount of time.

This extra work isn't meant to lengthen your workout, but it does allow you to address a lagging body part or one that you're prone to skipping.

For example, instead of taking your standard rest between bench-press sets, throw in sets of calf raises. wise, you could do a set of forearm curls between sets of leg presses.

This lets the major body part recover while you hammer another.

When staggering your exercises, keep in mind there are combinations that don't work well together. Doing forearms between sets of back or even chest movements will interfere with your gripping strength. Staggered sets for calves may throw your leg workouts off. Make sure the muscles for which you're performing extra work don't interfere with the primary muscles being trained.

You can even use this kind of density training for fat loss.


Get off the machines

Machine training has a number of benefits, but in general, it's easier to do than its free-weight cousin. That's because machines dictate the movement path for you, so you often just have to get set in position and lift the weight in the only direction it'll go.

With free weights, more of your body's musculature is involved in stabilizing and balancing the weight. These assisting muscles are required to complete the movement, making it more difficult and burning more calories.

Switching over from machine movements to free weights—whether it's bench pressing, squatting, or doing rows and other big lifts—increases the level of challenge, which can pay big dividends in terms of increasing the circulation of muscle-building hormones, testosterone. When you can, choose the free-weight version to spur new growth!


Your Workout But Better

How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

Get more every rep—without doing any more work!

10, 9, 8… blastoff to better biceps? As reported in the March issue of SHAPE, researchers found that using a different method of counting out your reps than you're used to—say, counting in another language—distracts you by diverting your mind from the (good) burn of building new muscle without being so distracting that you drop the weight on your foot.

No se habla Español? No worries, all those Sesame Street skills you learned as a tot will come in handy now. Try counting backwards or up by threes. Just don't use your fingers, those should stay firmly on your weights!



Research shows that eating a mix of easily digested protein and carbs within 15 minutes of finishing your weight lifting session gives your body the nutrients it needs to repair and build muscle fibers.

Michael Schiemer, CPT and CEO of Frugal Fitness, recommends tailoring your shake to your goals.

If weight loss is your primary goal, opt for a shake with “a moderate amount of protein (15-30 grams), low carbohydrates, and low fat.”

If you're looking to build strength, Schiemer suggests adding “a moderate amount of carbohydrates (15-40 grams) and possibly small amounts of unsaturated fat (omega-3 fatty acids are a plus), in addition to the content listed above. “This will help to increase overall calorie intake, refuel muscles even quicker and more completely, and promote muscle mass gains,” he says.

Think lifting a weight just means moving it up and down? Okay, technically it does. But there are a lot of different ways to approach that moving! Confusing your muscles by trying something different forces them to work harder to adapt.

Try doing short and heavy sets in which your load is heavy enough that you can do no more than five reps. Other options include super slow sets (count to five as you extend and then again as you contract), isometric holds (holding the weight in a contracted position without moving it), and drop sets (starting heavy and moving to lighter weights until you are fatigued).


Pink, purple, or plaid: no matter the color, a good pair of weight gloves can significantly increase the comfort and safety of lifting weights by protecting your hands and helping you maintain a better grip. Plus, they make you look tough, and sometimes that little boost is all you need to try lifting a little a heavier!

Sometimes getting a great weight workout means dropping the weights. (Not literally! That hurts. And it's usually against gym rules.) Using only your own body for resistance can help you make sure your form is correct, is less ly to cause injury, and can be just as intense as pumping iron. To get started, try these deceiving moves (they tone a lot more than you think!).

You may not notice your knees turning in slightly as you squat—until you suddenly have a lot of hip pain.

A professional trainer can watch you in ways you can't see in the mirror and make minor corrections to your form that will both help you build muscle faster and prevent injuries down the road.

If you plan on lifting weights regularly (as you should, it's great for your physical and mental health!), then investing in a personal training session to get your form checked out is well worth it.



Weights, sets, reps, workouts, body parts, days… there are so many things to remember when it comes to lifting weights, as opposed to cardio classes where all you need to remember is what time they start. This complexity may be one reason why some people are intimidated by strength training.

Make it simple by buying a cheap notebook at the store (we recommend the kind with a plastic cover just in case your water bottle spills!) and using it to track your workouts.

Not only will you be more organized, but it's an awesome ego boost to look back and see how far you've come!

