5 ways to improve your gym workout
With our Fit & Lean program, our mission as personal trainers in Clapham is to empower our clients by educating them on how to exercise correctly and efficiently. Without further ado, here are 5 things you can do right now to improve your gym workout.
One of the most common concerns that I hear is from those who go to the gym and don’t see any results. They don’t know what exercises to do, and the changes they want simply aren’t happening.
The gym has become the fabled place where once you join, as long as you show up, you will get the body you want…sorted.
If you are one of the growing masses of frustrated gym membership holders who are sweating to get results but not, here are four things to consider that will help improve your training experience.
1. Choose weight according to objectives, not numbers on a program
I’m sure everyone reading this has seen workouts telling you to do three 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 for the client, meaning they should be using a heavier weight 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:
- Strength: 5-8 repetitions
- Size: 8-10
- Endurance: 10-15
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
- Make sure your weight selection is challenging enough that completing your chosen rep range with correct form is difficult (i.e. that last repetition should be really tough to squeeze out).
- Make sure you are using complex movements (meaning 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 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)
Just follow the rep and weight suggestions above, and be ultra-strict on the form 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 like, 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. Then you can 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, so ratcheting 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 training results is fueling your recovery, and this means eating good quality food after a training session.
Don’t rely 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 phrase, so fuel the process with the good stuff, no shortcuts.
This applies even if your goal is fat loss, as 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 feeding your recovery you are creating a virtuous cycle towards becoming a fat-burning demon.
4. Be true to your form
Complex movements use multiple joints and are a great way to build lean muscle, but 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 leads to injury risk and inefficient movements, meaning you aren’t targeting the desired area as effectively as if you were by 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 (don’t try and follow a routine intended for someone else)
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 its busy this week), as 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.
The Fit Lean Program in Clapham
Our Fit Lean program in Clapham is all about education and empowerment. We make sure that you experience diverse, challenging and effective training sessions with top quality fitness professionals. We will also educate you on not only how to eat to achieve and sustain your goals, but also on what you can do with your nutrition and how to enjoy foods, even the ones that might be a little naughty.
Our Fit & Lean program is fully booked right now. We’ll be opening up new spots again soon. Watch this space!
About the author
James Staring of Fit to Last is a personal trainer based in Clapham. He focuses on building 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.