Fire Up Your Weights Routine, Amp Up Your Strength Training

Since it’s the last week of WSU, I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways to amp up your strength training for those of you that are going back to your own thing next week. I’ll still be providing the monthly workouts (like the Daaamn, Girl December Workout) and strength/cardio blitzes and videos until we start the Summer Shape Up in a few months. Remember, if you loved WSU, you can always repeat it to make it a full 8-week program, or follow any of the others on the fitness page!

Fire up your weights routine

When you go to lift weights, it can be really tempting to do the same thing or stick to the same muscle group split week after week. Here’s the thing: your body is an intelligent machine and will kick into cruise control when it’s frequently given the same demands. Shake things up!

Amp Up Your Strength Training

1) Change your strength split. For help picking a strength training split, check out this weights 101 post. Remember that your muscles need at least 48 hours to rest and recover, so avoid working the same muscles on consecutive days without adequate rest.

2) Adjust the weight amount. Been bicep curling 10 lbs for as long as you can remember? It’s time to graduate to the 12s! If you can comfortably do more than 10 repetitions with a specific weight amount, it’s time to beef it up. By the end of each set, you should have to PUSH yourself to finish (but be sure to maintain proper form).

3) Use a different type of weight. Always stick with machines or dumbbells? Experiment with barbells, body bars, the pulley machine, kettlebells (<– if you need help using these tools, ask a trainer at your gym)- anything you can do differently is a good thing! Muscle imbalances are extremely common, so be sure to work your muscle unilaterally (one side at a time) so that you aren’t able to cheat by letting the stronger muscle pick up the slack. I’m guilty with bicep curls- my right arm is much stronger from carrying Liv around on the right side, so sometimes I’ll bicep curl with more weight on the left to help even things out.


4) Minimize or eliminate rest time in between sets. Back in the day, I’d sit on my machine and watch the clock for 30-60 seconds in between each set. No time for that anymore, and I’m able to burn a lot more calories by moving the entire time! Experiment with metabolic resistance training and allow one muscle group to “rest” while working another. A no-fail way to do this is adding in some ab work or cardio blasts in between weights.


5) Play with tempo and types of repetitions. To really fatigue the muscle, try pulsing the weights (tiny movements at the most intense portion of the exercise) or isometric holds. Some of my favorite moves to play around with are bicep curls and squats- try alternating counts as you lower and raise the weights, hold and pulse.

6) Mix cardio and strength. By adding in cardio elements, you’ll be able to keep your heart rate up throughout the workout, burning more calories in a shorter amount of time. If you have the type of gym with separate areas for cardio and strength, try jump-roping, high knees, plyometrics or planks in between sets. You can also follow your strength session with a quick interval training cardio session (<– remember to alternate cardio intensities; follow harder days with easier days).


7) Add in a balance element. For the exercises in your normal routine, challenge your balance by performing them on a BOSU, or maybe standing on one leg (like single-leg deadlifts). By doing so, you’re using your core and muscle stabilizers, but also triggering proprioceptors which help recognize our body’s position in space. With regular balance training, it can help prevent falls as we age.

How often do you strength train? Are there any techniques or types of splits that you love?

Please share your favorite tips in the comments section- we’ll be able to learn some awesome tips from each other πŸ™‚

Hope you have a wonderful day <3



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  1. Lisa on February 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I try and strength train at least twice per week. Maybe not enough, but I’ve fallen in love with pilates so try and incorporate the two together on some days. I love my bosu ball! That’s one of my favorite at gym home items we just bought. I think core balance is SO important, and overlooked by so many because it’s tough to do, so most people just neglect it for that reason.
    I also love playing up tempo and reps. Makes the workout pass by much faster when those are mixed up throughout the workout.

  2. Emily on February 21, 2013 at 10:25 am

    I try to strength train a few times a week. I like using smaller weights while limiting the time in between. I’ve noticed great results in a short amount of time using just 3-4 lbs weights! I never would have thought that was possible.

  3. Lucie on February 21, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I do heavy weight lifting twice a week and about 2 times a week i do circuits with cardio/strength – which means TRX exercises with jump rope or short cycle blasts in between or dumbbell exercises with HIIT rounds in between. I can totally feel the extra boost and it never gets boring!!

  4. Erica { } on February 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I do total body strength training twice a week, and cardio/abs 3-4 times. I’m working on creating my first detailed strength training plan to help get me ready for a half marathon in April so I’m thankful you posted this today!

  5. Ashley @ Life and Fitness on February 21, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I’m following a 3 day split in which I strength train around 3 times a week. My favorite way to fire up my weights is to add supersets in. My muscles are burning during that long set!!

  6. Mia on February 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I typically have my week planned out according to my work schedule for that week. I usually aim for 3-4 days of HEAVY strength training (properly alternating muscle groups and giving rest). I like to do at least 2 days of cardio interval training (taking a class like Body Attack or something similar). Other days I will take a step class, a body pump class (using super light weights) just because I enjoy them, or make up my own WOD at home. The way I view it is that as long as I’m not working the same muscle groups back to back/ fueling properly/ and stretching, then why not do what I love?

