Thursday, 21 November 2013

How to improve your workout - the ongoing list

This is fairly straight forward; below is a list of ways to improve your workouts. You may already use some of the suggestions below in some capacity but hopefully, there may be an idea or two that you can incorporate in your current workouts.

I intend to add to the list from time-to-time (hence the title) enjoy...

Use an interval timer to add intensity - I'd recommend a GymBoss (they also have a free app that you can download). You'd be surprised at how you react to a timer and feel accountable and obliged to carry on. Its a great way to save time too and keep your workouts short. Quite a few ideas of how to use one here: Workout Ideas

Train with a training partner with similar goals - Find yourself a friend with similar goals and aims. Pushing yourself with some healthy competition and being accountable for your efforts and attendance is a great way to make your gym sessions consistently high quality.

Train With a Partner (2) - with different goals / skills / knowledge - Find someone that does something COMPLETELY different to you. A different approach to training, a different sport focus or a different background in fitness can be a real eye opener. You don't have to change you entire way of training but approach the session with someone new with an open mind. Take from it what you can and apply it to your own training. It doesn't need to be a weekly event but take from other areas of health and fitness what you can.

Enter a competition - Signing up for a challenge is a great way to instantly set yourself a S.M.A.R.T goals (read about setting S.MA.R.T goals here: S.M.A.R.T goals) It's specific, and time sensitive - a great way to make yourself accountable and stay on track with your training.

Set yourself quarterly goals - Look back. Are you any "better" than you were 6 months ago? For most people the answer is "no". Ask yourself "why" and then set yourself a goal for the next 3 months. Do this regularly and make regular, progressive steps each year.

Set a time limit for each workout - This is a great way to get through a pre-set amount of work and ensure your intensity if sustained. For example, if you planned on doing 3 sets of 4 different exercises why not limit your session to 45 minutes? Aim to do each exercise in under 10 minutes and allow for a brief water drink and setting up of equipment.

Write it down: The Workout - The amount of people that enter a gym with no plan or reasoning for what their about to do is probably a direct reflection of the amount of people that seem to exercise regularly and make little or no progress. Despite what the good people at CrossFit may suggest, you can't just go and pluck random number and exercises for your workouts and expect to make regular progress.

Write it down (2) - Numbers - Again, looking at "are you any better than 6 months ago?" Are you any stronger? have your sessions become progressively more intense, heavier or harder in any way? It can be hard to know a definitive answer without tracking the weights you use. Also, it can be a useful kick up the backside when you look back and realise you haven't made any progress with your deadlifts in 6 months for instance.

Get Help-  There's a phrase that goes something like: "A person who trains themselves has a fool for a athlete" - No Matter who you are, how well educated you are or how many years of experience you have you don't know everything; even those self titled "experts" and "gurus" that seem to appear all over the internet. Seek help. Think outside the box. you may be a powerlifter, speak to a mobility professional or if you play a fast paced sport you may benefit from the control and balance required for Yoga.

Get outside - A "workout" doesn't have to be limited to a gym setting. "Train to Your Environment"; get outside, run places, climb things, carry heavy objects, explore and use your body in ways that aren't confined by resistance machines and exercises while making the most of what's around you. Move freely and move with control and see how you require different skills and movement patterns to some of those you use in the gym.

Have Fun - a "workout" doesn't always need to be serious. Every now and again choose an activity. Go climbing, kayaking, swimming or whatever you choose. be active and broaden your skills set.

Finish with a "finisher" - Many gym sessions lack intensity. No matter what your overall aim, I like to "Finish with a finisher". Just a few minutes of intensely stringing a number of exercises together intensely. If you're looking to burn fat this can be a nice thermogenic boost - simply pick 4 or so exercises, keep the reps or time low and go round it a few times. For instance: 5 dumbbell thrusters, 5 hanging leg raises, 5 pull ups, 30 second run x 4. If you're looking to grow your muscles, a final "pump" can also be created with a similar structure ie: 8 dumbbell lateral raises, 8 dumbbell front raises, 8 shrugs, 8 upright row x 4. Leave the gym knowing you've had a workout. If you can wear todays gym kit again tomorrow then you're doing it wrong.

Start with core work - Lots of people overlook the benefit of targeted core work or abdominal work. They plan to add it in to their sessions or do it at the end of the session but afterwards it somehow gets forgotten, Try doing your core work and ab work at the start of a session. It not only gets it out of the way but it also works as a great way to warm up your body, elevate your heart rate and activate your core ahead of your bigger lifts.

As I said at the start, you may already use some of these methods, but hopefully one or two of the ideas come as welcome additions to improve your current workouts.

That's all for now.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @MichaelD_PT and YouTube

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