Turn up your firm

The fastest way to sculpt and strengthen your muscles? Slow down your reps.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
The fastest way to sculpt and strengthen your muscles?
Slow down your reps.
My Reading Room

There’s a pretty genius technique you’re likely not using that could really help you power up without having to lift heavier weights or do more reps and sets. “When you play with an exercise’s tempo to extend the time your muscles are working during a single rep, you can build strength, burn fat, and develop lean muscle faster than going at a standard pace,” says trainer and exercise scientist Dasha Libin, the co-owner of anderson martial arts and creator of kettlebell kickboxing in New York City.

The idea is to squeeze more muscle-making out of each rep’s three phases – positive, static, and negative – by doing them in slow motion. the positive phase of a push-up is the work, or actual pushing, part. the static phase is the peak contraction point where your chest grazes the floor, and the negative phase is the lowering part, “increasing your time under tension in the negative part of an exercise, for instance, can help you grow your positive strength,” Dasha explains.

Dasha created this total-body routine to give every major muscle a fresh challenge from seven go-to exercises. No matter how fit you are, you’ll come away stronger and more carved, she promises: “if you can only string together four or five push-ups right now, after just a couple of weeks of doing pushups under tension, you’ll be able to double your count.” Like those odds? Ready, set... slow.