Plus, as she notes, if you’re stuck on a cardio-heavy program, your fitness can actually plateau. “Strength training will increase your exercise threshold so you can go harder when you do those cardio workouts, helping you make even bigger gains,” she says.
So then the question becomes: What should you do at the gym? Higher-intensity strength sessions that focus on full-body functional and dynamic movements (a.k.a. how your body moves every day) will be the most effective and time-efficient way to maximize fat burning and muscle building. In addition, strength training has the happy effect of increasing bone density to keep your skeleton strong as you age.
Try This Fat-Blasting Workout
Hop on the fast track to flatter abs with this five-move workout from Hutchins. (You can find more at the Nike+ Training Club app, free on iTunes and Android.) To keep your heart rate up throughout, perform 30 seconds of “work,” followed by a 10 second rest break. Choose weights that make the last few seconds of each interval feel difficult to finish with proper form.
Complete the circuit three times, taking time to recover between each round. (Think: The amount of time it’ll take you to go get water.) The other benefit to doing a timed Tabata-style workout is that you tend to push yourself harder when you’re going against the clock rather than counting reps, says Hutchins.
Oh! You’ll see that these don’t include typical core moves—no situps here. But these moves force you to engage your abs throughout, which will challenge those muscles.
Dumbbell squat to shoulder press: Hold a weight in each hand and bend your knees to 90 degrees to lower into a squat. As you’re coming up from the squat, push the weights above your head, palms facing one another, straightening your arms into a shoulder press.
Reverse lunge with biceps curl: Start with two feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Step back with one leg into a lunge and perform a curl. Alternate legs.
Pushup with mountain climbers: Do three pushups in a row, followed by 10 mountain climbers. (This one and the next will really get your heart rate up, Hutchins says.)
Burpee to shoulder press: Holding dumbbells in your hands, place your hands on the floor. Jump out with your feet to pushup position, then jump your feet back toward your hands. (That’s the burpee.) Stand up and do a shoulder press.
Goblet squat: Hold a dumbbell in front of your chin (not touching your body), dropping into a deep plié squat (feet slightly wider than hips-distance apart, toes angled out). Pro tip: Keeping the dumbbell in this position will help better activate your core.
How Often Should You Do It?
You don’t want to repeat the same strength workout over and over, because gains come when you continually switch things up, Hutchins says. (Mix it up with the strength workouts in Women’s Health’s Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.) When you’re first starting out, do one strength workout during your first week, she says. The second week: Do one strength session and one endurance workout. Week three: Try two strength and two endurance workouts. “There’s no magical science, but you want to work with constant change to shock and surprise your body,” she says. “Altering your routine will help support fat burning so you start to see results faster.” Yes, please, and thank you.