Maximize Your Training
Working out and exercising is one of the best things we can do for our body, mind and overall well-being. The list of benefits range from strengthening our muscles, improving our physique, mobilizing our joints, stretching our body, clearing our mind, promoting feel good hormones, decreasing potential illnesses and diseases while giving us a purpose that positively affects the rest of our day.
For this particular article, we are looking at how to maximize our time in the gym to get the most bang out of our investment. Yes, going to the gym is the first step, but why not actually get a massive return on your investment.
How many people do you see go to the gym, only to look like the same as they did 6 months ago. It’s disheartening to hear, “Oh, you workout too?” Talk about heart breaking. I’d rather hear my partner say, “it’s not you, it’s me”, as I sit there knowing it’s clearly me.
Not to mention, if you think you can go to the gym and make it a lifestyle, without seeing the results that should be there for someone in the gym 4-5 days a week, then you have another thing coming. Humans are driven by results. There’s a reason the majority of people stick to lanes their comfortable in, people hate sucking at stuff and not improving.
If you suck at working out, you aren’t going to continue to do it, especially if your look resembles someone who’s eating 1000 calories a day, and is overlooked any time a friend or family member needs something heavy moved.
I want to look like I never stop eating protein, and I want to be a no brainer when it comes to moving that heavy dresser drawer (don’t call me though).
Here’s how you can start maximizing your training, and finally optimize your physique while getting the host of benefits that come along with moving some iron.
1. Set an Intention
Before you walk into the gym, tell yourself what you’re going to do. Deliberately envision the results, the speed, the intention of action, and hold yourself to this standard.
Tell yourself you are going to go in, not get distracted, be efficient with rest times, pick up appropriate weights and maximize your efforts.
We often neglect this critical aspect of priming our focus. We go in with little idea of a plan of attack. We stroll in tired, bored, unmotivated and leave underwhelmed.
When you set your intention, you shift your state of mind into a mode of productivity. You accept the deal you’ve created with yourself, and have clear intentions of the purpose at hand. When we take the few moments it takes to set our intentions, we greatly enhance our chances of leaving feeling fulfilled, optimized and in control of our being.
2. Stick to a Plan … For Once
The reason so many people rarely make long term progress or achieve true physiques worthy of admiration is based around inconsistency. Yes, being inconsistent with going to the gym is culprit number one, but being inconsistent in the gym is a close second.
Being in the gym is one thing, but you need to give your body a chance to adapt to the stresses and routine you’ve chosen to follow.
Sticking to an exercise routine for a proper phase seems to be an antiquated forgotten notion. We are privileged to have access to endless articles, exercises and plans, so much so, that we constantly jump from one to the next, never completing an actual program, thinking this new “particular exercise” or method will get me that big chest I always wanted, ironically only to stop doing it weeks later.
Sticking to a plan and implementing progressive overload, which all good plans include is what’s going to help you grow your muscles and build some real raw strength.
Here’s my recommendation, read up on some plans, pick one that truly excites you, and stick to it for 4-8 weeks. This means doing a lot of the same exercises week after week, I know! Crazy and boring, right! Wrong.
The excitement comes from improving on the exercises week-to-week. Being more efficient in the movement, lifting heavier weight for the same number of reps, getting more reps on the same weight the week before. These ‘mini-dragons’ are what you should be chasing in the gym. Getting better and stronger at foundational movements and workout plans.
When you chase two rabbits, you go home hungry.
3. Too Much Boredom
No, I’m not contradicting myself from the last point. Boredom comes from the exact same thing week-after-week, with the same weight, same rest times, same sets and reps, same tempo and same methods.
Excitement occurs when we manipulate these principles slightly, and adopt the mindset that true growth takes mastering a skill set before ditching it, and moving on.
So yes, there’s a slight balance between too much boredom and sticking to a plan. The key is to apply the right amount of balance: not getting too creative, sporadic and wild, but also not doing 3 sets x 10 reps for every exercise, every week of every workout.
