Whether you are just starting out or are an old hand in the gym, here are some tips and ideas to help you get more out of your workout.
When sitting on an exercise ball (stability ball, gym ball) make sure your weight is not in your toes, as this will reduce the effort your core muscles are needing to make.
Don’t cheat when weight training. You’re the one that loses out. Do the exercise with good form at the correct speed and with the full range of motion. Don’t bounce or jerk. When weight training, pay attention to the beginning and end of each movement. Shortening the action can significantly reduce the benefit of the exercise. Don’t grip weights tightly unless you want your forearms to do most of the work. When you learn a new barbell lift, practice it first without any weights on the bar so you can perfect your form.
If you’re really trying to build muscle in the gym, allow 2-3 minutes between sets so that you can lift heavier weights, but be careful to maintain good form and increase the weights slowly so that you don’t injure yourself.
Stretch your hamstrings by putting your foot on a table or similar so that your leg is at approximately waist height. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then do the other leg.
Sports Drinks And Energy Bars & Gels
Energy gels leave the stomach faster than energy bars. So are often preferable for refueling during exercise. When buying an energy bar look for a mixture of different carbohydrates (maltodextrins, fructose, glucose, etc.). These reduce the troughs and lows in blood sugar that occur if you only take one form. Look for energy drinks, gels and bars with electrolytes if you’re exercising in the heat for long periods. Be sure to read and follow the instructions on bars and gels about the amount of water that needs to be consumed with them. Hypotonic sports drinks are absorbed into the body more quickly than plain water – useful when you need to replace fluid quickly but don’t need extra calories, you’re your training for less than one hour and of low intensity. Most sports drinks are isotonic, absorbed faster than plain water and providing some carbohydrates and salts. Use if you’re training for longer than an hour. Check out our blog on the best protein drinks.
Exercising With Limited Movement Or After Injury
If you have an injury or limited movement in a joint or muscle, use therabands (resistance bands) and light free weights rather than weight machines until the area is strengthened.
After a hard workout wait about 15 minutes before using a sauna or similar as the additional heat can put too much stress on the heart.
Do It Mentally!
In the rests between sets in weight training, imagine doing the routine perfectly. You’ll perform better when you do it physically.
A competition can give you just the motivation you need. You may be nervous, but most experienced athletes are very supportive of newcomers. If you’re travelling to competitions, take food and drink with you. This is not the time to try new food. Don’t buy new equipment for a race or competition. Use/wear what you have been training in if at all possible.
Single leg exercises are far better at developing strength than double leg exercises, because the weaker leg cannot be carried by the stronger one.
Targeting A Muscle?
If you want to strengthen a particular muscle, don’t just work on that muscle. Do lots of different exercises for associated muscles too.
When strength training, use free weights (dumbbells and barbells) some of the time rather than machines in order to strengthen your core, stabilising muscles.