Working out is hard. There are no two ways about it. But did you know that some of your habits may be making your workout even more
difficult? That's right, you may be blocking your own progress! Follow these 10 tips and get your workout working for you!
1. Don't stretch before a workout
Stretching your muscles while they are at rest, known as static stretching, is not something you should be doing before your workout, says personal trainer Amy Roberts, NASM-CPT. Since your pre-workout goal is to loosen up your muscles and not relax them, save those static stretches for after your sweat session. Instead, try dynamic stretching. This means you are stretching your muscles through movement. These movements could include jumping jacks, swinging your arms back and forth, bringing your knees up to your chest -- you get the idea.
2. Doing two different exercises back-to-back will help you get more done
Do a superset. This is when you do two exercises in a row without resting in between. Doing a superset that focuses on the same muscle group is a good way to target a specific area, while supersetting opposing muscle groups (like arms and legs), is a great way to work your entire body. Doing a set of push-ups immediately followed by a set of squats is more effective and efficient than doing a set of push-ups, resting, doing a set of squats and resting again. But, don't over do it with the supersets (see #7)
3. Pick exercises that multitask
Try for multi-joint moves that target more than one muscle group. According to Roberts, squats, lunges, push-ups and overhead presses are great go-tos. If you've been working out for a bit and are a little more advanced, try for compound movements like squat presses (pressing a dumbbell overhead while you stand from a squat) or a lunge bicep curl (dumbbell curls while lowering into a lunge). For workouts that embrace this idea, check out the free, real time, DailyHIIT Show
4. Activate your core by imagining you are about to get punched in the gut
You should be activating your core in every workout you do. Trainers often say things like "belly button to spine!" but that can feel vague and a little bit confusing. Instead, imagine you are about to take a punch to the stomach. Tighten your ab muscles and pull your stomach up and in. This will make sure you are engaging your core properly instead of just sucking it in.
5. Take a few minutes to learn how to do the exercise the right way
It is okay if you don't know what a move is and can't afford a personal trainer to teach you. But do take a little time and try to educate yourself. “Find a person you think is the most experienced and credentialed to help you,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Holly Perkins. “That could be someone at your gym or your best friend or coworker or the internet.”
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6. Master the bodyweight version of a move before adding extra weight
Before you start adding dumbbells or barbells, master the original move with perfect form. If you don't, you may end up with an injury or waste your time by failing to actually target the muscles you are trying to work.
7. If your workout plan calls for rest, take it.
Rest is what allows you to keep working hard. It may be tempting to rush through your workout, but it is important that you give your muscles time to rest. If you are doing a few reps of the same exercise, take a minute of rest after each one. If you are doing a superset, take a rest at the end. If you are doing high-intensity intervals, don't forget to include lower-intensity intervals in there too. Never forget to take your rest days. It may seem like a good idea to power right through, but it won't benefit your muscles. It is on your rest days that your muscles heal and repair, making them even stronger for your next workout.
8. Stop holding on to the treadmill and stair climber
“I’ve seen people who will get on and cling to the machine like its actually going to run away from them,” says Roberts. “If you feel like you need to hold on to it that hard, you’re probably setting the machine too fast.” It is okay to touch the machine for balance, but hanging on too tightly changes your posture and takes some of the workload out of your legs. Slow yourself down and let go.
9. Do twice as many pulling exercises as pushing ones
Most of the exercises we do are centered around pushing. We do push-ups, squats and presses. We also do lots of pushing during the natural course of our day. When we stand from a chair, lift or move objects, we are doing a pushing motion. To balance your strength and posture, add pulling exercises to your workout. In fact, you should do twice as many pulling moves. Pulling exercises include chin-ups, lat pulldowns, rows, deadlifts, and leg curls.
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help
While you may feel shy about it, there is no shame in asking someone if your squat jump has proper form or if you are using a piece of equipment the right way. Even if you aren't paying for a trainer, they are more often than not still willing and able to answer your question. Watch online tutorials, cozy up to the gym regulars and don't be afraid to ask your doctor if you think your sore muscles might be a little too sore. No one starts out with all the answers. Don't be shy!
Are you ready to make your workout work for you?
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