Working out three or more days a week is a big time commitment. Don’t you want to make sure you’re getting the best results for your effort? See faster gains by eliminating these self-sabotaging habits.
Like most people working in the modern world, you probably sit behind a desk much of the day. That does lead to tight hips and improper posture, but it doesn’t mean you need a half hour of stretches and corrective exercise before each workout to fix them. Excessive warm ups drain your energy and focus before you get to your heavier lifts, and that compromises their effectiveness.
Spend five to 10 minutes on mobility work, focusing on exercises that extend the spine and hips, says Brian Tabor, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based personal trainer. Try moves like the hip bridge, where you lie on your back and drive your heels into the floor to raise your butt in the air, and the cat/camel (get on all fours and alternately round and extend your back) before loading up the bar. “Mobility work should get you moving in ways you normally don’t and prep you for the lifts or exercises that you’ll be doing that day,” says Tabor.
Changing your body means pushing it beyond the limits it’s used to. You don’t need to work till you puke or collapse on the floor, but every workout should be a challenge. A lack of results means you need to step further outside your comfort zone.
When doing interval training, push your heart rate to 90% of its max (you can find your approximate max heart rate in beats per minute by subtracting your age from 220). Try to keep it up there for two-minute intervals, alternating with one minute of rest. When you lift, aim to do two to three sets above 90% of your max on your main lifts from time to time. Heavy weights stimulate the best muscle and strength gains.
The opposite of not pushing hard enough is going too far, which usually means using weights you can’t lift without cheating. "If you have the ability [to squat deep] and are only bending your knees because you want to boost your ego, that's going to sabotage your results," says Nick Tumminello, C.P.T., a strength coach in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Take every exercise through a full range of motion unless you’re injured, and have a spotter handy to critique your form. When in doubt, ask a trainer to help you learn correct technique.
Working hard in the gym doesn’t give you a license to eat anything you want. The right foods and the correct number of macronutrients will allow gains to come much faster. Adam Gilbert, a nutrition coach at MyBodyTutor.com, recommends consuming one gram of protein per pound of your body weight for optimal muscle gains. Look to get 40% of your calories from protein, 40 percent from carbs, and about 20% from fat daily, adjusting the overall number up or down depending on whether your goal is muscle gain or fat loss.
A couple hours of missed sleep, unexpected bad news, or even a traffic jam on the way to the gym may make it more difficult to get in the zone for a workout, but if they make you bail on your training, you need to question how serious you are about your goals. Some of the best workouts happen on days when you least expect them, so get in the habit of at least showing up at the gym and going through your warm up. You may not feel up to grinding through your whole workout, but you can still get enough work done to make it worthwhile, and you’ll keep the habit of exercising regularly—no matter what.
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