Most of my workouts are performed at home by myself but when I travel I get to see plenty of people training in the gyms that I visit. What shocks me is that many people limit their training effectiveness by neglecting some or all five techniques that I feel are crucial to having the best workout.
#1 Start Heavy
You should always start with most difficult and heaviest exercises. Never mine machines, cable pulleys or small dumbbells early in your workout session. Basic compound lifts with maximum poundage should be used when you are at your strongest. After a brief warm up hit hard with your best weight. My favorite heavy compound move is wide grip pull ups with a 50 pound vest.
#2 Maintain Mental Focus
Social interaction at gyms is common and why not, it makes your time more pleasant catching up with friends. WRONG ! If your exercises do not take extreme mental focus then you’re not working hard enough to make any gains in the gym. With every repetition your mind should be focused on pushing to the maximum while your body is screaming stop. Even the few seconds before the start of my sets is devoted to psyching myself up or getting in the “zone” to exceed my previous personal best. Cut the casual chatter you need to focus to do your best. Get yourself a training partner that will help with motivation, good form and pushing each other to greater gains. People that just want to chat about things while you are in the gym are doing both you and them a disservice. On the other hand a training partner is invaluable to keep you a track with greater and sustained effort in your workout session.
#3 Have A Plan
The workout journal is the most important piece of equipment you can own. Your blue print for each session has to be on paper or at least recorded on something that you can follow when training. If you are not recording your repetitions or weights used how can you know where you have been or what is most effective for you. No plan equals no success. I have about a dozen Hilroy books full of every rep and set with pounds used for the last 12 years. When I enter either my home gym or a commercial one I will always have my journal, without it my workout would not have the same effectiveness.
#4 Stop Wasting Time
Most people rest between sets for three minutes or so. They also go to the cooler for water instead of carrying a water bottle. Then you have to add the social niceties for a waste of an hour to perform maybe 10 working sets. This is not enough volume to accomplish much. Very little “work” was performed for your investment of time. Try super sets to triple your volume and increase your intensity of a workout. My incline bench flys can start with 60 pound dumbbells for ten reps or more then without rest I pick up 55 pound dumbbells for another 10 reps then 50 pound dumbbells with still no rest between the sets. This is one super set or giant set and it is very intense but highly effective muscle builder. Now I rest for two minutes or so then repeat another super set for the same reps or to failure whichever comes first. I have more than doubled my work load in the same time frame. In an hour or less I have performed seven super sets of three that equals 21 working sets of extremely hard but effective sets with about 180 total repetitions.
#5 Finishing Well
The last third of your workout maybe your laziest and sloppiest as with many or it can be an intensely satisfying run to the finish line so to speak. The key here is to maintain both your earlier pace and form. It may be necessary now to drop some weight from your last working sets or reduce the reps or both .Injuries often occur when we are fatigued. Do not let your ego prohibit you from reducing the weigh and maintaining form. I see people looking at me puzzled at the effort it takes me to perform my last two or three sets. They of course have not seen my previous 120 reps with heavy weights so it looks like I am struggling with small weights. Yes there is a grimace on my face as my muscles are totally fatigued and it’s taking supreme mental effort to get those weights up and back down in a controlled fashion. I finished what I set out in my journal to do. Totally spent I shuffle to a corner to down my premixed whey protein drink. I have been in the gym for an hour or so have seen many come and go but no one is drinking a protein drink after their work out. Anxiously I head for the shower to have both hot and cold showers in an effort to stimulate blood flow and reduce any swelling. I have finished well and am satisfied with myself.
After reading this you may want to revamp your workout to include heavy compound exercises with giants sets recorded in a journal. You may also want to wrap your mind around focusing solely on your workout for the hour or so you are in the gym. Results hinge on your execution of the simplest of concepts… quality work equals quality results.
- Ear phones with iPod (music to block out distractions)
- Large wall mirror (help with form)
- Note book with pen (workout journal)
- Shaker Jug (for mixing whey protein)
- Tailors tape measure (for measuring results)
- Inspirational quotes (for increasing work ethic and pain tolerance)