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Published on December 18, 2020

15 Effective Workout Tips Backed by Scientific Research

15 Effective Workout Tips Backed by Scientific Research

What if I told you that there are dozens of workout tips proven to aid in weight loss? Now, you might be thinking, “Yeah sure. I’ve heard it all before. Nothing I try works!” You may indeed have tried a lot of tips that just didn’t work. However, many of the so-called “workout tips” are more based on anecdotal experiences than science.

So, why do people follow and believe in those workout tips if they aren’t guaranteed to work? The same reasons people follow a fad diet—they saw it work for a friend or they hope it works for them. In this article, let’s end all the “I hope it works!” and the, “My friend said to do this!” and I’ll bring you actual tips proven by science.

Here are 15 science-backed workout tips to jumpstart weight loss.

1. Bring a Friend

A common complaint people have when they begin a fitness journey is that they have no one to workout with. But those complaints line up with the research. Several studies on motivation and exercise have shown that when you have the presence of a friend, you workout out harder.[1]

When your partner is stronger, your performance boosts. Your workouts become easier too. So, the next time you find yourself struggling to hold that one-minute plank or you want to run that extra mile, call a friend.

2. Carb Up Before You Workout

You might have heard people and even fitness gurus say to skip out on a meal before a workout. Some even recommend that you avoid carbs unless you’re doing specific exercises like running or weightlifting.

Each one has their own reasons why you shouldn’t eat. Unfortunately, you’ve been misled. Research supports the opposite of skipping meals. Before you perform any workout, you want to carb up. Carbs are your body’s primary fuel.[2]

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When you load up, you’ll put more of an effort in and it does wonders for muscle growth and caloric expenditure. Those who work out in the morning but hate breakfast can opt for something like toast or oatmeal.

3. Music Powers Your Workout

Everyone has their set playlist with their favorite workout songs. You may like to jam out to heavy rock or pop music and feel like it helps your workout. You’re not wrong! Several studies have been conducted on the power of music.

One study found that those who listened to music had higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, which aids in the recovery process.[3] Another study found that the type of music you listen to matters. This study showed that music levels of 130 to 140 bpm gave people a performance boost.[4] So, stick to the more heart-pumping songs over the slow, sad ones.

4.Drink Coffee and Chocolate Milk

When many start a diet, they usually have to give up some of their favorite foods and drinks. Coffee is often loaded with extra calories when you add the cream, sugar, or if you’re going to a chain shop. Provided you don’t go overboard with the extras, coffee can help your workout. This is a workout tip that’s rarely given, but it can work!

A study found that coffee not only provides energy but also gives you motivation and can increase your performance.[5] Another study on coffee and workouts found that drinking a few cups before a workout can make it more enjoyable. Another research also found that it helps burn more fat.

As a child, your mother may have told you to drink your milk. Chocolate milk might’ve been a treat. It turns out your mom was on to something. A study found that consumption of low-fat chocolate milk after workouts aided in recovery like commercial recovery beverages did.[6] The 4:1 carb to protein ratio helps stimulate muscle repair and energy repletion.

5. Water Is Key

Just about any diet or exercise tip includes drinking water. Water is one of the best beverages you can have for rehydration, and it’s free! The intensity of your workout will depend on how much water your body loses. How much you sweat affects it as well.

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But why does water matter? Let’s take a closer look.

Most of our body is made up of water. It’s not a surprise that you require a lot of it—and even more when you work out. Many people show to the gym already dehydrated, then workout and become even more dehydrated. This can cause quite a bit of negative effects. Your workout can become harder, you could suffer performance issues, and take a longer time to recover after it.[7]

Just 2% of water weight loss can cause this. Some people lose about 6 to 10% from a single workout. It’s recommended to drink at least ½ to 1 oz of water per pound of bodyweight a day. To combat water loss, some experts also recommend weighing before and after your workout.

