Try to make it harder
The best advice I can give to anyone who wishes to take their training to the next level is to start making the training as hard as possible. It is far too common to see gym-goers standing around doing absolutely nothing else other than talking to friends or doing some strange exercises with minimal weights. Sometimes it is a difficult task even trying to figure out what they are training.
Here are some suggestions for anyone who would like to step it up a notch or more:
- Perform all exercises at full range. Fuller range provides more muscle work and thereby gives better results. If for some reason (eg injury) you are unable to use full range, add corrective strategies to your training to reach that goal. Drop the weight down if you have to - don’t worry, the weights will quickly climb back up again and with a full range you will get better results.
- Stabilize your stance. Try not to move anything other than what the exercise requires. Stabilize the core and activate muscles to maintain a strong position. I just shake my head when I see some clowns performing biceps/low back extension/trapezius shrug combinations.
- Increase the weight. Don’t be afraid of adding weight when training. If your stabilization and form is good you are not going to hurt yourself. There are far too many people basically training with the same weights year after year - break some new personal bests!
- Shorten the rest between sets. Unless you are training for maximum strength sports (read power-lifting) you don’t have to rest as long as many do. Aim for 30-60 seconds and your general conditioning will improve.
- Pick exercises you don’t like. There is a reason you don’t like them and that is usually because you find them too hard.
- Free weights are a much better choice than machines. There is no point to squatting in a smith machine or any other type of squat machine if there is a squat rack available.
- Dumbbells allow greater range than barbells in many exercises. Compare the range in chest and shoulder presses for example. Dumbbells also challenge the stabilization system better.
- Cables are many times even more challenging than free weights as the load is not just provided by gravity in a straight linear fashion.
- Don’t get completely absorbed by the pseudo functional training concept that is emerging. How can a squat/shoulder press combination with tiny 12Kg weights be regarded as more effective than heavier squats and shoulder presses on their own? There are no functional exercises –only functional people. Improve your functional patterns, and don’t abandon the big basic exercises.
- Uni-lateral training is good to include. Single arm shoulder-presses, chest presses and back exercises as well as single leg work are good for training core-stabilization provided the core is activated when you do them.
- Train your legs and back with more intensity and passion than the big show-off parts that so many seems obsessed with. It is not uncommon to see gym-goers with what seem to be big arms, shoulders and chest, only to realize that it only looked big because their back and legs were non-existent. It is not impressive and it is called imbalance.
- Don’t be afraid of a little bit of muscle soreness after the training. Mild DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is a sign that you pushed yourself, and something to be proud of.
Lift as heavy as you can, at full range without sacrificing stabilization and form. Make it as hard as possible - pick a weight you can lift 6 times and aim for 10!
I often see young wannabe body-builders standing in the gym chatting to their friends instead of actually lifting weights. They are usually sipping on a pre-workout drink before going into the gym, and then slam down a post-workout drink immediately after. The only thing missing in the formula is the actual work-out. The drinks aren’t going to do anything without the most important ingredient, a hard work-out!