The Best Ways We Learned to Get Stronger in 2021, According to Fitness Pros

While cardio exercises like running will certainly make you sweat and get your heart pumping, we know that cardio is only one part of a well-rounded fitness routine. The other part that's equally as important? Strength training, which is one of the best ways to get stronger and build muscle. The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition (PCSFN) recommends performing exercises that make your muscles stronger at least twice per week as part of its physical activity guidelines

Like with most things, seeing results from strength training requires consistency first and foremost, but there are also some tips and tricks that will help make the process more efficient and effective. Ahead, we’ve rounded up some of the best ways we learned to get stronger from fitness pros this year. 

Start strength training safely

Starting with the basics, we learned that one of the best ways to get stronger is to begin strength training if you’re a newbie (or just need a refresher). There's a proper strategy to it. Fitness pros emphasize the importance of starting with just your bodyweight before adding in additional load. This gives you the time and space to get comfortable with the exercises without risking injury or overtraining. 

Certified trainer Kelsey Wells, creator of the PWR programs on the Sweat app, previously told Well+Good that once you've nailed the movements and form using just your body weight, then you can begin to adding resistance slowly. Start with light weights and then increase the intensity as you get stronger. 

Start with this five-move, full-body workout…that only takes five minutes (seriously!): 

Harness the "Power of One"

You're in the middle of a workout—be it a HIIT sesh, spin class, or out for a run—and you feel an overwhelming urge to throw in the towel and call it a day. We've all been there. In these instances, Peloton instructor Ally Love previously shared with Well+Good that instead of feeling bad about wanting to quit midway through your workout, challenge yourself to go for one more minute and then check-in to see how you feel. This technique is called the "Power of One," which Love says helps build strength and gives you the freedom to honor how you feel and cut a workout short if needed. 

Make building muscle fun

Fun is not necessarily a word many would use to describe strength training, and understandably so, doing all those sets and reps is hard work. However, according to fitness pros, armed with the right strategies, one can definitely upgrade a strength training sesh from dreadful to enjoyable. For starters, finding a workout style and trainer you like is key, and once you do, don't be afraid to mix it up. Trying new things and keeping your strength training interesting will help keep you engaged. 

Another pro tip: Music. There's nothing an energizing playlist can't get you pumped up to do. And lastly, the most important thing is to take your time when strength training and be forgiving. "Not every day is going to be your best, and that's okay," Barry's instructor Garret Caillouet in New York previously told Well+Good. "Showing up for yourself is what matters. Remember, fitness is self-care."

Quickie workouts for the win

In an ideal world, we'd all have ample time in the morning to get ready for the day, sip our cup of coffee, get our meditation on, and squeeze in a workout. The reality, however, is that our schedules are packed, and our bandwidth is thin, making exercise tricky to fit in. Enter: quickie workouts. Whether it's a 10-minute full-body HIIT workout or a 15-minute lower-body barre routine, although brief, short workouts can really pack a punch. After all, getting stronger can only be achieved through consistency, and short workouts make it easier to do that. 

Here’s a quick HIIT workout you can squeeze in anywhere: 

Minimize your modalities and stick to a workout plan

When you're putting in the work and not seeing the results from strength training, that can be pretty disheartening. Personal trainer Tamara Pridgett previously shared with Well+Good that one of the common reasons why this may be is because you're not sticking to one primary training modality. For instance, if you're focusing on cardio and only squeezing in one strength training sesh a week, that won't be enough to see the gains you're desiring.

In which case, Pridgett recommends upping it to two total-body strength sessions per week or three to four if you're more advanced. Yes, doing the same workout again and again for a period (think four to six weeks) can feel boring, but it's needed for increasing strength. 

Focus on recovery and nutrition

Another reason you may not see results from strength training is a lack of focus on recovery and nutrition. "Lifestyle variables—like nutrition, recovery, and sleep—also impact your ability to get stronger," Pridgett says. "You'll want to make sure you're eating enough to support your energy needs when you're training and in your everyday life, which according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for females. Your caloric needs will vary based on your lifestyle and goals, so you may want to work with a primary care physician or a registered dietitian to help create an individualized nutrition plan for you."

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