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10 Tips For Better Workouts You Need To Know

10 Tips For Better Workouts You Need To Know

It’s no secret that a huge part of achieving a great physique is psychological. Yet, in spite of this, gyms everywhere remain choked full of motivated people with mediocre results. The reason for this isn’t stupidity or laziness.  The basic physiological foundations upon which amazing physiques are built have become swamped by masses of irrelevant ‘flavor of the month’ routines and nutri-babble, but few understand the basic science behind what makes one workout better than another.

Here is the golden formula of body recomposition for better workouts that everyone should know:

The ‘Stress > Adaptation’ Cycle (progressive overload)

When we place our bodies under a short term stressor (lifting weights, cardio, sunbathing, etc) our bodies assume that stressor is now going to become a regular event and adapts (grow more resistant) so that next time, we’ll cope a little better. The problem is, if we apply the same stressor (same intensity) that we’ve already adapted to, it won’t stress us; therefore, we won’t adapt and we stagnate.

Just by being conscious of this golden rule when training will improve your workouts exponentially. Here are 10 practical tips to best exploit this formula. By following these tips, your progress will sky rocket and your workouts will become much more rewarding, efficient, and energized.

1. Track Your Progress

notebook

    How much can you bench press and for how many reps? You should know the answer to this question for every single exercise you do every time you enter the gym.

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    How can you possibly improve on last week’s workout if you don’t know exactly what you did? This is absolutely vital and the biggest time wasting mistake I see people make. Get a notebook, an excel spread sheet or write it down in your phone. Always improve on your last workout even if it’s by a single rep.

    Remember: stress > adaptation cycle is the most important thing.

    2. Do Warm-Up Sets

    There are two types of sets in a good workout: warm up sets and work sets.

    Most people enter the gym stiff and cold and get straight under the bar to do their ‘work set’.  Not only is this potentially dangerous but it makes using good form much more difficult. The typical warm up sets are 20%, 40% and 80% of your work set. So if you plan on doing sets with 100kg your warm up sets would be 20kg, 40kg and 80kg. These don’t count, and should not be a workout unto themselves.

    Warm up sets also allow you to practice good form with a less challenging weight. Lifting weights is a skill, even the best power lifters in the world are always tweaking and improving.  Do a few warm up sets for the big movements. They become less important as the workout goes on as you’ll be more warmed up.

    3. Use the 80/20 Principle

    Many people spend too much time focusing on miscellaneous isolation exercises and wonder why they’re not making progress. The best exercise for core isn’t crunches, but squats. Full body workouts should be your goal and three full body workouts per week is plenty.

    You can literally use these four exercises for years (as long as you use the golden rule) and get an amazing physique: deadlifts, bench press, squats, and chin ups. These are all compound movements (work multiple muscles) and so you’ll get the most bang for your buck and ensure your whole body is developed without any inconsistencies.

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    4. Don’t Mix Weights and Cardio

    Their are only three types of people who can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time: complete (and often overweight) beginners, people who take anabolic steroids and people who progress at an snails pace.

    Don’t listen to anyone who uses phrases like ‘turning fat into muscle’ because the body doesn’t work that way. Decide what your focus is, fat loss, muscle gain or maintaining weight while getting stronger. Then put all of your focus into this while minimizing the negative side effects. If you’re trying to gain muscle then you can throw in a cardio session once a week to minimize any unwanted fat gain and if you’re trying to lose fat, it’s important to keep doing weight training to minimize muscle loss.  But really, 80% of healthy fat loss comes down to diet manipulation. Dedicate a chunk of time to one thing then feel free to change goals every other six months.

    5. Have Intra-Workout Carbs

    milk and cookies

      Usually as a tough workout progresses, energy levels go down, willpower levels deplete and strength declines.  While the physical aspects of this are natural, you become less ‘fresh’ as the workout progresses and the psychological factors are often the most damaging.

      Take a few sweets, a carb drink, or a small chocolate bar half way through your workout. You’ll feel more physically energized and the glucose will revamp your willpower and muscles. Having an intra-workout carb also increases the likelihood that you’ll complete all of your reps on the last exercise of the workout.

      6. Get a Training Partner

      training partner bench press

        Many people accomplish wonders while training alone, but with the right training partner, you’ll have the edge.

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        Training partners are great for motivation and for providing assistance on the more dangerous free weight exercises. You’re much more likely to go harder if you’re being watched and will find it much harder to come up with excuses not to do dead lifts and chin ups. Train with like-minded, passionate people to get maximum results.

        7. Take Longer Rest Intervals

        stop watch

          Most people prefer the feeling of having done a workout over the feeling of working out itself. Because of this, they rush through it, desperate to get to the other side.

          It’s easy to confuse what intuitively feels like a good workout with what is actually a good workout. Although taking shorter rest intervals feels more taxing on our bodies, studies have shown that a 3-5 minute rest period between sets and exercises is optimal for muscle and strength gains. Time yourself a few times to get an idea of how long three minutes is then use common sense. The only thing that matters is improving on your last workout, if you’re too fatigued, this will be impossible.

          8. Design a Music Playlist

          rockleftmyheadphones

            Shakespeare said ‘music has charms to soothe the savage beast,’ I say it depends on the music. In the gym, at times you’ll want to be a savage beast.

            Stay away from soothing music and spend the time designing a playlist that amps you up and gets you motivated. The ease of manipulating digital media has never been more straight forward. Take advantage of this tool. Every time you do your set, you must switch your focus on. It’s easier to do that if you switch your music on first.

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            9. Take a Caffeine Pill (or Drink Coffee)

            cup of coffee

              Studies have show that a 200mg caffeine pill (equivalent to three cups of coffee) improves workouts and reduce muscle soreness the next day.

              It’s also safe and much cheaper than branded pre-workout drinks which contain caffeine as their most active ingredient anyway. Caffeine also suppresses appetite, so not only do you get all the benefits of a pre-workout supplement, but you also get a fat loss supplement, if that happens to be your goal. (See tip 4)

              10. Take Creatine Monohydrate

              There are lots of myths surrounding creatine monohydrate encompassing topics such as loading phases, off phases, types of brand, and liver and kidney failure.

              Firstly, creatine is absolutely safe and is one of the most effective extensively studied workout supplements in existence. The way it works is by saturating the muscles with a substance called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is naturally occurs at low doses in animal foodstuff. Creatine doesn’t magically grow muscles and strength. It increases the amount of reps you’re able to perform in a given workout, thus exploiting the stress > adaptation cycle and helping your body develop faster. Without going to the gym, creatine does nothing.

              You don’t need to load it or have off days as some people think. Just take 3 grams if you’re skinny, 4 grams if your average and 5 grams if your muscular, every single day. It takes about three weeks to saturate your muscle 100%. From then on, you keep taking it to top up. Get the cheapest brand but just make sure it says ‘monohydrate.’

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              Last Updated on March 13, 2019

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

              You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

              Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

              1. Work on the small tasks.

              When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

              Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

              2. Take a break from your work desk.

              Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

              Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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              3. Upgrade yourself

              Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

              The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

              4. Talk to a friend.

              Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

              Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

              5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

              If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

              Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

              Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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              6. Paint a vision to work towards.

              If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

              Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

              Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

              7. Read a book (or blog).

              The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

              Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

              Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

              8. Have a quick nap.

              If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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              9. Remember why you are doing this.

              Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

              What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

              10. Find some competition.

              Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

              Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

              11. Go exercise.

              Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

              Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

              As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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              Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

              12. Take a good break.

              Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

              Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

              Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

              Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

              More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

              Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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