Who doesn't want to get maximum benefits from minimum workout time? Truth is, you can get more muscle-strengthening bang for every rep by doing one simple thing: paying attention to your form. Plus, you'll cut your risk of strains, sprains, and tweaks. Another truth: Good form is way more important than how fast you move or how sweaty you get. Here are 12 ways to be smart about strength training, from RealAge experts Mehmet Oz, MD, and Michael Roizen, MD:
1. Think Botox. Keep your face relaxed, smooth, and tension-free, not squeezed into creases. Need help? Try these stress-reducing techniques.
2. Look out at eye level. Looking forward, not down, keeps the back of your head lined up with your spine, so you don't strain your neck.
3. Relax those hunched shoulders. Drop 'em as low as they will comfortably go, pulling your shoulder blades back slightly while you do it, away from your ears. Between sets, unkink your shoulders by rolling them forward five times and back five times.
4. Lift your chest up and out slightly. Slightly. Not into a military stance with your chest thrust out.
5. Lengthen your spine. Imagine a string pulling the top of your head up toward the ceiling.
6. Keep the arch. Pull in your belly button without tilting your hips; it helps maintain the natural arch of your lower back. It should feel relaxed, not exaggerated. (Do this every time you do any physical activity.)
7. Tighten your abs. They support your lower back. (Get psyched to shape up and slim down at the Real Age Workout Center.)
8. Don't lock your knees. Keep them slightly bent and pointed in the same direction as your toes.
9. Don't lock your elbows. As with your knees, keep your elbows relaxed and slightly bent.
10. Straighten your wrists. No bending at this vulnerable joint. Keep wrists firm unless you're specifically doing exercises to strengthen them.
11. Breathe. Holding your breath while strength training pushes your blood pressure up slightly. It's safer -- and you'll have more power -- if you exhale as you lift or do a strenuous move, sucking in your abs to force air out. Inhale as you lower the weight, relaxing your lower abs and filling your lungs as you expand your chest.
12. Keep moving between exercises. Keeping your heart rate up adds aerobic benefits to your weight work.
As you get stronger, do a little more. Add more reps or use slightly heavier weights. Again, slightly is key.
What's your fave strength-training workout, and why? Free weights? Resistance machines? Resistance bands? Your own body weight?
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