6. Add an Incline

There’s surprisingly a lot of benefits to adding an incline when you walk or use a treadmill. One study found that it improves your hamstring, glute, hip, knee, and ankle activity compared to walking without an incline. Another study found that it reduces stress on your extremities and joints.[8] It also improves your lung function, and there’s the widely known notion that it increases the number of calories you burn per hour.

7. Interval Training: Short but Sweet

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become a more popular workout and for very good reasons. Interval training has greater cardiovascular and fat loss compared to other workouts. A study found that just a quick 20-minute workout burned twice as many calories during a long run.[9] While you don’t want to completely stick with only interval training, it’s a great addition for when you’re short on time or a more relaxed day.

8. Go Outside

When you were a child, your parents probably told you to go play outside. As you get older, outdoor activities become less frequent when work and real-life takes over. However, the great outdoors just might be what you need. A study found that people who did workouts outdoors were more energetic, rejuvenated, and less angry.[10] They compared this to those who only worked out indoors.

9. Switch Things Up Now and Then

Another important workout tip is to switch things up now and then. One major complaint people have is they get bored. For some, a routine keeps them in check and helps them stay on track. Others struggle or dread doing the same activities over and over again.

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There are dozens of exercises you can do like yoga, Pilates, HIIT, weightlifting, cardio, you get the idea. Even variants of the exercises you do help with your muscle gains. A study found that participants who did both a deep squat and a full squat achieved greater results than those who only did a full squat.[11] Now, you don’t have to change it up each time you workout but switching things up every so often eases your boredom and benefits your body.

10.Never Skip a Warm-Up

You often hear fitness experts emphasizing warmups or stretches before and after a workout. While it’s a solid idea and should be done, some don’t feel it’s necessary. Whether it’s a lack of time or they just don’t feel like it, many skip the warmups. But research shows that you shouldn’t.

Not only do stretches have benefits for your workout, but dynamic warmups do too. A study from Austin State University found that people who warmed up lightly with leg extensions and squats were able to put more power into their squats. On average, they were able to squat with 8.36% more weight than when they just did typical stretches. They also had increased stability with 22.7% lower body stability. [12] Warmups were also shown to increase blood flow and your range of motion.

11. Don’t Skip Out on Weights

Here’s a workout tip some people don’t want to hear: don’t skip out on weight. We all know that one person who swears by cardio only routine. While it might work great for the short term, it’s not beneficial in the long run. Your routine does need to include some type of lifting program. Why? Your metabolism slows making it harder to lose weight. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who spent as little as 20 minutes a day gained less abdominal fat than those who stuck to cardio only routines.[13]

12. Get a Massage

A massage seems more like a treat than something you should receive daily, but it’s actually beneficial to your workouts. Research conducted by McMaster University in Canada found that massages help muscles decrease inflammation and increase mitochondria.[14] What does this mean? You get more power in your workouts and recover faster.

13. Sleep Well

Everyone knows that a quality night’s rest is essential for daily functioning. However, it’s crucial for your workouts, too. A lack of sleep hinders your performance, your caloric burn, and makes it harder for you to do better in your next session.

Why? Sleep helps your muscles and body recover from sessions, so not sleeping much can cause overtraining symptoms or plateaus.[15] While sleep doesn’t come easy for everyone, it’s recommended to get at least seven to nine hours each night.

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14. Indulge in Protein Before Bed

You often hear people following a diet where they stop food consumption after a certain time, swearing it takes off the extra pounds. While this is true in theory (calories in vs calories out), it’s not exactly healthy.

When you work out hard, your body needs time and adequate nutrients to recover properly. Protein helps rebuild muscles and is one of those essential food items you want to make sure you’re eating enough of. A study from the Netherlands showed that consuming food rich in casein before bed keeps your amino acid and protein synthesis going while you’re asleep.[16] Now, that’s not to say go crazy before bed, but a light snack of Greek yogurt or a cup of cottage cheese will help.

15.Cardio Gets a Bad Reputation

Cardio has an overwhelming amount of data that supports the health benefits you get. Regardless if you’re doing high-intensity or low-impact, you’ll still receive the benefits. However, it often gets a bad reputation and many actually skip cardio. But cardio itself isn’t bad to add to your routine if you’re a guy or someone who typically skips it. Why? Because it enhances muscle building.

