It’s not how much time you spend, but how you spend your time!
More training… Longer workouts… Every exercise you can think of…
None of these are a guarantee of better results in the gym. More important, you don’t need a billion reps and every exercise you can think of for great results or to get a good workout!
Here are 4 ways to improve your workouts and get better results WITHOUT spending more time in the gym.
1.Organize Your Workouts
Want something you can do today to improve your results in the gym? Here it is:
Taking an organized approach to your workouts means you’ll spend less time in the gym, see better workout performance, and better results.
Instead of doing all the machines, only your favorite exercises, or trying things out of boredom, train in a way that makes sense for you to get the most from each exercise.
How you do this depends on your goals, but here are two general guidelines:
1.For general fitness…
Start your sessions with compound or multi-joint movements like rows, squats, or pull ups. These exercises require more energy, so it makes the most sense to do them early in the workout when you’re still fresh. Do your isolation exercises later in the workout.
You’re working from big exercises to smaller ones. You’ll be able to use more weight or do more reps in the big exercises, and you’ll “feel the burn” more with the smaller ones later in the workout.
2.For performance-based goals (strength, muscle, etc) or learning new movements…
Start with the exercise you find most challenging, or that requires the most concentration. You want to perform these exercises while you’re physically and mentally fresh so you can give them 100%. Learning how to squat or improve technique in any exercise while tired is not a great idea.
This may seem simple, and that’s because it is!
Ditch the “random fitness” and get organized!
2.Better Exercise Selection
To repeat the phrase I used at the beginning, more isn’t better.
Are you using the most effective exercises for your goals? Be sure to include exercises that challenge your “trouble spots”. Yes, training this way is harder. But that’s how you get stronger and more fit!
For example, take someone trying to increase upper body strength by doing biceps curls and push ups. These exercises work some upper body muscles, but they aren’t the best for building strength.
A better approach would include rows, dumbbell and barbell presses, and pull ups or pull downs, with curls added later in the workout if necessary.
Why are these exercises better?
Multi-joint or “compound” exercises like the ones mentioned above involve more muscle mass, allow for use of more resistance, and cause more metabolic stress. In other words, they’re harder and you can go heavier! Because of these reasons, you won’t need as many exercises in each workout.
Whether you’re a casual gym-goer or a competitive athlete, every training plan needs to include compound exercises.
Get more work done with less by adding compound exercises to your training plan!
3.Get Better Quality Reps
Now that you’ve picked the right exercises, its time to perform them as best you can. Remember, finishing as fast as possible isn’t your goal. You’re trying to get stronger!
Slow down your sets, give your muscles a chance to work, and get the most from each rep.
Concentrate and actively “flex” your muscles on each rep of every set.
“It isn’t enough to “go through the motions” and finish your workouts as fast as possible just to say you did it.”
If you’ve ever heard anyone mention the “mind-muscle connection”, they’re referring to the ability to actively contract and relax your muscles.
Sounds simple, right? Well, this is easier said than done. Some muscles and movements will be more challenging than others (the upper back muscles come to mind). That’s ok, decrease the weight and keep trying until you can do it confidently.
You’ll notice that you’ll be able to do lots of reps and not feel much when you first try. As you learn to contract a muscle and get better at it, the number of reps you can do will come down and you’ll “feel the burn” much sooner.
Once you have this down, you want to do this for every rep of every set on ALL exercises.
4.Don’t Train to Failure Every Session
Progress doesn’t happen in the gym, it happens when you rest!
If you’re going for broke and “chasing soreness” every time you step in the gym, you’re going to have a hard time recovering from training.
Your goal is not to be sore and tired. Your goal is to improve and get better!
You do not need to exhaust yourself in every workout to make progress. Remember that training and all forms of exercise are stress. You have to be able to recover from that stress in order to improve. Going all out every day, using soreness to measure your workouts, or going “#BEASTMODE” makes it harder to recover. This approach may also bring you closer to injury.
The best thing to do is learn how and when to push yourself. Pay attention to how your body responds and feels after workouts. This is a great way to find out if you’re doing too much or can push yourself a little more.
Stop your sets 2-3 reps of “all out” so you leave a little “gas in the tank”. This rule helps you push yourself but not overdo it.
Instead of using soreness as a guide, track your workouts to measure your actual progress.
Seeing your numbers improve (weight used, reps, sets, etc) is one of the best ways to measure how you’re doing and the effectiveness of your training plan. This also keeps you organized and moving faster, as you won’t have to spend time trying to remember what you did last week and where you left off.