6 ways to make your workouts better
Success in the gym, as with most things in life, comes down to mastering the basics.
With that in mind, here are 6 exercise tips, weightlifting basics, and training essentials that nobody wants to believe, but everyone should follow.
Take these ideas to heart and you’ll reap major benefits. While most people waste time debating the endless stream of supplements, “new” workout programs, and diet plans, all you really have to do is focus on these simple concepts and you’ll see results.
1. Commit for the long-term.
Most people workout with a short-term goal in mind. I like looking at health in a different way…
- The goal is not to lose 20 kg in the next 12 weeks. The goal is to regain your health for the rest of your life.
- The goal is not to bench press 150 kg. The goal is to be the guy who never misses a workout.
- The goal is not to sacrifice everything to get your fastest time in next month’s race. The goal is to be faster next year than you are today. And faster two years from now than you will be next year.
Ignore the short-term results. If you commit to the long-term process, the results will come anyway.
2. Set a schedule for your training.
Most people never train consistently because they are always wondering when they are going to train next.
They are always wondering…
- “Will I be motivated to workout when I get home from work?”
- “Will I have enough free time to exercise today?”
- “Will I have enough willpower to wake up early and run?”
In other words, most people train when they feel motivated or inspired.
Here’s a better idea: stop treating exercise as something to do when it’s convenient and start setting a schedule for yourself to follow.
Setting a schedule for your training becomes even more important when life gets crazy. There will always be occasional emergencies that prevent you from working out. It’s part of life. The problem is that most people miss one workout and before they know it, they haven’t been to the gym in 4 weeks.
But when you have a schedule for your training, you have a way of pulling yourself back on track as quickly as possible. Let your schedule govern your actions, not your level of motivation.
3. Focus on the best exercises.
Great results come from great focus, not great variety.
Too many people waste time in the gym because they bounce around without any real goal, doing a little bit of this machine and a little bit of that machine. Thankfully, there is a simple rule that will always guide you toward the best exercises: the more an exercise makes you move, the bigger the benefits it will deliver.
This is why the clean and jerk and the snatch are the kingpins of weightlifting. They are the exercises that force your body to move the most (and the quickest). As a result, the people who do these exercises see incredible results.
Here’s a short list of the best exercises. In my opinion, at least one of the first five exercises should be included in every workout.
- Bench Press
- Clean and Jerk
- Overhead Press
- Good Mornings
4. Start light and train for volume before intensity.
Ask most people if they had a good workout and they’ll say things like, “Oh yeah, it was so intense.” Or, “I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.” Or, “I finished my workout by doing a set to failure.”
It’s great to push yourself, but the biggest mistake that most people make is not building a foundation of strength. Everyone wants to jump in and max out with a weight that is “hard.” That’s exactly the wrong way to do it. Your workouts should be easy in the beginning.
For example, right now I’m doing a 5×5 squat program (5 sets of 5 squats). I started light. The first week, I lifted with a weight that was very easy for me. Then, I slowly added 2.5 kg each week. For weeks, it was still easy. Eventually, when I built up to a weight that was heavy, I had the capacity to handle it because I had already done dozens (if not hundreds) of sets over the previous weeks and months. Focusing on volume now allows you to handle the intensity later on.
5. Make SLOW progress each week.
Most people walk into the gym every week, do the same exercises with the same amount of weight, and wonder why they aren’t getting stronger. You’ll see people step onto the same treadmill, run two miles like they always do, and wonder why they aren’t losing weight.
Here’s a little story that explains the problem and the solution…
Imagine that you are in a quiet room and someone turns on a loud and noisy fan. At first, it’s obvious and irritating. But if you are forced to stay in the room long enough, the fan starts to become part of the background noise. In other words, your body registers the sound at first, but eventually it realizes “Oh, this is the new normal for this environment.”
Your body adapts and the noise fades away. Something similar happens when you exercise.
6. Record your workouts.
What gets measured, gets managed. If you can’t even tell me how many sets and reps you did with a particular weight two weeks ago, how can you guarantee that you’re actually getting stronger?
Tracking your progress is simple: get a small notebook and write down your workouts. (I use a little black moleskin notebook that I bought at a bookstore.)
At the top of the page, write the date of your workout. Then, simply write down the exercise you are doing. When you finish a set, record it in your notebook while you’re waiting to do the next one.
What You Should Do Now
Your could spend your entire life mastering these six points, but these are the basics that will make a real difference in your training.
Here are your action steps:
- Set a schedule. When and where, exactly, are you going to train?
- Get a notebook and pen to record your training.
- Focus on the best exercises that make you move a lot.
- Start with a weight that is very light and train for volume before intensity.
- Slowly increase the weight each week.