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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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              Published on November 14, 2018

              Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

              Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

              With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

              For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

              In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

              Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

              Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

              It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

              For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

              Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

              Symptoms of Fatigue

              Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

              • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
              • mental blocks
              • lack of motivation
              • headache
              • dizziness
              • muscle weakness
              • slowed reflexes and responses
              • impaired decision-making and judgement
              • moodiness, such as irritability
              • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
              • reduced immune system function
              • blurry vision
              • short-term memory problems
              • poor concentration
              • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

              Causes of Fatigue

              The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

              • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
              • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
              • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
              • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

              Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

              Medical Causes of Fatigue

              If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

              Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

              Anemia

              Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

              Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

              There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

              Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

              Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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              This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

              Diabetes

              Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

              Sleep Apnea

              Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

              Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

              Thyroid disease

              An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

              Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

              • Lack of sleep
              • Too much sleep 
              • Alcohol and drugs 
              • Sleep disturbances 
              • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
              • Poor diet 

              Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

              • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
              • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
              • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
              • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

              Psychological Causes of Fatigue

              Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

              • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
              • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
              • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

              How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

              Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

              1. Tell The Truth

              Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

              To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

              Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

              The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

              One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

              • How you feel
              • What time of day it is
              • What may have contributed to your fatigue
              • How your mind and body reacts

              This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

              2. Reduce Your Commitments

              When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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              If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

              When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

              Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

              3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

              If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

              Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

              If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

              Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

              Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

              4. Express More Gratitude

              Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

              It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

              Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

              5. Focus On Yourself

              Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

              There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

              But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

              We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

              6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

              Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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              Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

              The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

              Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

              7. Take a Power Nap

              When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

              Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

              This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

              8. Take More Exercise

              The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

              Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

              The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

              You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

              9. Get More Quality Sleep

              To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

              Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

              My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

              10. Improve Your Diet

              Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

              Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

              On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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              To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

              Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

              Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

              11. Manage Your Stress Levels

              Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

              When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

              Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

              My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

              12. Get Hydrated

              Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

              Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

              If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

              The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

              The Bottom Line

              These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

              If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

              Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
              [2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
              [3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
              [4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
              [5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
              [6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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