In the fitness world, certain truths are held to be self-evident: Big lifts produce big gains, greater intensity fuels greater results, and less rest equals less fat and more strength.
But science is now finding that many of these hard-and-fast muscle rules are not as immutable as we once thought. "We're a lot smarter than we were even five years ago," says Bill Hartman, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training. "Researchers and trainers are all starting to agree on what works and what doesn't."
The guessing game, in other words, is finally coming to an end.Read on to discover how the nation's top fitness coaches are incorporating lab-tested strength secrets into their workout plans, and how you can do the same to lift more weight, build more muscle, and lose those 10 extra pounds you've been complaining about since college. The path to the body you've always wanted starts here.5 Exercises That Make Trainers Cringe
OLD WAY: Stretch for Strength
NEW WAY: Warm up With Jumps
There's a reason why sprinters hop a few times before stepping into the starting blocks: Jumping kick-starts the central nervous system, helping to activate more muscle fibers.
"The name for this neuromuscular priming is postactivation potentiation (PAP)," says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. "And it's a key to greater strength both in and out of the gym." Consider this: Separate studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that inducing PAP through jumps can help you leap more than seven percent higher and squat nearly 18 more pounds. (Is your workout burning flab—or just burning up your time? Don't fall for these 5 Fat-Loss Myths.)
For an immediate boost prior to a lower-body exercise, do three quick countermovement jumps: Push your hips back, bend your knees, and leap vertically.
For upper-body moves, Gentilcore recommends a single, extra-heavy rep at the beginning of an exercise. "It fires up your nervous system and makes the subsequent reps feel significantly lighter."
OLD WAY: Go Hard or Go Home
NEW WAY: Do Less Work
You don't have to push your body to the limit to see results, says Martin Rooney, C.S.C.S., CEO of Training for Warriors. "Training eventually becomes less effective as you tire and your form breaks down." After that threshold, gains dwindle and injury risk increases. The key is to figure out the dose that helps you meet your goals without jeopardizing your health.