Ask the experts

I’M TRYING TO LIFT A LITTLE HEAVIER IN THE GYM, BUT I FIND THAT MY HANDS GET FATIGUED BEFORE THE REST OF ME. WHAT CAN I DO TO BUILD UP MY GRIP STRENGTH?

“Lack of grip strength is a common complaint for many women when they start lifting heavier. But don’t be discouraged!” says Molly Galbraith, C.S.C.S., co-founder of Girls Gone Strong. Galbraith recommends incorporating these three exercises into your program once per week to help you develop an iron grip. “Perform them at the end of your workout so you don’t fatigue your grip before you get started,” she advises. Plus, be sure to wear lifting gloves!

Farmer’s Carry: Pick up one relatively heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and walk for 10 to 15 yards or 10 to 15 seconds. Set them down. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat for six to 10 rounds. Each week, increase the weight of the implement or your distance/time or decrease your rest period to continue progressing.

BONUS: This will help strengthen your core, back, hips, and legs.

Offset Heavy Dumbbell Static Hold: Pick up a relatively heavy dumbbell and hold it by your side while standing tall and bracing your core. Don’t bend or shift your weight to one side. Hold the dumbbell for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch hands. Aim for three to five sets, resting as necessary between sets. Each week, try to increase the weight of the dumbbell or the time of your hold.

BONUS: Strengthens core.

Body-weight Hang: Grab a pullup bar with an overhand grip and lift your feet off the floor so you’re hanging on the bar. Brace your core and hold as long as possible. Rest 60 to 90 seconds; repeat for three to five sets. Try to increase your time each week.

BONUS: These help to improve your pullup strength.

WHAT’S ZMA, AND HOW CAN IT HELP ME IN MY WORKOUTS?

“ZMA stands for zinc magnesium aspartate, although vitamin B6 is also a component of this supplement,” explains Linda Stephens, M.S., an IFBB pro, clinical nutritionist, and trainer based in Darien, CT. ZMA plays a key role in muscle recovery, helping you get a restful night’s sleep as your muscles rebuild after a strenuous workout. But the supplement also plays a role while you’re working out, assisting with protein synthesis and raising testosterone levels during strength training, which can help you build lean muscle. Magnesium also helps to alleviate muscle cramps, while zinc is a powerful antioxidant that aids in cell regeneration, she adds. Bonus: Research shows zinc itself can boost the immune system and reduce the length of time for colds. Look for a ZMA product that has a mix of about 450mg of magnesium, 30mg of zinc, and 11mg of vitamin B6.

I’M NEVER IN THE MOOD TO EAT MUCH IN THE MORNING. IS IT REALLY THAT BAD TO SKIP BREAKFAST?

“Studies are mixed as to whether breakfast has a positive effect on your metabolism—I don’t think that we have clear scientific evidence,” says Elisabetta Politi, R.D., the nutrition director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, NC. In fact, a roundup of research studies found that skipping breakfast has little to no effect on weight gain. That’s not to say eating breakfast is unimportant. “The best way to nourish your body is to eat more when you are more physically active and less when you are less active,” says Politi. If you are generally more active in the earlier part of the day, start fueling your body in the a.m. and reduce your caloric intake in the evening; vice versa if you work out more in the afternoon or evening. “If you aren’t hungry when you wake up, then don’t force yourself to eat,” notes Politi.

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