Going to the gym to get your workout in can be very stressful if you aren’t very sure of what you want (or need) to do in order to achieve your goals. Even fitness professionals can be stuck in a paralysis by analysis state every now and again. With an ever-expanding universe of exercise equipment, and a constant flow of real (and) pseudoscience hitting your news feed it can be easy to just stick to what you know, or skip the gym altogether.
We obviously want neither of those outcomes for you. One, is the definition of insanity – quite literally doing the same thing over and over again expecting a new result. At least that is how Albert Einstein saw it. The latter option, skipping the gym altogether, is most certainly going to keep you from achieving your goals and becoming what you want!
So, let’s cut down on the noise, and help you create a clear path to your goals. Here are three rules that you can apply to every workout to immediately increase its effectiveness!
Rule 1: Start with at least 3 things you NEED to do
For starters it may be beneficial for you to spend at least a little time with a personal trainer, or at least someone knowledgeable in fitness. It can be nearly impossible to know what you NEED to be doing to achieve your goals when you aren’t being guided towards those exercises or protocols.
Once you do know, however, then you need to work those movements in.
If your hamstrings and glutes are lagging behind and causing you to have discomfort in your knees and hips when you run, then you need to hammer those deadlifts, hamstring curls, and bridges before you move on to the things you normally do.
If your posture isn’t ideal and your shoulders are starting to roll forward, then you need to do your face pulls, band-work, and thoracic mobility before your find yourself bench pressing or hitting the speed bag for an hour.
Once you know what your weaknesses are, then do not hesitate to address them. Do them first while you are most fresh in the workout, and less likely to “drop-off” an exercise or two from your program.
Like anything else in life – do what you need before you do what you want.
Rule 2: Go Heavy, Go Light, Go somewhere in the Middle
The question I am asked most during my day is “how many reps are we doing?” Or, if the individual is simply inquiring for knowledge, then the question will sound more like “how many repetitions do I need to do in order to see results?”
If there were only one right answer, then fitness and personal training wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry, and exercise physiologists wouldn’t be paid to study the effects of exercise on the body.
There is a right time for every load, rep, or set scheme out there in a training program. Yet, if there were one simple answer that I am confident in giving on the fly, then it is this:
If you are going to be doing three sets of an exercise, then do one set heavy, one set in the middle, and one set a bit lighter than that.
What does that mean?
- Heavy would imply that you will fatigue from the set in five repetitions or less*
- Moderate typically refers to any set and weight that leads to muscle fatigue in eight to twelve reps*
- Light work is going to usually have the terminal repetition happen between fifteen and twenty-five reps.*
*That doesn’t mean there isn’t value to sets of 6/7, or between 12 and 15 – these are just simple guidelines
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your resistance training it is best to make sure you train heavy, medium, and light weights in an effort to fatigue all varieties of muscle fibers in a group.
Rule 3: Finish with what you Love! (But way Harder)
You want to finish your workout on top of the world. You should feel like you should be cast into the next Superhero movie as the savior to humanity. You’ll feel this way after you get the endorphin rush from doing your favorite exercise activity.
If you are a passionate runner, then get on the treadmill and crank out some miles, or sprints, or hills.
If you like feeling your shirt sleeves fit a bit tighter, then start that triceps/biceps routine and don’t stop until you feel like you have the biggest arms in the world.
No matter what it is that you love to do – do it harder then you have done before. Look to make progress in some way during this “finish”. Maybe you go heavier, do more repetitions, or travel a particular distance in less time. The specifics of your challenge need not be complex. In fact, you’ll benefit most when they are personal, attainable, and beneficial to your long term goal.
Push yourself to be even better at what you love.
You don’t need to walk into the gym and stare at the expanse as though you are in a foreign land full of aliens and weird technology. You shouldn’t wonder if what you are doing is beneficial. Rather, you should walk in with confidence of an owner, the plan of a manager, and the hustle of the newest employee.
Be your best by having a plan.
Kevin Mullins can be found at the Equinox Sports Club DC where he is a Tier 3+ coach and group exercise instructor of his own class - Superhuman. He is a two time Men's Health Next Top trainer Finalist, one of Women's Health Magazines 10 sexiest trainers in America, and has been featured by the Washington Post and WUSA9 in the local market. You can read more about him and his methods on his website.