    I’ve also tried to listen to my body and go with the flow. If what I have ‘planned’ for the day doesn’t feel right then I don’t do it. If my body is too sore or needs an extra rest day, I’ll go for a simple 30 minute walk to clear my head and stretch with the foam roller. The goal is to continue to be able to do what I love and get stronger. Not beat myself up. πŸ™‚

  7. Michelle @ Eat Move Balance on February 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Love these ideas! I’m trying to do more and more strength training (and less cardio). I have found that I really like what they call “functional” movements in engage my muscles in a way that’s different than just using a dumbell. A trainer at my gym uses these movements all the time, and I’ve loved how they’ve challenged me so far.

  8. Lauren on February 21, 2013 at 11:15 am

    After WSU ends I plan on beginning a Nike training plan for half marathon training. They Incorporate Nike training club app exercises (which I’ve done before and kick my butt) twice a week. I highly recommend that app looking for a solid lifting app! The options are endless so you never get bored

  9. Shaina Anderson on February 21, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Lifting is probably my favorite form of exercise, followed verrrry closely by Bikram. My all-time FAVORITE exercise in the gym is doing squats on the bosu with dumbbells. Holy cow. Split squats with my back foot on a swiss ball is a good one too. (Legs aren’t my favorite or anything haha.)

    I used to be guilty of doing the same thing a lot, but since having Tripp, my schedule is so dynamic that its literally whatever I have time for. If I can’t squeeze something in during his nap, then he goes in the stroller and we run. Last week I took him for a hike, and then on those days when I just can’t get a workout in until hubby comes home, I’ll either run a quick 3 while he’s doing bath & bedtime or go to the late bikram class after dinner (which keeps me from eating too much!). Its always different over here and I feel like that definitely helps.

  10. Katie @ running4cupcakes on February 21, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I love adding the BOSU to any move to make it more challenging! It is especially good for squats/lunges and planks/abs. I totally agree with your advice that if you can do 10 reps at your current weight without much difficulty – time to increase – that is something I am always preaching to my aerobics classes.

  11. Jay on February 21, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I try to strength train at least twice a week but prefer 3. I definitely need to mix things up more though! Thanks for the great advice.

  12. Rachel C on February 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I love strength training. In fact, I’m guilty of skimping on the cardio and doing extra strength. πŸ™‚ my favorite way to change up my strength routine is to do pyramid sets. It’s always an amazing workout, and something different to really challenge myself. My old trainer would do a workout from time to time where we changed the exercise but stayed on the same muscle for 15 – 30 – 50 reps. It was killer but an amazing workout.

  13. Leah O on February 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I love lifting weights and I do it a few times per week (more consistently thanks to ssu and wsu:)). I so need to move up in the weight category though. You were talking about me when you were talking about the person who has been lifting 10lbs since forever. I work out at home while my babe is sleeping and I have my one set of 10lb weights that I use. Not sure why I have been putting off getting new ones, I guess they are kind of expensive. Pretty sure I could do 12s or 15s by now! This post is definitely motivating me to go to the store today:)

  14. Brittany @ Kitchen::Candid on February 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Great tips as always Gina! I can’t wait to incorporate some of these tips into my own weights routine!!!

  15. Anne on February 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for this post! I am not new to working out, or even lifting, but always feel myself grasping at thin air when it comes to weights. I know I need a much more solid base of knowsge to go off of and this ok post with the links helps!

  16. Kate on February 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I lift twice a week most weeks. I’m 13 weeks pregnant right now with baby #2 and have been struggling to come up with new ideas to keep my muscles challenged but not overdo it. I have a routine of “safe” strength training exercises that I do but I’ve been finding myself a bit bored with the same exercises every week. I miss doing the “Spooky Sweatfest”…that was my favorite!

  17. Jeannie on February 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I love lifting way more then cardio. I love circuits with plyometrics, abs mixed in.
    Prior to WSU, I completed two rounds of Jamie Eason live fit trainer and 2 rounds of James Wilson 12 week plan. Love changing it up and learning new things. Keeps things interesting.. I also like to follow a plan as it keeps me motivated!

  18. Tracy on February 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I strength train at least 2x but usually 3x a week. I love this reminder to switch up my splits!

  19. Corey on February 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    It is so important. I feel and look so much better when I am using weights. I have found some amazing body weight exercises that have totally changed my workouts though, too!

  20. Jen on February 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I usually strength train 3 times a week or possibly more, depending on what muscle groups I’m focusing on for a given day. I like doing supersets that work opposing muscle groups (I’ll usually look for workout guides online for this), or doing intervals, or… bodyweight strength training! If I’m at the gym, I can use my trainer’s TRX for this, which can always be made harder to keep my body guessing. Also, I’ve started incorporating cardio with strength training and doing HIIT/Tabata with weights!

