Not quite sure of the best ways to train? Here are 8 simple ways to optimise your training regime:
1. Back to basics
Pick 8 strength exercises and get good at them. This will improve motivation levels as you will see the improvement in your strength levels as well as your technique. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to improve strength. Keep to simple pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting and rotating movements, sometime known as ‘The Basic Pillars of Human Movement’.
2. Introduce some AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)
One way to prevent yourself going through the motions in the gym is by timing yourself whilst you perform a group of exercises. An AMRAP session is a workout where you challenge yourself to complete a series of exercises for time. For instance, you have 10 minutes to complete AMRAP of 10 push ups, 10 squats and 10 deadlifts so this gives you a benchmark to beat next time. Even better, challenge a group of friends to beat you.
3. Replace your crunches, sit ups and abdominal curls
These belong with Noah and his Ark. So, replace sit ups and crunches with more effective standing alternatives. See my ‘best core exercises’ article for more ideas on how to train your core properly.
4. Add some intensity
Anywhere worth going isn’t easy to get to. So every now and again, add some intensity into your sessions. First of all, add some short sprints at the end of a workout. Secondly, try adding some drop sets (lifting a lighter weight immediately after you’ve finished a set at your normal weight) into your strength sessions. Thirdly, try some superset or giant set workouts which will result in more focused work of specific muscles. As a result, your strength and cardiovascular fitness will benefit and it will help reduce any training plateaux.
5. Two’s company
If possible, train with someone who is slightly fitter than you. Because much like when playing an opponent in racquet sports, this will challenge you and ultimately lead to an improvement in your fitness levels (and adherence!).
6. Add some stimuli!
We all need a pick-me-up every now and again. Downloading some new upbeat music or drinking a small coffee 20-30 minutes prior to working out can give the kick-start you need to a great training session!
7. Stand not sit!
We spend a vast amount of our time sitting down. We sit on the tube, in a taxi, at work, at restaurants, theatre or cinema. So there is no real valid reason to sit down when we go to the gym too. Firstly, replace any sitting down gym exercises with standing alternatives. This will help improve posture, balance, co-ordination and locomotion, for example. Secondly, replace sitting on a bench by sitting on a Swiss ball. As a result, your core stability will improve due to deeper core muscles having to work harder.
8. Ready, steady, go!
I frequently see new clients who have little or no ability to stabilise their hips or shoulders. So one of the first things I add into their program are some stabilisation exercises. Exercises such planks, bridges and balances will all challenge their deep stabiliser muscles. These types of exercises can often reduce lower back or shoulder pain, for instance. See a trainer or physiotherapist for which exercises are most suitable for you.
By Daryl Browne, MSc.