Kelley Vargo by Kelley Vargo

Summer is just around the corner, which means now is the time to start getting in shape for it. Whether you want to tone your body or simply be fit enough to enjoy fun summer activities like biking, swimming and hiking, weight training is one of the best ways to accomplish your fitness and aesthetic goals. Here are six weight-training tips to help you get in shape for summer.

1. Perform a total-body workout.

Whether you’re trying to put on some lean muscle or drop some fat, a solid total-body weight-training program can help do the trick. Choose eight to 12 exercises that target each of the major muscle groups: back, chest, shoulders, legs and arms. The ACE Exercise Library is a great resource for exercise selection. Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise (depending on your time and level of fitness). This repetition range will stimulate muscle growth, thus increasing lean tissue mass, and help to create a strong, toned physique. Perform this total-body workout three times a week for four to six weeks before selecting new exercises.

2. Track your progress.

After you have selected your eight to 12 exercises, be sure to keep track of them (exercises, amount of weight, number of reps and sets), either in a notebook or digitally (e.g., Google Sheets). You can review previous workouts and set goals to increase the intensity of each workout. The amount of weight lifted should increase at least each week over the course of the four to six weeks. Tracking your progress enables you to see the progress you’ve made (something that’s not always visible in the mirror in the short-term).

3. Don’t be afraid to fail.

To stimulate muscle growth, the muscle fibers must be torn down and subsequently built back up. Therefore, you must use a challenging weight while performing exercises to initiate the muscle-building process. It is O.K. to only be able to do eight to 10 repetitions and not quite reach 12—make this your goal for upcoming workouts. This is another reason why tracking your progress can be helpful—it will enable you to truly push yourself.

4. Fuel your training.

Weight training is an important tool for reshaping one’s physique, but you also have to pay attention to your nutrition throughout the day and especially around training. Fueling before a workout with carbohydrates and after a workout with a combination of carbohydrates and protein is key for stimulating muscle growth. For other ideas on how to improve your nutrition, check out the Nutrition section of the ACE website.

5. Supplement with cardio.

Cardiovascular exercise is a great supplementary tool for assisting with caloric burn as well as fat loss. Perform strength-training and cardio workouts on alternate days; good choices include incline walking, cycling or intervals, but pick activities you enjoy (you’ll be more likely to do them). The addition of some cardiovascular activity will not only assist with fat loss, but will prepare your cardiovascular system for all of those great outdoor activities you’ll be doing this summer.

6. Have a schedule.

Now that you have the tools for getting your summer body ready, it’s time to put them to use. Come up with a game plan for getting your workouts in and your nutrition on point. Schedule your workouts in your calendar as you would any other appointment. This will help you stay committed and focused on your training goal for summer.