If you do a lot of reading about strength training, or are familiar with the female strength and conditioning world, you’ve probably heard Jen Sinkler‘s famous line. When asked how she works out, her reply was “I lift weights”. Well what about cardio? “I lift weights faster”.
Weight room and cardio combined? Sign me up.
“Lift weights faster” has become sort of a creed in the fitness world, and for good reason. It’s not always necessary to spend long, drawn out sessions on the treadmill or elliptical in order to get your cardio in. It’s just as easy to get cardio in by simply “lifting weights faster”, if that’s more your speed (pardon the pun). If you enjoy your time on the treadmill as a way to de-stress, that’s one thing. But if you’re hating every second of it, and doing it just because you think you need to, well, you’re in luck.
But when many people hear this, they don’t quite understand what this means. Do you literally just lift your weights at lightning speed? Won’t that lead to bad form and maybe injuries? And won’t you look just a little bit ridiculous?
So today, we’re going to get into a few of the ways in which I typically “lift weights faster”. These are great ways to sneak workouts in when I don’t have a ton of time, but you can also stretch them out and get in a nice long, full workout as well.
When I’m doing one of these types of workouts, weights are not at or near my max. I keep the weights to a level where they are challenging for the sets that I will be doing, but remember that you’re generally doing more reps, and that these are not true strength building days.
I use ladder sets when I am really strapped for time and have a couple of exercises that I can string together for full body workout in just a few minutes. I’ll also use a ladder set as a finisher at the end of a strength day, doing just one round for speed. For a ladder set, you will start with a higher number of reps — let’s go with 10, for this example. Perform 10 reps of exercise A, 10 reps of exercise B, then 8 of each, then 6 of each, all the way down to 2. After you reach 2 reps of each exercise that you have chosen, start again with 2 and build your way back up to 10.
The beauty of ladder sets is that you have to so much freedom to get creative. For heavier exercises, I would stick with the 10-2 rep scheme. But for more cardio based exercises, such as body weight jump squats, or KB swings, you could go into a larger rep range, doing 20, then 15, 10, and 5 reps before building back up.
Some suggested pairings for ladder sets, although the possibilities are endless:
– Ring assisted pistol squats with ring inverted rows
– Jump squats with skater jumps
-Bulgarian split squats with elevated push ups.
Super Set Everything
To lift your weights faster, you can also just super set everything, cutting way down on the rest and recovery time in between sets. Remember, this is not done at max weight loads, since you’ll risk injury without the proper recovery between sets/exercises. To superset simply means to do two separate exercises back to back, generally with opposing muscle groups, without resting in between. Say you have 8 exercises that you plan on doing in your lift. You can superset these into 4 sets of exercises, alternating between each set of 2 with little to no rest, instead of resting between each set of each of your 8 exercises. Some common lifts that I superset are:
-Barbell Squat with overhead press
-RDL (romanian deadlift) with bent over dumbbell row
-Barbell reverse lunge with push up
Active Recovery Between Sets
This will vary slightly from supersets, although you’re still completing sets of two separate exercises back to back. However, the difference here is that the “in between” exercise is more of an active recovery than an actual lift. You’ll be keeping your body moving and heart rate up, but this secondary exercise will be more about recovery and mobility than building strength. This is done in the same manner as super sets, in which you complete the active recovery exercise between lift sets instead of resting. Some common active recovery exercises that I use between lifts are:
-Medicine ball lunge/twist
-Body weight deep side lunges
You can also check out this post for some additional hip mobility exercises that you could use here as well.
Barbell complexes are probably one of the most common ways to “lift weights faster” in the strength training world. All it takes is a barbell loaded up with relatively light weight, and a string of movements that you’ll do with little to no rest. I usually try to string together about 5 different movements, and will go for 4-5 rounds of a complex. These can be extremely taxing, so go lighter on the weights than you think you might need to — maybe even just the barbell for the first time you try one of these. Especially if you’re stringing together both upper and lower body movements, you’ll need that weight to be fairly light to get through all of the reps with little to no rest.
A barbell complex will get your heart pumping and breath elevated like no other, so get ready to work!! Below is an example that I’ve posted previously, but as with the other ideas here, there are endless combinations you can do for an effective workout. Just remember to rest thoroughly between each complex, and work with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form for every exercise. If you feel yourself fatiguing to the point where form is compromised, stop and rest in the middle of a complex, and/or lessen your weight/reps.
Readers: In what form do you prefer your cardio? Weight room or traditional?