Well it’s a new year and with it comes the resolutions. With weight loss and staying healthy being the top resolutions, below are some tips to help you see results from your workout! I’ve weight lifted for about 7 years (albeit inconsistently). I’m no strong man competitor but I do know my way around the gym.
Don’t think technique is important at the gym? Tell that to the guy dead-lifting 350lbs. He’ll probably laugh at you then throw you out the door. Too many times I’ve seen people throwing around weights or lifting at light speed. By doing this, they’re getting less muscle stimulation and are greatly increasing their chances of injury.
Guys tend to lift 10 or 15 more pounds than they should be. By that I mean they sacrifice technique just to say they can lift a little more. With curls, for instance, guys that should be curling 20lbs pick up a 30lb dumbbell and swing it up by using their back and swaying their body. They might think it makes them look stronger when, in fact, they look dumb. For curls you want to tighten your back like your pinching something between your shoulder blades and lift slowly and steadily making sure to isolate your bicep. By swinging the weight you can throw out your back or strain your shoulders.
Speed is another important factor in good technique. When in doubt, go slow. Lifting slowly is safer and much more efficient and by that I mean harder for your muscles. Many people lift very fast and use the inertia of the weight to carry out most of the motion instead of their muscles. Again this is likely because they put too much weight on when they should lower the weight and go slower.
2. Change It Up
Plenty of people get to the gym a few times a week and get into a “groove”. It sounds like a good thing but if you’re not seeing the results you want you really need to change up your workout. While “muscle confusion” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be there are still plenty of things you can do to change it up.
Don’t get comfortable. Lifting isn’t supposed to be easy so don’t stay at the same weights. Increase them while trying to keep good technique. If you can’t finish the set then you know you’ve really worked out that muscle group to the max.
Try new workouts. Sticking to the same routine can land you on a plateau (aka homeostasis). There are often many ways to workout an individual muscle group. Try them all and see which ones help isolate that muscle group best. Then alternate with another workout the next time you exercise.
Get off the machines. While some machines are excellent at targeting some muscles, nothing beats the free motion of free-weights. Using free weights stimulates smaller muscle groups that help stabilize your joints while keeping your range uninhibited. Using free-weights is also the quickest way to get bigger!
Alternate workouts. I personally keep 2 mental lists of workouts I like to do. The first list is of basic lifts like benching, curls, squats, pull-downs and dips. The second list is full of “extra” lifts that I throw in any time I can. The “extra” list includes 3-point fly’s, calf raises, shrugs, tricep pull-downs, and shoulder-rotations among other workouts. Every time I workout a muscle group I do all the exercises for that muscle from list 1 and whatever else I can fit in from list 2. Each workout ends up being slightly different.
3. Watch Other People
Another way to change up your workout is to watch and learn. Every gym has it’s more experienced group of members that are strong and are probably doing things you’ve never tried. Try what they do but start with light weights to get the motions down. See if the new exercises work better than your workouts. If it seems tricky or unstable just ask them the proper form and I’m sure they’d be glad to help (especially if they’re the opposite sex).
4. Stop The Endless Crunches
Everybody wants 6-pack abs but most people don’t know how to get them. Is it crunches or sit-ups? Nope. It’s diet. Everybody has abs already they’re just usually not visible due to fat. If you’re working out to lose weight that’s great but if you’re not changing your diet as well you are in for a long struggle. Cut the extra calories from your diet and burn some extra calories at the gym.
While crunches are great for strengthening your core they will not get you a six pack alone. Along with changing your diet you will need to do longer cardio workouts. Get on the treadmill, elliptical or bike for 30 minute sessions. If you do this at least 3 times a week while improving your diet you are bound to see results.
Extra tip – Save your back! While doing crunches keep your back straight. Look up towards the ceiling not down at your knees.
5. Make Yourself Fail
Your muscles that is! There’s only one true way to know that you have exercised a muscle to it’s maximum…it won’t work anymore. You’ll get much stronger and bigger if you make your muscles fail each time you workout. It may be sore after the first few times but your body will begin to recover quicker. The idea here is not to strain yourself but to tire yourself. A great way to do this is by doing drop sets until failure.
To do drop sets for any muscle group start with a weight that is about 3/4 of your maximum. Do as many as you can and if you can do more than 12 start with a higher weight. Your goal isn’t a certain number…your goal is to tire yourself out. Once your arms, legs or back are tired, lower the weight by 5 or 10 pounds and repeat. Then lower the weights. Then lift again. Do this as many times as you can or until you reach the minimum weight. I guarantee the cute girl or guy in your gym will walk by just as you’re struggling with a measly 10 pounds. Oh well.
Now go to the gym and try out some of these tips!