There are some things that I have found to be a great benefit, both to myself and to my clients, which nobody else talks about. Much of this goes against the ‘conventional wisdom’ in the fitness world, but it works great, so give it a go!
Train every day
Yes, rest days are important, but there is great power in going to the gym every day.
The habit of being in the gym every day is as important as what you happen to be doing in your workout. You shouldn’t be training hard every day, it will tire you out. Rest is important, but the best form of rest is active recovery.
Go to the gym every day, but only train 3-5 times per week. The other days spend stretching, working on mobility, doing cardio, doing yoga, etc. These will all help speed up your recovery, improve your strength and movement, and maintain a strong habit of being in the gym every day.
They have benefits outside of the gym too, increased energy, focus, etc. if you go in the morning and just do cardio or stretching, it’s a great way to set yourself up for the day to come.
Close your eyes and breathe between sets
Most people spend their rest periods chatting to friends or texting on their phone. That’s pretty much a complete waste of time. A better option is to spend the time stretching or getting prepared for your next set. An even better option is to close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Not just breathing, but get inside your body and feel the breath coming into the muscles you’re working.
It’s a form of meditation; create the vision that you are riding the breath into the muscle you’ve been working. Feel it disperse across the muscle, giving it a positive energy, and then as you breathe out, imagine dispelling the lactic acid from the muscle. This sounds kind of crazy, but it has a few key benefits. By controlling and taking deep breathes you will recover quicker, and be ready for your next set earlier. By imagining being ‘inside’ the muscle you are working, you are creating a stronger mind-muscle connection. You’re essentially laying down a neural pathway from your brain to the muscle, that will help you focus on the muscle more during the set, create stronger contractions and get a better training effect.
On a more meta scale, you’re remaining fully focused for the duration of your workout, instead of scrolling your Facebook feed. You will have better workouts, train harder, be finished quicker, and maintain more of a flow state. Staying present in your body throughout, instead of getting distracted and going back into your head.
Don’t count reps, instead ask what you’re fighting for?
It’s really not that important how many reps you do. A rep range is just a guideline designed to ensure you have sufficient time under tension during the set.
When counting reps, we tend to have a predetermined number in mind that we want to hit, and when we do, we will stop there. That number also tends to always be a round number. Think about every set you’ve ever done and stopped on 10 reps. I guarantee you could have done 11 at least half of the time. Those reps add up, over time.
Anyway, instead of counting, try asking yourself the question; “what am I fighting for?”. Connect with your purpose. What is driving you, why are you in the gym training, when you could be laying on the sofa?
Answering that will give you inspiration, and that will make you stronger. When you forget about how many you’re doing, and get lost in your purpose, you will do more reps, every time. That’s going to lead to better training outcomes, and mentally keep you highly motivated and connected with your goals.
Train your full body, every time
Most people are on some kind of split training plan that is designed by, or for, a bodybuilder. Yet most people are not pro bodybuilders – they just want to get a bit stronger, add a bit of muscle, and get a bit leaner.
The best way to achieve those goals is by doing full body workouts. Skip the split routines, forget about isolating a specific muscle for 40 sets in one workout. Train your whole body. You will burn more energy, create a bigger hormonal change, and get in better shape.
You don’t have to do the same thing every time, but use the whole body. One day might be vertical push/pull/legs – so overhead press, pull ups, squats. Another day would be horizontal push/pull/legs – bench press, rows and deadlifts. Mix it up, but use the whole body for best results.
Use less weight
Yep, I’ve written about this before; you can actually make more progress by using less weight.
How? By doing the reps better. By slowing the tempo down, focusing on squeezing the muscle to get the best contraction, and working the muscle to its full potential; instead of moving the weight from A to B.
Most guys lift too heavy. They’re too caught up in the numbers, driven by their ego. How may reps can I do, at what weight? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Your body cannot tell the difference, it only knows how hard it is working, and it is easier to make the the right muscle work harder by using less weight.
It should still be moderately heavy, you don’t want to be doing sets of 50 (for the most part), but focus on movement quality, rather than weight lifted, for best results.
These tips might be a bit out of left field, but give them a go and I promise you will feel the benefits.