Achieving the body you desire is no easy task. Time can be difficult to find and it’s not uncommon for people to get discouraged. It’s time to change all of that. Invest in yourself with these 5 steps to improve your health and fitness and get closer to your goals.
1. Have a plan. If you wander into the gym each day and let a busy crowd or some fatigue determine what you do that day, it will be difficult to be successful. Sure, subtle changes can be made from time to time but knowing what you want to accomplish each time you enter the gym will help save time and keep you focused on the goal, in which case I prefer to call it training instead of “working out”. Many people are not sure exactly what they should or should not be doing to accomplish their goal. Or, they think they know, but often times the results speak for themselves. Whether you need to meet with a coach or do some research on your own, the choice is yours.
2. Proper Warm Up. Common practice is to use some sort of cardio equipment to get the blood flowing for a few minutes. This might be followed by a light stretch or vice versa. Although the muscles are now warm, there are better options. Most gyms now have foam rollers. I suggest starting the warm up with some rolling possibly followed by some stretching specifically of areas that are most tight or in need of the most work. This will not only make you feel better but also help to prevent injury. After this, some easy joint range of motion exercises including bodyweight squats, alternating lateral lunges, some leg swings, bridging and even push-ups for those who are more advanced. If the days training call for squats I like to warm up with multiple single leg movements like splits squats, lateral squats and single leg deadlifts. If it calls for overhead pressing then I may include some push ups in the warm up. This protocol will not only increase blood flow, raise the heart rate and core body temperature but also increase flexibility and mobility, improve strength, and better prepare the body for the training ahead. Like step 1, have a plan.
3. Use free weights. Going through the machine circuit at your local gym might be an easy way to train several muscle groups but it’s also just that, easy. Using free weights or your bodyweight is a far better way to burn fat and build lean muscle. Sitting at various machines can reinforce poor posture and typically only works just a few muscles in isolation. While unstable training might still be trendy I assure you that sitting at a machine requires no stabilization. In contrast, free weight or bodyweight exercises more commonly performed while standing, require much more muscle recruitment, tension and stabilization, meaning, you know, you’re moving like a real human being. This also takes more focus. It’s easy to chat your way through a set of seated machine curls but pressing a heavy dumbbell overhead demands focus.
Which is better?
4. Superset or tri-set exercises. Doing merely one exercise at a time with rest in between is a great way to train like a bodybuilder. Trouble is most people don’t have interest looking like one nor do they have the time so you better be doing super or tri-sets. This means choosing at least two non-competing movements like a squat and a row to be done one after another. Your legs will get the rest they need while doing rows. As a third exercise you could include a brief mobility drill or a core exercise. This will make workouts far more efficient by saving time and increasing calorie burn through more constant movement. Even if you are using a big lift such as a clean or snatch a simple mobility drill to work on a weakness can be done during a long rest period.
5. Interval train. If you want to save time, burn more calories, increase overall fitness and look more like an athlete (most people do), you need to do intervals for cardio conditioning work. Enough research inside and outside of the gym has been done to prove that interval training, more intense work followed by a determined amount of rest, repeated several times, is far superior to long, slow, time consuming work that most people call cardio. The days of slaving away for endless hours on the elliptical and stair climber should be behind us. This applies to not only athletes but also any healthy individual looking to make a change. Intensity just needs to be relative.
Train hard. Train Smart.
– Mike Baltren