Sunday, 30 August 2015

Use Your Time More Wisely

When you're in the gym and you're between sets, what do you do? Talk to a friend? How long does that go on for? Walk around the gym finding the best down-lights to make you look awesome? Get a drink? Prowl the gym floor like you own it? Check-in on Facebook, Tweet and upload a picture on Instagram to report on your gains?

While checking out how great you look might seem like a good use of your time, why not be even MORE productive?

The chances are when you spend time doing these non-specific activities, significant amounts of time may pass unnoticed and you lose the momentum of your workout.

Why not set 60-120 second timers between sets. This should be ample rest time. Then, during your rest period maximise your gym time even further by trying these things between sets:
Select a body part (not necessarily the parts your working) and try to mobilise them between sets with bands, foam rollers or lacrosse balls. Then, next exercise pick an alternative body part. You can plan these out before you start each exercise or, you might pick and choose them to help improve your current session depending on where you're feeling restrictions. For example, using a lacrosse ball to relieve tension in the hip flexors during the early sets of a back squats may benefit you as the weight increases. Alternatively, use a foam roller to reduce stiffness and soreness from previous sessions.
Here's a nice little gym flow that you could include between the warm up/build up sets next time you squat: VIDEO
Work Your Core
Loads of people leave ab and core work until the end of their session. They then do it half-heartedly or not at all as they just want to get home. Why not mix it into your session. Sometime I like to try and superset every exercise with a different test of core strength or a good ol' fashioned abdominal exercises. Most of my clients will have experienced this at one time or another. It's a great way to not only get through a lot of core work, but you also increase your anaerobic capacity, it tests you mentally but above all, it means that when the main part of your session is done, then you're done. You'll probably also find that the quality of core work increases due to improved rest periods compared to when you throw it all together at the end of a session.
The OTHER thing that gets left until the end of a session or ignored altogether is cardio. Why not try and throw some small intervals between sets of resistance work. You may need to add further rest after each round though or you'll soon blow out. For example if you planned on doing 4 sets of 4 different exercises you might: row 200m between each of the first 4 sets, Run for a minute up hill between the second 4 sets, do 30 mountain climbers between the third 4 sets and do a fast 2 minutes on the bike between the last 4 sets. A fast and effective way to incorporate intervals into your session. Try to consider the structure of your session; for example: if you're doing lots of pulling work then perhaps save your grip and avoid rowing. Likewise, if you're already doing lots of lower body work, cycling may compromise the quality of the resistance work.
Isolation & Accessory Work
Between the "bigger exercises" you could try some isolation work or accessory work. It may be for aesthetic purposes or perhaps to help improve some weaknesses you have such as grip strength. As long as it doesn't then compromise the "bigger exercise". For example: Avoid doing sets of bicep curls between deadlifts as it is likely to fatigue your grip when you go back to deadlifting. But, you might want to do sets of calf raises for instance; I hear some people need that kind of thing.
Practice Breathing
Sounds stupid? It's not. Practice relaxation breathing, lowering your heart rate and breathing using your stomach muscles rather than lifting your entire diaphragm. Read more here about The Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing.
Practice Form
With a lesser load or perhaps, no load at all practice the technique of the exercise you're performing between each set. You might even use alternative equipment such as a broom stick to replicate a bar. If there's an element of the movement you want to practice such as improving your posture during squatting, you could replicate this with a light goblet squat, holding it in the bottom position and trying to adjust your posture.
Lots of people will go to the gym and perform 4-5 exercises and do 3-4 sets of each. That means you're potentially missing out on 8-15 opportunities to improve yourself every session. Do this kind of thing every session and you can imagine how it will add up over the year.
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