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    Strength Training Hacks

    By Cinder Ernst–

    Today’s article will give you ways to make your strength training more effective. You might be doing strengthening exercises at home such as push-ups, planks or squats. Maybe you are following a physical therapy routine or working out in the gym. The strengthening principles that I share can be applied to any situation where you are working your muscles.

    I learned these concepts decades ago when I first got interested in bodybuilding. I studied a book by the late Joe Weider (1920–2013), who is regarded as a grandfather of the science of bodybuilding. When you implement the Weider-inspired principles, you can increase the intensity and benefits of your workout. Bonus: You get the improvement with no increase in risk of injury.


    Concentrate on the muscle you are working. When you do a bicep, for example, your arm is first positioned hanging straight down at your side. At this stage, the bicep muscle is long and relaxed. As you curl your arm up, the bicep muscle shortens or contracts. Try it now. Focus your attention on the action of shortening/contracting and then lengthening your muscle. Notice that as you intentionally concentrate, you create a different sensation than you would if you were doing the move mindlessly. You can add intensity with your mind. Since you’re doing the exercise anyway, you might as well get as much bang for your buck as you can. Bonus: Learning to concentrate on the muscle you are working gives you an opportunity to achieve a meditative state for those 30 seconds or so. This concept is similar to what meditation teachers are pointing to when they recommend focusing on your breath.

    Peak Contraction

    Every strengthening exercise has a point of focus where the targeted muscle is at its strongest contraction. We call this the peak contraction. Pause for a moment at the peak contraction and give an extra squeeze. This will again provide you with the most bang for your buck. In the bicep curl, the peak contraction is when your arm is bent up.

    Continuous Muscle Tension

    This is pretty much what it sounds like. The object is to concentrate on the muscle you are working for the entire 30 seconds or so, making sure the tension never lets up, not even for a second. Go for the squeeze at the peak contraction and avoid resting at the other end of the contraction. You are aiming for a full range of motion without letting the muscle tension release.

    Rest Area

    There are two rest areas available during an exercise repetition. If you go past the peak contraction, the muscle gets a momentary break. I call it a rest area. You break the muscle tension for that moment. A rest area is also available at the lengthening end of the contraction. The lengthening is an important and cool detail. You are going for a full range of motion, but not going so far that the muscle tension pauses. Try this with a bicep curl now. See if you can straighten your arm at the bottom but keep the tension in the bicep.

    Learning and using these skills will enhance your workout experience and improve your results with no additional time or weight increase needed. Plus, you can string together a few meditation moments. Have fun!

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Her book, “Easy Fitness for the Reluctant Exerciser” (, is available in paperback and E-book. She specializes in fitness and rehab for plus-size clients, but her stress-free approach is suitable for all. Find out more at