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How to Get a Better Burn When Strength Training

10 Tone-Up Tweaks to Get a Better Burn

We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Fitness Magazine here on FitSugar!

It happens to the best of us. Your gym routine becomes just that — a routine. Bust out of your plateau and burn more fat with these strength-training tweaks from the pros.

Make Every Day Your Best Burn Yet
Supercharge your gym routine by ditching the moves that have stopped delivering results and replacing them with ones that will challenge and build more muscle. Start with these total-body toning tips from some of our favorite trainers.

Arms: Change the Weight
Dumbbell curls are great for your arms, but unless you're changing up the sets and reps, your biceps will get accustomed to the level of stress you're placing on them, meaning you'll stop seeing the sculpting results. "Few people use the proper weight and even fewer graduate the amount of weight being used during arm exercises," says Richard Miller, owner and CEO of GymSource in New York City.


When you curl the same weight for a long period of time, your body send nutrients to the muscle you're working to help recover. If you pick up an eight-pound dumbbell every time, your muscles aren't experiencing varied stress and won't add new nutrient masses to that area, making your arms fall flat. Use this cheat sheet to know when it's time to step it up a notch:

  • You should feel fatigue at 15 reps or fewer. If you don't, add more weight.
  • Aim to increase weight by less than 10 percent. If you normally lift eight-pound weights, up it to 10 pounds, and so on.

See more helpful tips after the break!

Arms: Decrease (or Eliminate) Rest Time
Not only do you need to switch up your routine every few months, Miller also suggests powering through an entire arm series without resting. "The idea is to work with a variety of moves that touches multiple areas of the same muscles and deplete these muscles to near exhaustion." There's also a bonus: by eliminating rest time, your chances of injury decrease, because in order to complete so many sets, you'll need to use a lighter weight.

Try doing one or two biceps movements, like a reverse curl (where the palms are facedown holding dumbbells) or a hammer curl (palms face inward holding dumbbells). Without resting immediately, go into two to three triceps exercises (such as bent-over triceps kickbacks or one-arm triceps dips). You'll not only tone more, you'll keep your heart rate up, torching more calories as you go.

Back: Kick It Up With a Kettlebell
Kettlebells are so effective because they rely on acceleration as well as deceleration to help tone muscle. "The off-centered weight of a kettlebell will force you to use more stabilizer muscles and work the targeted muscles through a longer range of motion," says celebrity trainer Michelle Lovitt, whose clients include Courteney Cox and Julianne Moore. Since you need your arms to hoist the kettlebell in the air, you're targeting two zones with one area.

Back: Build More Muscle With Drop Sets
This method feels like you're cheating because you get to drop the weight as you go, but really you're doing it to ensure proper form so that your body can reap the full benefits of the move you're doing. To do your own drop set, you'll need three sets of weights. Once you max muscles out with a specific weight, drop it and pick up the next weight down. After another set, use the lightest weight and finish the reps. Try doing a drop set with this move to get started:

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
glitter-junkie glitter-junkie 5 years
I don't get this: "Aim to increase weight by less than 10 percent. If you normally lift eight-pound weights, up it to 10 pounds, and so on." Wouldn't that be increeasing by 25%, not 'less than 10%'? Please tell me if I've got the wrong end of the stick!
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