(This is a guest post by Holly Rigsby, author of Fit Yummy Mummy)
Would you like to “jump start” your metabolism and lose your ‘mommy belly’ once and for all? If so, the following seven tips are exactly what you need to improve your workouts and ignite your metabolism. Try some or all of these tips, but beware, the result may be a number of admiring second glances and the need to pull your ‘skinny jeans’ out of the closet.
1. The majority of your workouts should be composed of free-weight, bodyweight or cable exercises.
Compared to machines, free-weight, bodyweight and cable movements often require more skill, create muscular balance, and have a greater metabolic cost. For example, it is more difficult to balance the weights, and to coordinate muscles when performing free-weight exercises. Although this may sound like a disadvantage, it is actually a benefit. By balancing and stabilizing free-weights or cables you are working more muscles through a greater range of motion resulting in more muscles developed and more calories burned.
2. Use exercises that work more than one muscle at a time.
When focusing on fat loss, you can’t worry about “shaping” exercises, instead you should use exercises that’ll get you the biggest bang for your buck and work as many muscles as possible. Isolation exercises can be used at the end of a workout to work on a specific target area, but they just serve to supplement your core movements.
Virtually every savvy fitness professional is privy to the fact that compound exercises recruit the most muscle groups for any given body part.
If you seek lean, toned muscles and the increase in metabolism that comes with them, you must choose exercises that work as many different muscles as possible. One of the main reasons why squats are superior to leg extensions for improving your body is that they also work your butt, hamstrings and inner thighs in addition to toning your quadriceps while leg extensions focus on just the front of your thigh and don’t really offer any other benefit. That same rationale hold true for arm exercises too. That’s why dumbell presses and dips will are more valuable for your arms than triceps kickbacks and pushdowns.
A good rule of thumb is to use movements that will allow you to use the most weight. These will have a systemic effect on your body that’ll help maintain or increase your lean muscle, and in turn ignite your metabolism.
3. Pair exercises.
Pair your exercises together so that you alternate between upper-body exercises and lower-body exercises or between exercises that target opposing muscle groups (e.g. chest and back).
This type of approach will keep your workouts short and efficient by eliminating much of the downtime that comes between sets of a single exercise since you are working on one movement while resting from another. This approach can also yield huge benefits in your mission to burn fat. Since you’ll constantly be moving and keeping your heart rate elevated, you’ll be burning far more calories than you would during a typical workout.
4. Keep your reps between 8 and 12.
Through research, it has been determined that the best range for building lean muscle is roughly between 8-12 reps. Since the main focus of your resistance training efforts is to gain lean body mass and stimulate your metabolism, this rep range fills the bill perfectly. “High reps for tone and fat loss” is one of the biggest (and most unproductive) training myths! Somehow the aerobics, yoga and Pilates’ community have convinced us that when we perform bodyweight exercises or light resistance training for high reps, our muscles magically take on a beautiful shape without growing or bulging. On the other hand, if you challenge yourself with moderately heavy weights, your body will take on a bulky, unflattering appearance. If you believe this, you probably still believe in the Tooth Fairy!
5. Rest only 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
When you keep the rest periods under one minute, it’s easier to stay focused on the task at hand and keeps your heart rate elevated. In addition, it forces your muscles to recover more quickly between sets, along with keeping your nervous system revved up.
If your first movement in an upper/lower body pair is squats, you might want to rest 60 seconds before attempting your second movement. However, if your first exercise is a fairly “easy” exercise, like lat pull downs, you might only wish to wait 30 seconds before doing the second part of the pair.
6. Perform total body workouts.
You must drop the notion that muscle groups work independently of one another. Muscles work together and should be trained that way. Besides, not only does this approach mean less time in the gym, but by working the whole body three times per week, you’ll be maximizing the fat burning effect of your program.
7. Cardio is not the cure-all for fat loss.
Cardiovascular exercise aids in the creation of a caloric deficit, but the caloric expenditure during cardio is temporary. Strength training addresses the core of the problem by permanently increasing the rate at which the body burns calories by adding muscle. The best programs will include both strength training and cardiovascular training, but the core or the programs effectiveness is resistance training.
Take these strategies and incorporate them into your workout routine. Not only will you save a lot of time, but you’ll also soon see a leaner and more toned body. Not to mention a few more turned heads and the re-emergence of your skinny jeans.
About the Author
Holly Rigsby is a nationally recognized women’s fitness coach, certified personal trainer (CPT) and the author of the internationally popular e-book – Fit Yummy Mummy - Burn Your Baby Fat & Get Your Body Back.