In honour of January being the month that more people than usual have fitness on their minds, I'd like to round that out with some details of working out that I will hope you remember to apply. Many of you will know these things, but some don't, and some will have simply forgotten. I know this because when I run into people at social gatherings or when people tell me what they do for their workouts, as they love to do, I have that internal battle of "Do I risk sounding annoying and correcting them so that they aren't wasting their time in the gym?" Ooh, I hate that circumstance.
So I'll use my platform here, and then when I run into you at a party or a function we can chat about everything you're doing spot-on, both beaming with smiles. :)
1) Always rest one full day between hitting the same muscle group during your strength training. And yes, this applies to abs. When you train your muscles, train them until they're shaking and feeling quite weak (failure). Then, wait 48 hours before training them again. The workout is half the work, then you count on time and proper nutrition to do its thing and help the muscles come back tighter and stronger.
2) If you are pressed for time, hit the larger muscles groups with compound or multifunctional moves. Don't just scrape by with some biceps curls, rather do some back rows or lat pulldowns which ALSO work the biceps as well as the delts. More bang for buck! Back, chest, legs, glutes and core are your top priority for strength and functionality. Delts, biceps and triceps are bonus (bonuses I rarely skip, but ones that if you must skip something, they should be the ones and not the others).
3) If you are doing abdominal work, make sure that you also strengthen the lower back. Exercises like the plank and plank variations train the core as a whole, but it's also important to give the lower back some isolated attention so that it is strong enough to carry the burden of your daily load. It will recruit better when called upon, if given the proper isolated strengthening attention.
4) Don't just do cardio - really, don't. Strength training keeps the joints lubricated, the muscles strong, the metabolism lifted AND strengthens the heart. Just don't rest for ages and ages between your sets!
5) Don't expect fat loss results if you are slamming a pizza after your workout. If you put effort into the gym, do make a little effort toward learning about nutrition. You're already working for results, so don't hold yourself back from getting them. Make that extra push.
6) Make sure your program is balanced. It's worth the investment to at least have your first program customized by a professional, so that you make sure you're not overdoing one muscle and then slacking on its opposing muscle. That leads to a crooked body, and a host of problems. I've had many clients show me their previous programs which might have had some push-up variations AND chest presses, and no upper back moves! Well, that's the fastest to ruin your posture. These little things should not be overlooked.
7) Your protein shake that you've resolved to have along with your new gym commitment should come AFTER your strength workout and not before. If you have it before, make sure you have some carbohydrate with it like a fruit, and you will still need a complete protein after your workout to help your muscles repair.
8) Don't do static stretches before your workout. Holding yourself in a stretch before a workout can actually decrease your strength in your workouts, studies have shown. If you really want to commit that age-old pattern of stretching pre-workout, make sure it is a dynamic stretch - i.e., one that encourages movement while opening range of motion. Use it as a warm-up, getting the muscle warm and slightly loosened before their lifting.
Have I missed anything? Have you anymore questions? Don't ever hesitate to ask. Happy training!