Low-cut tanks and super-short shorts are great for outdoor runs, but get into proper deadlift form, and suddenly you have cleavage popping out both ends. Weight lifting can require you to be in some pretty odd positions so check your outfit for flashing potential by bending and stretching in front of a mirror before you leave the house. Remember this girl? Don't be her.


6 easy ways to kick your workout into high gear

How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

We are officially in the second half of 2018. Which makes it the perfect time to revisit your 2018 health goals and examine your progress. Have you been working on your bikini bod and meal prepping salads? Or plopping down on a lawn chair every weekend and enjoying a burger and a beer?

Whether this is your wake-up call to kick it into high gear, or you're looking for ways to supercharge the progress you've made so far, there are simple strategies you can use to get more every single workout. And no, it doesn’t have to mean spending hours toiling away on the treadmill. It’s about working smarter.

Employ these tricks of the trade to boost motivation, fast-track your results and maybe even enjoy the process of getting fit.

We’ve all let a four-letter-word slip during an intense round of burpees or pushing through the burn on those final few crunches.

It turns out that channeling your inner sailor may actually be helping you power through your workout.

A recent study found that those who swore while working out boosted performance by 2 to 4 percent — and an 8 percent increase in strength — compared to those who kept it clean.

Why exactly does throwing around expletives help? The researchers hypothesize that swearing provides a distraction that allows people to push harder than they normally would, similar to what happens when people meditate with a mantra.

So next time you're trying to bang out those last few reps, don’t suppress the urge to mutter some choice words under your breathe — it may just help you power through a few extra rounds.

Up the intensity of your workout with kettle bells.Getty Images

One of the simplest ways to up the intensity, and increase the effectiveness, of any workout is to add a prop. Dumbbells, TRX bands, kettlebells, weighted medicine balls and sliding discs can easily be found at every gym (or online if you to workout at home), and they up the intensity of standard moves pushups, squats and crunches.

Need some convincing to make the investment? Research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that kettlebell training significantly boosts aerobic capacity, while also improving core strength and dynamic balance.

In fact, workouts using kettlebells burn 20 calories per minute (which is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace!) — that’s 400 calories in just 20 minutes.

Another study published in Human Movement Science found that doing a suspended pushup using TRX bands activated the abdominals 184 percent more than doing a standard pushup. Hello, beach body.

A study published in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports compared different ways that fitness routines motivate people to work out and found that competition was a far stronger motivator than friendly support.

(Attendance rates were 90 percent higher in the competitive groups than in the control group.

) In fact, you’re better off leaving people alone than offering them support, which the study revealed made them less ly to go to the gym.

Think about your own experience: that “You can do it!” text from your best friend may be appreciated — but is it really motivating you to workout any harder or more frequently? We’re much more ly to get in those extra steps when we’re engaged in a Fitbit challenge, or run a little faster when the guy next to us on the treadmill is closing in on 6 miles.

Studies show that competition is a far stronger motivator than friendly support — attendance rates were 90 percent higher in the competitive groups.

“Competitive groups frame relationships in terms of goal-setting by the most active members.

These relationships help to motivate exercise because they give people higher expectations for their own levels of performance,” said Damon Centola, an associate professor in Penn’s Annenberg School and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and senior author on the paper.

“In a competitive setting, each person’s activity raises the bar for everyone else. Social support is the opposite: a ratcheting-down can happen. If people stop exercising, it gives permission for others to stop, too, and the whole thing can unravel fairly quickly.”

So channel your inner competitor. Get a fitness tracker and create weekly challenges with friends and family. Sign up for a race and set a personal time goal to work towards. Try a group fitness class that ranks your performance in real time, spin or rowing. Or simply set a goal to keep up with a friend who is working out next to you.

Yes, we are telling you to shorten the time you spend at the gym. But before you get too excited — you’re also going to need to majorly up the intensity of your workout.

Studies have shown that one minute of all-out exercise can have the same benefits as 45-minutes of moderate exercise. So it’s time to trade in that leisurely treadmill jog (during which you watch two episodes of “Friends” and read a magazine) for a high-intensity workout where you go all out for 20 minutes.

Interval training is a smart way to begin upping the intensity of your workouts.

Research shows that alternating between eight seconds of high-intensity exercise and 12 seconds of lower intensity exercise for a 20 minute period, three times a week led to more weight loss than working out at a steady peace for twice as long.