If you’ve ever done cardio then tried lifting, you know it doesn’t end well. By the time you try to lift, your whole body has given up. However, if you want to get the benefits of cardio, squeeze it in after your lift session. You’ll have more energy, and you’ll burn more fat too.

A study from the Journal of Sports Science Medicine found that those who did high-intensity cardio sessions lasting longer than 30 minutes when into muscle hypertrophy. Those that performed low-impact exercises benefitted the most with more muscle growth over time.[17] It’s recommended that if you perform high-intensity workouts, to wait at least three hours before taking on a long cardio session.

Final Thoughts

While there are a lot more workout tips than what we listed—and I mean a lot—you, at the very least, gained some knowledge on what you might be doing wrong and how you can easily fix or switch up your routine. The journey to achieve the body you want isn’t always easy or fun, but it’s worth it in the end.

More Workout Tips

Featured photo credit: Benjamin Klaver via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] PubMed.gov: Influence of competition on performance and pacing during cycling exercise
[2] PubMed.gov: The use of carbohydrates during exercise as an ergogenic aid
[3] PubMed.gov: Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults
[4] NCBI: Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults
[5] American Physiological Society: Caffeine consumption around an exercise bout: effects on energy expenditure, energy intake, and exercise enjoyment
[6] PubMed.gov: Chocolate milk: a post-exercise recovery beverage for endurance sports
[7] NCBI: Water, Hydration and Health
[8] PubMed.gov: The influence of incline walking on joint mechanics
[9] NCBI: Exercise Intensity and Energy Expenditure of a Tabata Workout
[10] Time: Why Spring Is the Perfect Time to Take Your Workout Outdoors
[11] Taylor and Francis Online: Full squat produces greater neuromuscular and functional adaptations and lower pain than partial squats after prolonged resistance training
[12] PubMed.gov: Potentiation Effects of Half-Squats
[13] Science Daily: Weight training appears key to controlling belly fat
[14] McMaster University: Massage is promising for muscle recovery: McMaster researchers find 10 minutes reduces inflammation
[15] PubMed.gov: Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise
[16] PubMed.gov: Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery
[17] NCBI: Moderate Intensity Cycling Exercise after Upper Extremity Resistance Training Interferes Response to Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength Gains

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Dan Barcelon

Health & Fitness Editor of "Fitness for Non-Athletes"

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

As a general rule, everyone wants to have a sexy and strong body, but no one wants to put in the work. We see a whole lot of excuses being thrown around every time fitness is mentioned, and it’s frightening that only about 3% of people in the US subscribe to the healthy living philosophy.[1]

That being said, have you ever stopped to think about why all these people fail to get in shape? Sure, there are some who are lazy, some with legitimate medical issues, and the readily available cheap junk food doesn’t help, but I think there is something more to it.

People are pressed for time, scared, and confused. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Most people either can’t make it to the gym, don’t have a lot of money to drop on long-term membership fees, don’t feel comfortable exercising around others, or they simply don’t even know what to do when they do get to the gym.[2]

Well, with a few useful tricks, some good information, and a bit of determination, you can create all the right conditions for building an impressive physique without ever leaving the house. Here’s a few things to have in mind:

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Fixing your posture and getting limber

The biggest issue most beginners have when they start working out is the fact that their bodies are so used to sitting scrunched up in front of a screen that they have trouble moving around freely. The human body can be amazingly limber and assume all kinds of positions, but for most people, this is going to require extensive work.

Start by gradually improving your posture over a few weeks, using small exercises, more ergonomic furniture, and just being mindful of how you stand, walk, and sit.[3] You can combine this with a short and sweet stretching routine, done about twice a day, to get your body ready to perform the basic exercises correctly.

