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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 30, 2020

              Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

              Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

              Feeling tired all the time?

              Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

              I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

              Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

              If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

              In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

              What Happens When You’re Too Tired

              If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

              Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

              • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
              • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
              • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
              • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
              • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
              • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
              • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

              Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

              Unfortunately, yes!

              Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

              Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

              Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

              Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

              Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

              Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

              1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
              2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
              3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

              The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

              It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

              Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

              Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

              If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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              Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

              Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

              But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

              Symptoms of fatigue include:

              • Difficulty concentrating
              • Low stamina
              • Difficulty sleeping
              • Anxiety
              • Low motivation

              These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

              Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

              How Much Sleep Is Enough?

              The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

              Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

              So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

              The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

              Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

              Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

              If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

              And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

              It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

              4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

              Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

              1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
              2. Exercising regularly
              3. Using stressbusters
              4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

              So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

              After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

              In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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              I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

              Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

              • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
              • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
              • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
              • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

              The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

              And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

              But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

              L — Living Healthy

              Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

              So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

              In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

              As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

              Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

              1. Unplug

              Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

              So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

              2. Unwind

              Do something to relax.

              Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

              3. Get Comfortable

              Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

              Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

              Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

              Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

              If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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              Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

              This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

              E — Exercise

              Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

              That’s what happened in my case.

              But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

              As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

              My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

              That made sense to me.

              So, I decided to swim.

              I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

              Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

              Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

              So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

              If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

              A — Attitude

              Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

              When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

              Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

              Breathing.

              But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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              Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

              1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
              2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
              3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
              4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
              5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
              6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

              This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

              When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

              Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

              N — Nutrition

              Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

              If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

              Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

              For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

              Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

              Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

              1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
              2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
              3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
              4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
              5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
              6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
              7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
              8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
              9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

              Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

              That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

              Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

              The Bottom Line

              If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

              If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

              If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

              • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
              • Regular Exercise You Love
              • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
              • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

              Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

              More Tips to Help You Rest Better

              Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
              [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
              [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
              [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
              [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
              [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
              [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
              [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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