If you don't feel you're working hard enough at the gym but not sure how to make the most of your exercise, there are certain tweaks you can make to ensure every workout is utilised to its full potential. Here we reveal five ways you can maximise your workout.
Mix it up
You’ve probably read this time and time again, but how many of you still do the same workouts and routines every time you hit the gym? Most of us are creatures of habit and don’t like change, but the benefits of changing your workout routine far outweigh the slight inconvenience of doing something differently. It's sometimes nerve wracking to do something you're not used to, fear of doing it wrong, not being strong or fit enough and just generally making a fool of yourself. But trying something new and working out differently is the best way to get your body working hard and using muscles in a way they haven’t before.
Not only will mixing up your workout routine help you to keep motivation up, it will also ensure you are challenging your body and working your muscles. If you stick to the same routine your body gets used to the workout and it will no longer be as effective. It is always better to train weights before cardio, but mixing up your routines will be a great starting point to varying your workout. Instead of sticking to your routine of the bike followed by the treadmill, vary it up; alternating between machines and switching up your order can be key to adding that much needed change.
It is best to train certain areas of the body each day, legs, back, arms etc, but learn new exercises for certain muscles and areas to make sure you're not doing the same limited few exercises for a large group of muscles. There are lots of options out there for you to choose from, and a multitude of exercises to keep your body on its toes when working out.
Hit the weights
Dont worry, picking up a free weight won't turn you into the Terminator overnight! Instead include some free weight exercises and you will start using your body in a new way, burning more calories and making you more toned. Including only cardio in your workout won’t give you the challenge you’re looking for, and so pick up some dumbbells to add that much needed push to your workout.
Machines designed to help you with strength training exercises are useful when you are starting out as they help you to perfect form and get to grips with the basics of an exercise. However, once you are accustomed to the exercise, moving on to using free weights is a small tweak that will help you to maximise your workout results.
When you use strength training machines you are often stabilised by seats or rests and this stabilisation means that you do not engage your core and get the most out of your workout. Equally, when you work out using free weights you have to use more muscles to guide the weight, working out more muscles during your session compared to when you use strength training machines. Machines are great when targeting one or two singular muscles, perfect for bodybuilders, but when trying to push your body and work harder, the more muscles used the more energy burnt and the harder you work.
Another tip when using free weights is the benefits it can have when you counterbalance yourself, only holding weights on one side of your body to engage half your muscles and then swap to the other side. Although cutting back on the amount of weights you use when you work out sounds odd, when you counterbalance it can do wonders for your core and can get big results.
Perfect your reps
As bizarre as it sounds, when weight training it is best to aim for failure on your last set of reps, the point in which your muscles just cant do any more reps. When working out and you reach that last rep when your muscles have nothing left and just can't finish, your muscle is incapable of contracting, the best way to improve strength and muscle. Your body will thank you for pushing it to its maximum capacity and you will see the benefits of intense weight training in no time.
The best way to maximise muscle capacity and push your body to its limits is to vary and control your rep speed. A pet hate of many trainers and gym goers is when people speed through their rep sets to get it over with quicker, reducing their effort and effectively cheating on their training. Slow and controlled is the ideal rep pace. Generally when using a machine or free weight you should explode up or out of the first motion, pause of a beat, and then slowly bring the weight back down. This is the ideal way to utilise your reps, keeping your muscles working harder and controlling the weight, instead of using momentum or gravity to help complete your set.
Setting up rhythms and formations for rep pace; such as up for one, pause for one and down for three, to keep variation and control to your sets. Mixing up your fast and slow reps is best when trying to engage the whole muscle and gain size and strength, helping to maximise your workout results.
Download some tunes
When listening to the radio and your favourite upbeat songs come on, you immediately feel energised, well why not apply those feelings to exercise? We all know that music can have a very big impact on our mood, and so music can be a powerful tool positively impacting our performance and endurance.
For example, Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist, found that listening to music whilst you run can improve running performance by a whopping 15 per cent. If you’d like to use music to improve your workout and maximise your results Dr Karageorghis suggests that you look for a tempo that sits anywhere between 120 and 140 beats per minute. Finding your favourite tunes and compiling them into different playlists for running or weightlifting, can also be a great activity to get motivated and enjoy your workout more. Who can resist smiling and bopping along to some really catchy songs, helping you power through and enjoy your exercise.
After a long day at work or housework, getting to the gym can sometimes be the last thing we want, but lets face it, when has anyone ever regretted doing a workout? Yet motivating yourself to get out of bed or up from the sofa can be a hard task. Instead, find things that will motivate you to put on your running shoes.
Find some motivational sports videos on youtube, make an upbeat playlist, join an exercise class, arrange to run with your neighbour's dog, make a gym buddie and exercise with them. Whatever it is that will motivate you and help you stick to your workouts is the best way to ensure you can enjoy your training.
Making exercise fun and enjoyable is key to keeping your mind and body motivated to working out and whatever is it that keeps you focused; whether adding a social element to your training or pinning up a picture of that favourite dress that you can't fit into on the door, will boost your motivation and help you push on through your workout.
Keeping a plan or your workouts, what you've done and what you will do over the next few weeks, or write down some aims and goals; whether weight or exercise targets, will help keep you focused and task driven when working out. If you have something to aim for you will be much more motivated to go the gym than if you are working out just because you have to.