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 Muscle 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.
It seems like it starts earlier every year…
For some, the holiday season starts with Halloween. For others, it’s the week or so before Thanksgiving. Whenever it begins for you, this time of year presents a challenge for your fitness routine. The holidays should be a pleasant time where we are thankful for the company of friends and family.
It often turns out to be the most stressful time of the year! Holiday parties, family gatherings, traveling to or hosting relatives, and all that shopping for the perfect gift. That’s a lot to handle!
With all the food related celebrations, holiday weight gain is a particularly stressful topic for many. It doesn’t have to be though, and I’m here to show that you can make it through happy, healthy, and without gaining weight! Below are a set of guidelines that will help you make your way.
Your Trusty Holiday Survival Guide
Rule 1: Maintain
If time is tight and you’re off your normal routine, trying to make progress while adjusting to all that is going on is a recipe for frustration. Focus on maintaining versus losing weight. This allows you to enjoy a few holiday meals without depriving yourself and removes any guilt associated with “falling off”. This is especially true around the holidays, but this rule can be applied to other hectic times of year as well.
Rule 2: Keep Exercising!
Time is tight and you may not be able to get to the gym for your usual high powered workout. That is fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop completely. Remember, the goal is to maintain. 20-30 minutes of exercise will keep you in the habit, improve your mood if you’re stressed, keeps your appetite in check, and helps maintain your current fitness level. If you don’t have 30 minutes, research shows that 10 minutes of intense exercise can be just as effective as 30 minutes of moderate activity. Have at it!
Rule 3: Stick to a schedule and don’t skip meals
A plan is helpful for most situations, so take a few minutes and make a new schedule for your current situation. Start by eating a good breakfast and eating throughout the day. This will make overeating at dinner less likely.
Rule 4: Get rid of leftovers
Freeze them, send them home with guests, do something with them, just don’t leave them sitting around for you to pick at over the next few days.
Rule 5: Make one trip and make it count!
It is tempting to say “forget this, lets eat!” and turn every holiday dinner into a free for all. Just remember that you are in control here. If you are serious about staying focused on your fitness and weight loss goals, you can have your cake or pie and eat it too (what’s the point if you can’t eat it?). Use the “one plate” rule for parties and family gatherings. You are allowed one plate at dinner, no second trips. Choose your favorites and enjoy.
This is something I have always done during the holidays, Thanksgiving in particular. When I was in high school, basketball tryouts were always early the morning after Thanksgiving. Pigging out wasn’t an option, but I didn’t want to miss out on apple pie, mom’s mac & cheese and my other favorites either. I experimented with this idea and found it to be a perfect compromise between having a satisfying dinner and still being able to perform on the court the next day. It worked wonders for me then, and it will work for you too!
Rule 6: Enjoy yourself!
You’ve worked your tail off in the gym and been mindful about nutrition all year. Don’t stress out over a few holiday meals and a few missed days in the gym. There’s an entire year around the corner for you to make it up. It’s good to take a break from mentally and physically pushing yourself so you can recover and continue to reach for bigger and better goals. Consider this your break. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed with friends and family, so relax and enjoy the company!