This type of interval training is also more effective at decreasing abdominal fat and body weight, while maintaining muscle mass. So say goodbye to the hour-long gym sessions. Get in, push yourself as hard as you can, and get on with your day (after you catch your breath).

The right playlist can make strenuous exercise feel easier. Shutterstock

When it comes to making those high-intensity workouts as painless as possible, the right playlist is key.

A 2014 study found that listening to music makes strenuous workouts feel easier, encouraging people to push themselves harder. A recent study published in the Journal of Sport Sciences came to similar conclusions about the use of music during high-intensity workouts.

The researchers found that your playlist can make HIIT workouts more enjoyable and increase the chances that you consistently incorporate them into your routine. So what songs should we be adding to the queue? The answer is simple: your favorites.

Whether you’re a sucker for a top-40 hit, love 80’s rock, or get lost in angsty Ed Sheerhan ballads, all that matters is that you’re listening to music you enjoy.

Foam rolling has become increasingly trendy. And this is one workout fad that deserves to stay. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that rolling significantly reduced soreness and boosted recovery.

In fact, it reduced muscle soreness one, two and three days after a squat routine, increased range of motion in the quadricep muscles and resulted in better performance in a vertical leap test.

And you don’t need to roll it out for long to reap the benefits: Just two minutes of foam rolling has been shown to increase range of motion by ten degrees.

Want more tips these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on , and Instagram.

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12 Surprising Tricks To Make Your Workouts More Effective

How To Lift Weights More Effectively And Get More Out Of Your Workouts

There's nothing worse than walking the gym thinking welp, that was an hour of Netflix time I'll never get back. Sure, there's no such thing as a bad workout, but there is such thing as a great one. The good news? Every workout can feel extra satisfying with a few clever tweaks to make your gym session work harder for you.

Of course, when it comes to fat loss and muscle gain, there are no shortcuts for hard work—but you can make that hard work go further by training smarter. This means warming up your body, pushing your limits, and choosing efficient workout methods. Here are 12 tips from top trainers on how to give you and your workout a ~super boost~.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

Sipping a cup of joe before a workout can help bring your intensity to new heights. “It stimulates the central nervous system, making an intense workout feel easier, helping you to push harder and longer,” says Michelle Lovitt, C.S.C.S. “It is essentially a performance enhancer,” adds Hannah Davis, C.S.C.S.

and author of Operation Bikini Body. In fact, one study found that runners who drank coffee before a 1,500-meter run finished it 4.2 seconds faster than those who were unknowingly given decaf.

Another study found that a pre-sweat coffee can actually make exercise feel easier (and more enjoyable), so you may be more ly to push harder.

Start sipping it 30 minutes before your workout for the best effect—this will give the caffeine a chance to get into your system. Eight ounces (about one cup) is the magic number here—any more than 200 mg of caffeine and you might get jittery.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

During exercise, as well as normal daily activity, your body's fascia (the connective tissue encasing your muscles) gets micro-tears, explains Adam Rosante, C.S.C.S., author of The 30-Second Body.

“During the healing process the layers may heal improperly, binding together tiny little knots on a rubber band.

Self-myofascial release, foam rolling, is the process of literally working out these trigger points so that you can, literally, move better,” he says.

Improve your training session by giving your muscles some foam rolling love before you start working out. “This will help prep your muscles to work to their fullest potential,” adds Davis.

“When your muscles work more efficiently, you can push harder and ultimately that burns more calories during a workout.”Foam rolling can help improve mobility and range of motion—for example, a deeper squat means more muscle recruitment, so you’ll build more strength.

In addition to a foam roller, Rosante s using Yoga Tune Up Balls or lacrosse balls to loosen up.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

“Dynamically warming up your body has a similar effect [to foam rolling] in that it helps improve mobility in your joints and pliability in your muscles,” says Rosante.

“Better movement allows you to perform exercises correctly and more efficiently, improving the quality of each workout.” Plus, “a really good dynamic warm-up will also gradually raise the heart rate, leading to a greater overall calorie burn.