Learning the basic movements

While there’s a lot of science behind both getting stronger and getting leaner, it can all be boiled down to a few core concepts and a number of the most effective exercises. Here are the best movements for overall development that you’ll need to master (you can find examples of how to perform all the exercises mentioned here on Bodybuilding.com):

  • Squats: the king of all exercises, the squat builds most of your leg muscles with an emphasis on quads and glutes, if you go nice and deep like you should. It can be a good core and thoracic extension exercise if you hold some weight in front of you, as in the Goblet and Zercher squat variations.
  • Lunges: a great exercise for the quads and glutes that also targets the hip extensors. It also teaches you to keep your balance.
  • Pushup variations:[4] the pushup is so versatile that some call it “the poor man’s gym”. The standard close grip pushup works the triceps, front shoulders, and chest, while wider variations put more emphasis on the chest. Raising your legs pushes the focus towards the shoulders and the upper chest, while the handstand pushup is predominantly a shoulder and triceps exercise.
  • Dips: another great exercise for the lower chest and triceps, this is an incredibly fun movement that can slap mass on you quickly when done correctly.
  • Pull-ups and chin-ups: grab a bar, hang from it with arms almost fully stretched out, and then pull yourself up until your chin raises above the bar. This is a fairly straightforward, yet difficult movement that builds a big back, biceps, and forearms. Position your hands facing the head for more bicep activation, and go a bit wider with palms facing away from you to target the lats better.
  • Rows/inverted row: a horizontal pulling motion that will add slabs of meat to your back and while improving that often lagging back head of the shoulder muscle. It even improves posture by strengthening the spinal erectors to an extent. You can bend over with the back straight and row a weight from the ground, with one or both hands, or you can grab the underside of a horizontal bar, feet on the ground, and pull yourself into it.
  • Glute bridges: a great way to really isolate and work the butt. It also gets the hamstrings, which are often neglected by people working out at home.
  • Floor hip extensions: a good addition that also focuses on the glutes and hamstrings, resulting in well-toned and balanced legs.
  • Calf raises: the calf is a small muscle but an important one, especially for the ladies who want to look great in heels. It’s also easy to just throw in at the end of the workout.
  • Planks, leg raises, and ab wheel rollout: of course, the abs need some attention too, but go for planks, hold for time, side planks, hanging or lying leg raises, and ab wheel rollout for the best results.
  • The Superman: the spinal erectors need to be strong if they are to keep your back healthy, balance out those abs, and keep you nice and tight during most of the other exercises on the list, so definitely give this one a go.

Take a few weeks to just get the form down pat on all these movements and make sure that you are doing a full range of motion and slower, deliberate movements. Don’t just bounce all over the place. Establish and build momentum. You can use a good bodyweight strength training program to make sure you hit all the muscles, keep progressing, and get enough time to recover.[5]

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How to progress on bodyweight exercises

Now, if you want to have a great and lean physique — and this goes for ladies as well — you need to build some muscle to give your limbs that lovely shape you are after, before you can lose the excess flab, and expose that Greek statue of a body. Don’t try to combine endurance work with your strength exercises. Focus on building strength with the exercises above and dedicate some time every other day for things like swimming, jumping rope, or cycling to burn some calories and improve your cardio.

Okay, so the main question is, how does one progress on bodyweight exercises, short of gaining more weight to make them more challenging? Well, there’s a few things you can do. The first thing to do to challenge yourself is to add more reps.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that when you can easily perform 15-20 reps of an exercise and still have a few reps left in the tank, it’s time to make it more challenging by doing one of the following:

  • Add an additional set. If you started at 3 sets of 5-6 reps and you’re now comfortable with 3 sets of 15-17 reps, then you can simply throw in a fourth set into the mix.
  • Do it slower. Busting out 20 quick reps isn’t quite the same as doing 10 slow and controlled reps, where you can even add a short pause when your muscles are fully relaxed before contracting them for the next rep.
  • Shorten the rest period between sets. 60-90 seconds is the sweet spot for resting between longer sets of 10-20 reps, but when things get easy, you can shorten this rest period progressively by 10 seconds, until you are only resting about 30-40 seconds between sets, to make it more difficult before moving on to a more challenging variation or adding weight.
  • Move on to a more difficult variation. When you get comfortable, focus on a variation of the movement that provides a bit of a challenge, e.g. one arm on ball pushups and then single arm pushups, pistol squats, and so on.
  • Add some weight. While you might not have access to barbells, you can always get a fairly inexpensive dumbbell set, a few different sized bags filled with sand, a backpack with some rocks, and even big water bottles and milk jugs will do the trick, just as long as you keep adding weight.

