4 Tips to Have a More Effective Workout
There’s a ton of misinformation out there regarding fitness, nutrition and whether Tupac is still alive or not. While I’m not fluent in the latter, I try to simplify fitness and nutrition as much as possible for my clients because most of them come into my gym already confused, having tried everything and so overwhelmed with information, they don’t know what to do.
The foundation of my philosophy is that fitness and nutrition should enhance your life rather than being so rigid and complicated that it overwhelms you, controls you or makes you feel like a prisoner.
Taking the “less is more” approach means that gym time needs to be focused on using the most effective methods to get the most bang for your buck. That’s why I’m starting this series on how to get the most out of your time in the gym without letting it take over your life. Enjoy!
1. Actually strength train.
You say potat-oh, I say pot-ah-to, but there’s actually quite a difference between going in the gym and tossing weights around versus training for strength. Who knew?!
There’s also a big difference between benching for 3 sets of 15 (high reps) versus benching for 5 sets of 3 (low reps). Higher rep work is great as an aid for building strength and muscle, complimenting your main lifts and addressing weaknesses, but save anything above 5 reps for your dedicated assistance work.
Your main strength exercise(s) of the day should be done first in your workout and for low reps and a higher percentage of your 1 rep max (~90%)..aka really freakin’ heavy! These are your major “bang for your buck” exercises and you should approach them like they just insulted your mother. Meaning you go to war with the barbell, don’t treat it lightly, give it everything you’ve got. Strangle it, bend it, rip it and explode. That’s why this stuff is first in your program, so that you’re fresh enough to approach it with such vigor. Also, turn off the Katy Perry or whatever they play in non-Pantera friendly gyms.
While you can get strong using sub-max weight prioritizing speed and technique a mix of this and max work is key.
* Main strength exercises usually involve some variation of a squat, bench press, overhead press, deadlift or pull ups (you are doing these movements right?!) BUT, I warn you, following this advice will get you incredible results, so avoid this tip if you don’t want all of your dreams to come true.
2. Incorporate activation drills in your warm up.
I almost feel like I’m jumping the gun here, by not addressing what a proper dynamic warm up consists of and its significance..but I’m going to roll with it! Plus this has already been covered extensively. (Read here and here).
Activation drills are basically the proper way to warm up certain muscles that have the tendency to become inhibited when they’re not used. Two of these notorious muscles are the glutes and serratus anterior. We sit on our rumps all day and hunch our backs over computers and steering wheels and we kiss those bad boys good bye. It’s crucial to activate them, because if we don’t fire them up before we lift, other muscles will compensate for them, making movement less efficient, risky and limiting our true potential.
For the glutes, it doesn’t get much better than bodyweight glute bridges (single or double leg):
It’s crucial to make sure you can actually feel your glutes while doing these.
For the serratus anterior, wall slide variations are great (and can be deceivingly difficult for most) :
I have yet to come across someone who wouldn’t benefit from these drills.
3. Use cardio/conditioning as a supplement.
When you’re laying out your training week, weight training should always be prioritized in your program due to it’s unsurpassed benefits, even if your goal is fat loss and regardless of whether you pee standing up or sitting down, if you catch my drift. When programming for a client I find out how many days per week they realistically have available to work out and make sure they are prioritizing lifting for 2-4 days per week. Any extra time they have available will go to movement/recovery days, conditioning or low intensity cardio – depending on their goals and needs.
I also like to start most clients off doing the least amount of work possible they can get away with while still producing results – so that might only be 2 or 3 days per week of lifting and no additional cardio. That way down the road, when progress slows we have wiggle room to add a little more work. It also helps us to focus on quality versus quantity.
Although I do believe having a good aerobic base is important, cardio and conditioning isn’t the most efficient or fastest way to get results and when over-relied on or overdone, can actually start to hold you back. Consistency with strength training and proper nutrition for your goals will always be the most efficient way to get maximum, sustainable results.
4. Get uncomfortable – and embrace it.
For the past two and a half years before opening HS, I trained in my small, uninsulated garage – year round – 7 degrees to 95 degrees.
I got so sick of trying to get a solid training session in commercial gyms and “fitness” centers. The equipment sucked, the atmospheres sucked, there were always too many distractions and people just going through the motions getting in my way. I started collecting used equipment when I could and for a while all I had was a barbell and one pair each of 45lb, 25lb and 10lb plates along with a makeshift squat rack that I put together that wouldn’t have worked if I was any taller or shorter than I am..and really wasn’t the safest thing in the world.
I made it all work. I even trained for my first meet in my garage and I wholeheartedly know that training in those less than par conditions (some days wearing two pairs of pants and a winter jacket) made me a better lifter, a tougher, more confident person and the ability to endure most anything.
My point is… I feel that most commercial gyms and “fitness centers” completely distract people from and give the wrong message about what it truly means to be physically fit. Colorfully painted walls, fancy equipment, hot fresh towels, juice bars, perfect temperature control and top 40 hits – how are any of these things going to help me get stronger, more athletic and “fit”?
All those things are just there to make the gym experience more comfortable and “entertaining”. Unfortunately, if you’re comfortable all the time – or can’t handle being uncomfortable for 45 minutes, especially in the gym, you’re going to have a hard time not only in life, but getting whatever results you are after.
Don’t get me wrong, your gym experience should not by any means be miserable or completely un-enjoyable, but I don’t think it should be equivalent to a day at the spa or a night out at the club.
Physical and mental strength go hand in hand and I strongly believe that both will have a much more powerful effect on your overall health and wellness than a juice bar, shiny treadmills and bosu balls. I’d even go as far as saying atmosphere and “getting your mind right” are just as crucial as a solid training program.
All of the above tips have been said before, they are not revolutionary, but I’m pretty confident they can really skyrocket your program to the next level and help you obtain an edge. Stay tuned for part two.