If you take the time to go to the gym or head out the door for a run, surely you want the best possible results for your hard work? Like the smart banker looking for the best return on his investment, it makes sense to try and optimize your workout so your investment of sweat pays off as much as possible. Stop wasting your time and effort; try these tips for getting a better workout.
Never skimp on your warm up
Get the most from your workout by making sure your body is adequately prepared for what you are about to do. Warming up is a double-edged sword in that it increases your performance AND lowers your risk of injury. Your warm up should include some light cardio, joint mobility exercises and dynamic stretching as a minimum and you would also benefit from the inclusion of some foam rolling, movement preparation exercises and ramped sets to ease you into the workout. If you don’t have time to warm up properly, you don’t really have time to work out either.
Embrace the suck!
The things that you suck at are probably the things you should be doing more of. For example, if you can’t do pull-ups, you are weak and/or heavy whereas if you can’t run a mile, you are unfit. Ignoring these things means you will NEVER address what is holding you back. Of course, it’s easier to just do the things you like or are good at but that’s not going to plug those fitness gaps. Work on your weaknesses and they’ll soon become strengths.
Change it up
Doing the same things over and over will eventually stop producing results. If you only ever lift 25-kgs, you’ll only ever be 25-kgs strong. If you want to improve your fitness or strength, you have to push the envelope from time to time and step up and out of your comfort zone. This means that, periodically, you need to increase the number of reps you are doing, add more weight to the bar, rest less between sets or do more sets in your workout. It doesn’t really matter too much what you do so long as you turn up the difficulty of your workout from time to time. If you are happy with where you are then by all means carry on doing the same stuff over and over but if you want progress, you have to drive your workouts forward.
Train with someone better than you
Being the biggest fish in a small pound is great but it’s not a good way to make progress. If you want to take your fitness and/or strength forward, you should try and train with someone better than you. While you won’t be able to match their performance, working out with someone better than you will inspire you to work harder than normal and that is what is needed to bust out of fitness plateaus. Yes, you will have to move out of your comfort zone but that’s okay –the results you get will make the temporary sting of discomfort worthwhile.
Choose compound exercises 80-percent of the time
Compound exercises are moves that use multiple joints and therefore multiple muscle groups at the same time. Examples of compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups, press-ups and lunges. These types of exercises provide much more “bang for your buck” than isolation exercises like calf raises and triceps pushdowns. By focusing on compound exercises, you will develop greater strength, greater muscle mass and a better physique than would be otherwise possible if you focused your efforts on isolation exercises. Isolation exercises are not necessarily bad – it’s just that compound exercises are better and should be your priority. Keep the isolation exercises for after you have finished your compound exercises and make sure that only 20-percent (or less!) of your total workout volume is made up of this type of exercise.
Eat like a man!
Your body is a marvellous meat machine that is capable of running for miles, jumping over high obstacles and lifting heavy weights. In fact, as machines go, it’s arguably the most versatile one on the planet. To function at its absolute best, your body needs a plentiful supply of top quality fuel – in other words, food!
While your body will run on junk food, it does not function optimally when the fuel you ingest is low quality. Like a formula one car with a tank full of contaminated fuel, your body will not run smoothly if you don’t pay attention to what you eat.
To get the most from your workouts, make sure you pay at least as much attention to what you eat as you do to your choice of exercises. Eat plenty of lean protein, lots of vegetables and fruit, a moderate amount of whole grains, some healthy fats and, in general, avoid processed food like the plague. Drink plenty of water and steer clear of artificial ingredients, sugar, excess salt and anything that contains ingredients that you simply cannot pronounce. When it comes for food, natural is best and as natural foods are generally lower in calories, not only will you feel better, you end up looking better too.
Don’t ignore recovery
Training hard (and smart) is only half of the workout equation. Whenever you exercise, you take energy out of your body so you have to put energy back in if you want to see much in the way of meaningful results. As well as eating properly, you also need to make sure your weekly schedule includes rest days and that you get plenty of quality sleep each and every night. If you don’t eat well, sleep well and get adequate rest between workouts, your progress will plateau and may even regress. Pay as much attention to recovery as you do your workouts and you WILL see progress. Ignore recovery and you can look forward to no progress at all.
Taking your fitness to new levels is not complicated but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. By following these tips, you significantly increase your chances of success so pay attention to the details of your workout and you’ll get the best return possible for your time, effort and sweat.