There are a hundred ways to reach the same destination, but how do you maximize your workouts, week after week, session after session? Over time, your workout motivation and intensity can suffer if you're not in tune with what your body needs to progress. To successfully keep your training on the up and up, there's a number of factors to keep into consideration including your training, diet and lifestyle.
Optimize Your Nutrition
Drinking enough water will not only improve your energy, but water is necessary to keep the cartilage of your joints hydrated. If they’re not you'll increase inflammation, which can lead to arthritis. Not to mention joint pain will keep you from performing at your best.
2. Supplement with caffeine
Caffeine can have significant mental and physical effects on a person. In one study by The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness caffeine showed improvement in sprinter’s speed. Additionally, The Journal Of Strength and Conditioning Research found that caffeine ingestion enhances short-term performance and may favorably change the mood state response to exercise compared to a placebo. Caffeine supplements can affect people differently, but is safe and can add an edge to your workout if you respond favorably. However, to avoid possible dependency, cycle yourself on and off the supplements every couple weeks.=>
3. Eat more carbohydrates around your training
The low carbohydrate kick remains popular these days, but eliminating them completely can be very detrimental. Lowering or eliminating simple sugars and highly processed carbohydrate sources is definitely a proponent to better nutritional habits but utilizing quality sources remain a must for an athlete. Carbohydrate sources (even simple ones) when placed around training can have some very positive effects. Adding in a liquid carbohydrate source during training can help you replenish glycogen stores both in the liver and muscles and will increase your energy and aid in recovery. As for post-workout nutrition, consuming starchy carbohydrates within 1–2 hours of working out is also advantageous for recovery. After strenuous activity your body does a good job managing carbohydrate intake—starchy carbohydrate sources placed in this post workout window will aid in muscle recovery and keep you fresh for the next day of training. NEXT: Heating up... >> [pagebreak]
Warm Up Properly
Nobody really likes to “warm up.” However, a good warm-up will keep you healthy and prepare you for intense activity. There's a number of important factors in developing a sound warm-up. Focusing on the following three areas will have the greatest impact in improving your health and performance.
4. Work on your soft tissue restrictions
In order for you to improve movement quality it's crucial that you take the time to perform self-massage (myofascial release) before your training session. In doing so, the mobility drills and weight-bearing exercises have a better chance of changing the orientation of your tissue which will improve your posture and movement quality. You can work with a foam roller, PVC pipe, lacrosse/tennis ball, and/or massage stick for 5-10 minutes throughout the entire body.
5. Work on the mobility in the ankles, hips and upper back/shoulders
A solid warm-up should do more than just raise your core temperature, it's the opportune time to work on any movement issues you have. Most common issues seen by trainers are at the ankle, hip, upper back and shoulder joints, and without proper mobility in these areas you'll not be able to move in the desired range of motion. Make sure your warm-up includes mobility drills for each of these areas. Adequate mobility not only keeps you healthy but helps you to move more efficiently. When you move efficiently, you will create more power and move more weight. Not to mention stay pain free.
6. Incorporate jumps, throws and sprints into your training
The central nervous system is responsible for sending the message to skeletal muscle to produce a desired movement. Jumps, throws and sprints will help to improve your neuromuscular coordination. Improved neuromuscular coordination means that you'll be better able to produce a coordinated firing of the muscles involved in the lift. Depending on the focus for that day’s training session, include an explosive movement to prime the nervous system. Below is an example of appropriate programming: Squatting → Warm up with Squat Jump, Box Jump Variations Bench/Overhead Pressing → Warm up with Medicine Ball Chest-Pass Variations Deadlifting → Warm up with Broad Jump, Sprint Variations Doing Chin-ups → Warm up with Overhead Medicine Ball Slam NEXT: Get your s&*# together! >> [pagebreak]
7. Get some sleep
If you want to perform at your best you need to recover from the stresses of both your training and your life, and that isn’t going to happen without proper rest. While you sleep, your body increases its production of growth hormone (GH) and testosterone which are vital to muscle repair and aid in fat loss. Adequate sleep also reduces the levels of cortisol (a catabolic hormone) in the body that is known to decrease muscle, and promote fat storage. 6-8 hours of sleep also has an effect on your insulin sensitivity. The less sleep you get, the more likely your body is to store energy as fat and not use glucose to aid in muscle building/repair. The most important factor related to sleep and recovery is its ability to recharge the central nervous system to maintain workout intensity and longevity.
8. Organize your training
"Periodization" is a fancy word used by fitness professionals that buzzes around gyms, essentially all it means is organization. Plan your training out intelligently so that it facilitates proper recovery. Wave your volume (total work done) and intensity (level of effort required). You can’t go hard all the time, and the harder you go the less you should be doing. In general, volume and intensity share an inverse relationship. The higher the volume : the lower the intensity; the higher the intensity : the lower the volume. Make sure you wave the total volume in your training to include weeks of high, moderate–to-high, moderate and low volume. Additionally, make sure the intensity matches the assigned volume. Organize a training split that makes sense. Depending on your desired outcome, training can be split many different ways. The important part is that you allow for recovery of different muscle groups and don’t over use certain movement patterns. Think about how many days per week you will be training. If you train the lower body one day, allow at least 48 hours of recovery before intensely training the lower body again. If you do mostly upper body pushing patterns in your first upper body day, make sure the second upper body day is primarily upper body pulls.
9. Observe and adjust
Having a solid plan or program is great and you should probably have one you're working from. It's a wise decision to adjust the plan to meet how you’re feeling, so listen to your body. If you didn’t sleep the night before, celebrated a promotion a little too hard, or haven’t ate all day, don’t push it as hard as usual. Pay attention to how the weights feel, how fast they are moving and how long it’s taking you to recover. Learn to take advantage of the days you feel great, and backing off when it’s just not there. Optimize your training by scheduling it out to hit your most taxing training when you feel the best.