” A dynamic warm-up is one that has you moving, rather than holding your stretches. Here’s a perfect five-minute dynamic warm-up to try.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

“Alternate muscle groups so that [you can take less rest] without sacrificing the form or quality of the movement,” says Davis. This means pairing upper body exercises with lower body exercises in strength sets (for example, alternating between squats and chest presses) so you give one muscle group time to recover while you’re working another. Multitasking, right?

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

The best way to guarantee results is showing up to do the work in the first place, and then you can push the intensity when you're ready. One simple way to make your regular routine more challenging is to rest less between reps and sets, explains Davis.

“I recommend taking 30 seconds to 60 seconds between exercises. Closer to 30 seconds if you want the workout to be more cardiovascular, and on the longer end if you are focusing on increasing weights.

” The shorter the rest time will keep your heart rate elevated, but if you're using super-heavy weights you may need a little extra time to fully recover before your next set.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

“Employ the principle of progressive overload, which is a fancy way of saying just doing a little more or a little better in each workout,” says Rosante. “The best way to make sure you're doing this is by tracking and logging your workouts.

When you go to the gym to perform that day's workout, note how many reps and sets you completed for each move, as well as the weight you used for each.

The following week, you'll perform the same workout, but increase the difficulty by tweaking one or more of the elements: reps, sets, weight, or another variable.”

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

Squats are tough. Squats while holding 10-pound weights are even tougher. Adding weights to your favorite bodyweight exercises sit-ups, squats, and lunges will automatically make your muscles work a little bit harder.

Need another reason to pick up the weights? Strength training helps your body burn more calories in the gym and out.

That's because strength training helps build lean muscle and all of that lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

This means thinking about the muscles you're engaging while you're performing an exercise. “Movement in the body originates in the brain,” explains Rosante. “Your brain sends a signal to your muscles telling them to contract.

A strong mind-muscle connection can help to recruit more muscle fibers during a lift.” It will also help make sure you stay in the zone. “When your mind is not focused on the task, you are more ly to use poor form, which may slow the movement down and risk injury.

Our mental focus is key for better movement and to provide positive self-talk to push that extra rep,” says Davis.

To put this into practice, “really visualize the muscle activating and working through the full range of motion as you perform a move,” explains Rosante. “So if you're doing a squat, for instance, picture your quad and glute muscles firing as you lower and raise.”

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

There are plenty of benefits to steady-state cardio, especially if you’re training for an endurance race. But when you’re short on time and need a fast fat-burning routine, think high-intensity interval training (HIIT). These types of workouts combine intervals of intense effort (think all the burpees) followed by short bursts of recovery.

“HIIT is both time efficient and effective,” says Davis. “You can spend less time working out and get the same (or often better) results [by doing HIIT training instead of] long steady-state workouts.” This is because HIIT training keeps your heart rate up which translates to lots of calories burned. Plus, there’s that whole afterburn effect.

“Greater energy expenditure equals greater calorie burn,” explains Rosante.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

Talking about effort, it’s important to keep tabs on exactly how hard you’re working. A simple way of doing just that is by wearing a heart-rate monitor. “Heart-rate monitors are super motivating because they provide a visual cue that lets you know if you’re pushing too hard, not hard enough, or if you’re in the right training zone,” says Lovitt.

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

Go to the gym with a plan, so you know what you're going to do and when (AKA no more dillydallying). Make a commitment to yourself to stop firing off emails or checking your Instagram s while you're in the sacred sweat zone. This will help you stay focused on your workout. If you need to, “leave your phone in the locker,” suggests Davis.

Unless, of course, that phone is where you listen to your music—in that case, set it on airplane mode and jam away. “A kick-ass playlist will keep you moving and loving a workout,” says Davis. “I want to squat more when I listen to Destiny Child’s 'Bootylicious'! There have been studies that show how music can improve performance.

A great playlist keeps you motivated and having fun!”

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

At the end of the day, the best way to get more from your workout is to work a little harder. “When you increase your intensity and step away from the ‘same old, same old,’ your body is placed under greater positive stress which will result in more possible muscle fiber recruitment and engagement,” says Davis.

And you don’t have to jump from yoga to CrossFit to see the benefits of an increase in intensity. “There are many ways to go the extra mile,” says Davis. “Used to 10 reps? Use the same weight and try to hit 15 reps. Or increase your weight. Even a small increase will spur a little extra burn.

” You can also up the resistance on the elliptical or raise the incline on a treadmill—whatever feels challenging.

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