“I’m going to the gym to workout, but I’m not seeing results”. This is one of the most common concerns I hear.
Are you one of the growing masses of frustrated gym membership holders, sweating to get results, yet struggling to see any?
Here are five ways to improve your gym workout and start seeing results from your hard work.
1. CHOOSE WEIGHT ACCORDING TO OBJECTIVE, NOT NUMBERS ON A PROGRAMME
I’m sure you’ve seen workouts instructing you to do 3 sets of 10.
I consciously avoid specifying a number of repetitions to complete, simply because the client will switch off and stop pushing themselves once that number has been completed. This might mean the weight is too light, meaning a heavier weight needs to be used to help them achieve their goals.
If you want to get the most out of your workouts:
- Make sure that your range of repetitions is in line with your goals. Use the following general guidelines:
- To improve strength: 5-8 repetitions
- To gain size: 8-10 repetitions
- To improve endurance: 10-15 repetitions
NB: if your goal is weight loss, by choosing a repetition range of 5-8 repetitions you will be lifting a heavier weight, which will help raise your heart rate and burn those calories.
- Make sure your weight selection is challenging enough that completing your chosen rep range is difficult: that last repetition should be really tough to squeeze out.
- Make sure you are using complex movements (exercising more than one joint during an exercise): using complex movements (i.e. squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings) is a great way to get in fabulous shape and improve your fitness overall. Complex movements are a fantastic way to:
- Improve overall fitness: using more muscle groups burns more calories, as well as raising your heart rate (anyone claiming weights aren’t an effective cardio workout hasn’t swung a kettlebell yet!)
- Save time in the gym: when you perform a complex movement eg. back squat, your core also gets a great workout in the process
- Prevent injury: using more than one joint challenges the tendons connecting muscle to bone, thereby aiding in preventing injury (i.e. a deadlift is a very effective exercise to assist runners in avoiding Achilles tendon injuries)
Follow the repetition and weight suggestions above and be ultra-strict on keeping your form correct for each exercise.
2. LEARN YOUR LIMITS
With the increased popularity of High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) sessions, the RPE scale (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale is very useful in gauging how hard you are pushing yourself.
RPE is a scale from 1-10, where 1 means you aren’t pushed at all (essentially you are asleep) up to 10 which is a flat-out, 100% effort. If you aren’t sure how hard a 10 feels, try completing 20 burpees in 30 seconds and see how you feel. While this may seem like an unreasonable target, by pushing yourself that hard you will know what a ‘10’ feels like.
You can then gauge how hard you need to push yourself to achieve the goals you want to pursue. (I.e. High Intensity Interval Training means pushing yourself with short rests. (Ratchet up your intensity to a 9 or 10 to get great results from this training method).
3. EAT TO LOSE FAT (NO, THAT’S NOT A TYPO)
One of the most important elements in achieving results from your workouts is fueling your recovery. This means eating good quality food after your training session.
Don’t rely solely on protein shakes post-workout to get the nutrients you need. Make sure you balance out good fats (i.e. avocado and olive oil) along with good sources of protein and slow-release carbohydrate (i.e. sweet potato) for your post-workout nutrition.
Remember, by training you are tearing down muscle to build it up stronger. Recovery is the ‘building it up’ part of that phase. Fuel this process with the good stuff, no shortcuts. This applies even if your goal is fat loss. By building lean muscle mass you will become more metabolically active. (I.e. all that lean muscle you are building will burn more calories at rest). By fueling your recovery, you are creating a virtuous cycle towards becoming a fat-burning demon.
“I saw change within the first 3 weeks”
4. BE TRUE TO YOUR FORM
Complex movements use multiple joints and are a great way to build lean muscle. They also target specific muscle groups. When you start to compromise your form (i.e. lifting weights that are too heavy, thereby incorrectly performing the exercise), you start to recruit muscle groups that are not targeted by the exercise. This can lead to injury and inefficient movements. You won’t be targeting the desired area as effectively as you do when performing the exercise correctly.
The big take-away is to use the mirror when training to make sure your form is never compromised.
5. BUILD A ROUTINE YOU CAN STICK TO
In magazines and online there are lots of amazing workouts that will improve fitness dramatically…if only you could follow them.
What’s important is to look at your schedule and commit to a routine that you can be consistent with. This is not without sacrifice (I’m not suggesting that you look at your schedule and throw your hands up because it’s busy this week). The goal of improved fitness cannot happen without making changes to your existing lifestyle.
By committing to a pattern that fits in with your lifestyle (a bonus is to do what you enjoy), you will have a much better chance of sticking to it and seeing long-term benefits.
About James Staring
James Staring of Fit to Last is a personal trainer based in Clapham. He focuses on helping to you to build the best version of you and inspiring you to new levels of health and fitness – regardless of your current ability or age.
James is always keen to share the tools he uses to assist others in achieving their goals and has featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Healthy and Hello! magazines.