A diverse plan incorporates variety. Throw in some heavy lifting, some hypertrophy rep ranges (8-12), and some pumpers to burn the muscles out. Switch up accessory exercises as well. When I say stick to a plan, I’m mostly talking about compound movements (bench, squat, deadlift, row).
Accessory exercises are relatively interchangeable. as I really don’t care how much weight I can curl with a dumbbell. My strength goes up from the proper consistency I apply with my compound movements, not with a standing bicep curl.
We can adjust accessory exercises for example by doing tricep extensions one week, and hammer curls the next; lying leg curls one week, nordic hamstring curls the next. Assistance work is where you can get as creative as you want.
Have Some Total Fun Days!
I also suggest throwing in some fun days where you basically do whatever you want, without taxing the nervous system too badly.
- Go to the park and do footwork drills, cartwheels and back rolls
- Go to a trail and do a set of 5-10 short hill sprints
- Go to a beach and do some lunges, cone drills or play a sport
- Throw in some Jiu Jitsu training or kickboxing on off days
- Add in some active recovery days like Sunday morning bike rides or care free swim days by the lake or at the cottage
Moving your body in this manner is fun and healthy. It’s also great for your soul and mind. You don’t want to be completely robotic with your exercise routine. Yes, you want to get the best results you can achieve, but you also want to balance that with developing your well-being; we do this with a variety of movements in nature and exploring different environments.
4. Engage with the Present
We all have stuff going on in our lives. Taxes, Covid-19, crazy politicians doing crazier things, and the list goes on. Thinking about all this external nonsense isn’t helping your cause in the gym. In reality it’s taking your attention away from crushing out your next workout session, adding stress to your life and pissing you off.
The gym is meant for building strength, putting on muscle and improving our physical well-being, and that’s it…well maybe some socializing with your gym buddies, but for an appropriate amount of time mind you.
- Put the phone away (or on airplane mode)
- Engage with the movement – see, feel and observe what’s working and firing
- Take pride in exceptional body mechanics and movement integrity
- Be efficient with your time
Let the past stay in the past, and let what’s to come stay in the future. When we can engage with the present moment, everything we do in the gym feels clearer. It’s as if we fall into a zone of focus, which enhances our ability to notice strengths and weaknesses, while owning the weight in hand.
5. Stop Cheating Form
If the weight is too heavy to perform a proper rep, put the weight down. Half reps don’t count people. And you look silly doing them – unless they’re intentionally positioned into your workout as a burnout or drop set format.
If you want to maximize muscle stimulation, full ROM (range of motion) is necessary. Using a weight you can handle and allows for a full stretch of the muscle will greatly enhance muscle fibre recruitment, thus creating an ideal muscle building environment.
6. Not Investing in a Coach or Professional When You Need One
“But I can’t afford a trainer!” Yet you can sure as hell afford spending money on crap you don’t need or even really want. And you can definitely afford take-out 4 times a week, and a $150 pair of pants.
Personally, however you spend your money is none of my business. But if you bitch about not knowing what to do in the gym, and not being able to afford an expert, that’s when I have to slightly call bull-shit.
I get personal training is expensive, but it’s all relative. $3000, which is anywhere from 4-5 months of training can do wonders for you, especially if you ask to be educated and adopt everything a good trainer tell you. At the end of the day $3000 is nothing really. It’s money you’ll never miss…if you capitalize on the investment.
But I do empathize that dropping $3000 may just be outside of the realm of practical for certain situations and families.
Besides spending money on a personal trainer, there’s other great, less expensive solutions too. Read up on working out (FREE). Join a community that supplies programmed classes and trainers for you ($200/month).
Whatever you need help with, you have to be honest with yourself; realize what you aren’t able or willing to do on your own, and find the necessary assistance, in whatever form that looks like.
Doing the same thing on your own, with little to no real results to show for it is the definition of insanity. Rather than continually lie to yourself, losing integrity every time you fail to live up to your word and tell yourself you can do it on your own, admit your weaknesses and invest in some help.
It’s an investment. Money for a better life: a life of freedom, confidence, happiness, vitality, enthusiasm, and longevity.