Work hard on your form, then try to go as hard as you can each session without overdoing it. I’d say stop a rep short of failure and rest until you feel you can go for another full set.

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Determining the type of cardio you need to do

Cardio is not that difficult to figure out and it basically boils down to a few simple rules, depending on your shape and goals:

  • If you’re skinny and want to get sexy and muscular: Do light and steady cardio, like a brisk walk for an hour, 5-6 minutes of jump rope here and there, or even just 10 minutes of shadow-boxing or dancing every day. Don’t let it cut into your calories too much.
  • If you’re a little overweight and want to lose 10 pounds or less and build muscle: It’s the same as the previous example, just add 2-4 more intense sessions of running, swimming, circuit training a week into the mix to cut the weight first. Revert to the previous example once you have lost the weight and recenter your focus on building muscle.
  • If you’re seriously overweight and your main concern is cutting 20+ pounds: Again, it’s the same as the previous example, only you can go with even more intense workouts, or daily moderate cardio sessions of about 20-30 minutes for a while. Once you’ve lost most of the weight, revert to the previous example, and then to the first example when you’ve shed all the extra pounds you’d like to get rid of.

You can choose any activity that you like, from jump rope, cycling, and swimming to hiking and and other high-cardio sports.

A look at diets and keeping them reasonable

As far as the diet goes we’ll keep it extremely simple:

  • Try to eat diverse vegetables with every meal
  • Eat fruit, seeds, and nuts instead of sweets
  • Go for lean meats instead of processed meat and cooked food instead of fast and fried food
  • Start counting your macro nutrient intake[6]
  • Cheat if you must, but keep these meals small, few, and far between

As long as you can stick with the program for about 80% of the time, you’ll be on your way to better health and an amazing body!

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DIY home gym basics

Some essentials that can help you get better results at home include:

  • A dumbbell set
  • Pull-Up bar
  • Ab wheel
  • Big ol’ sturdy bags filled with sand

You can do tons of great exercises with these simple tools, but if you can’t shell out for them right now, good alternatives include five gallon milk jugs filled with water, a bunch of books stacked in a backpack, using a friend/partner to lay on you, push, or pull to provide extra resistance, or just lifting heavy furniture and moving it around the room.

It pays to be creative. Look at how certain exercises are performed and on what type of equipment, and try to replicate it using household items. For example:

  • Two chairs = dip station
  • Anything that you can hang off = pull up bar
  • A stack of large blankets on the floor = bench
  • Stick and some rope = forearm exercise machine
  • A towel wrapped on a bar or dumbbell grip = thick grip for hand and forearm strength
  • Car = prowler device for pushing to build endurance and power in the legs

It’s all fairly cheap and you can get as creative as you like, just remember to be consistent with your training in order to see the results you wish to see.

All it takes is a little ingenuity and elbow grease, and you’ll set up a decent home “gym” and adopt some great habits along the way. It’s all about being consistent and trying to progress on each session, or at least each week, as you keep adding reps, using more complex movements, and adding weight, all while eating right for your current goals. Give it a shot and always remember, 90% of all this is your commitment and the intensity with which you attack these positive life changes.

Featured photo credit: Minna Hamalainen via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Atlantic: Study: Less Than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle’
[2] Men’s Fitness: 6 Not-So-Obvious Newbie Training Mistakes
[3] Perfect Postur: Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics
[4] Men’s Fitness: The Top 15 Pushup Variations
[5] Men’s Fitness: 6 Bodyweight Workouts That Actually Build Momentum
[6] On the Regimen: How To Count Your Macros – A Comprehensive Guide

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