  21. Jessica on February 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the motivating words on strength training. I really struggle with weights. I KNOW how important it is to build muscle but I just love cardio and yoga so much better. Luckily, yoga can really work the muscles too – but I know thats not enough. I do weights a solid twice a week – but I confess that I dread those days. I wish I could learn to love it more. Your post has provided some much needed motivation! Thanks!!

  22. Missy on February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Completed workout 4 this morning (had a rest day yesterday).

    I change up my routine all the time. Strength training, cardio, pilates-style stuff, sometimes just treadmill walking. If I don’t change it up I will get bored and start hating working out.

  23. Anna @ Your Healthy Place on February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I love using the Bosu in almost all of my moves. I haven’t done stationary squats on the floor in years! And it is really challenging in push ups too…!

    • Fitnessista on February 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      bosu pushups are KILLER!

  24. Emily @ Munchies 'n' Marvels on February 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I have a few classic moves that I love and do routinely (deadlift, back squat, push-ups). Then I pepper in whatever I feel like I need, sounds fun, or something new I just learned. I don’t really keep a structure, I just keep doing stuff until my time is up. Kinda like”gym roulette”!

  25. Vesna Fit Missy on February 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Awesome pic of your arms! Great definition!

  26. Caitlin on February 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Strength training! I’m half marathon training now, so I only do strength twice a week, but if I wasn’t training I like to do it 3 times a week. I love to just look up random strength workouts on your blog and others (pbfingers has some great ones!) to constantly switch it up. I’ve heard so many different things though regarding changing it up and not changing it up…do you need to do a specific routine a few times before you change it, or can you just do sporadic and different workouts all the time? I get confused because everyone always has a different opinion

  27. Karissa on February 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    LOVE IT Gina, thank you!! Just this week I have been trying to come up with stuff to mix up my weight routine. You rock!
    P.S. I think my first Stitch Fix is coming soon- I finally got the email. SO excited!! πŸ™‚

    • Fitnessista on February 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      ahhh! i got the email that my next one shipped.. i get so excited! i hope you love yours πŸ™‚

      • Jacquelynn on February 21, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        Sorry to butt-in on the conversation, but I saw “stitchfix” and had to tell you how much I LOVE it! I’ve been getting fixes since the end of summer. I am preggo now, and I still get some awesome fitting pieces to add to my wardrobe!

        I was just telling my husband tonight that I want to add a few days a week of light weight-lifting. I have been walking, but not really doing any strength training since I got pregnant.

        Have a great night!

      • Karissa on February 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

        Thank you SO much for introducing me, I got so excited when I got the email, I know exactly what you mean!! πŸ˜€

  28. Beth on February 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I do strength training at least twice a week, sometimes three if I’m feeling extra motivated on the weekend.

    Thanks for the reminders on changing up the routine – I’m excited to try the body bars at my new gym!

  29. Julie on February 21, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Right now, I strength train 2xs per week then add in power yoga 2-3xs per week and cardio 2xs per week. It depends though – sometimes I get in a lifting kick and do more.

  30. Veterinarianess on February 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Girl I wish my arms looked as killer as yours do in that first pic!

    I’ve recently broken up with Crossfit and gone back to simple distance running, so I’ve been looking for weight training ideas to add back into my routine πŸ™‚

  31. Erin @ Axell's Kitchen on February 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I strength train about 3 times a week and walk on the treadmill at an incline about 4 times. I chase my 10 month around all day every day…I know you know how that is!

    • Fitnessista on February 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      that’s more exercise than i could ever get at a gym! tonight i was pushing her around in her car, and my glutes were killing me

  32. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on February 22, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Thanks for all the awesome tips here. I used to do weights 3x a week with a split of chest/triceps, back/shoulders/biceps and legs/abs. But then I wanted to get back into more cardio, so I scaled it back to 2 days of full body weights per week. I’ve been slacking off a lot lately though and I’ve just been doing the same thing over and over again, so this post is exactly what I needed!

  33. Katie on February 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Question about the fatigue…… I usually do 3 sets of 12 reps for arm workouts. I’m usually not fatigued by the end of the first two sets, but at the end of the 3 set my arms are shaking! Should I be doing less repsw with more weight?

    • Fitnessista on February 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      yep- try 3 sets of 10 with heavier weights and move up to 12 from there

  34. Jessica on March 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Can you recommend any good kettlebell workout DVDs?

  35. Elle on March 22, 2013 at 3:53 am

    My cousin made me green tea cookies once and they were delicious! I haven’t tried to make it yet, and I’m also not the best baker. I think it’s a great idea to make this for St. Patrick’s day instead of adding green food colouring to normal cookies.

    When I bake with gluten-free flour, the baked good tends to be more crumbly and it never turns out right. Do you have the same problem usually? Or was it just with this recipe?

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