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How to Structure Your Workouts Like a Pro

October 19, 2015 4 min read

I see it all the time; people walking into the gym and jumping on the first available machine, mindlessly doing their 12 to 15 reps, 3 sets, texting between, and on to the next one. This is a basic approach. Allow me to share some professional advice about how to approach and structure your workout like a pro. If you're taking the time and putting in the effort to workout, you might as well do it right and get those results. There's a fine art to structuring an effective workout. Prepare mentally. People often forget just how important putting your mind into the game is; only half, maybe even less, of a training sesh is purely physical. You can bet a pro athlete is visualizing what they're about to do as they lace up their shoes and step onto the field. And you have to think of yourself as an athlete. As you're walking to the gym, think about the exercises you are going to do and what effect you want them to have. And check in with yourself; how are you feeling? How's your energy? Are you ready to kill it? Or are you tight and sore?   Prepare physically. You may be sore and not even realize it. It's important that you foam roll! Or do some other kind of myofascial release. I spend at least 10 to as much as 20 minutes doing this. I typically do my whole body each time, but I'll put extra focus on the part I'm working out, or any other part that might be tight, too. I like to listen to music when I workout, but never when I'm foam rolling. Again, this is precious time to mentally connect with your body. Next, you want to do some activations and mobilizations. I've already written and posted a video about foam rolling here and activations and mobilizations here.   And if you have nagging injuries, or about to be injuries (you know what I mean, when something doesn't quite feel right), now is the time to do those pesky rehab exercises. In my case, I have the bicep tendonitis that just won't go away. My athletic therapist has me doing external shoulder rotations with a light band. It's super boring and I'm always tempted to skip em', but I don't. So I spend up to 30 minutes doing this stuff before I even begin the workout. It's important to stretch before going beast mode. Order exercises wisely. Ok, time to get down to business. There's a few different ways to sequence exercises. Conventional wisdom says do your biggest and most energy-demanding exercises first. They say squats before isolated glute exercises. And that's pretty solid advice, but I don't often follow it. Here's a couple of reasons why I might do smaller muscle exercises first.   Pre-exhustion. When it comes to my leg day workouts, I always do glutes first. Even before squats. Partly because it's a priority (discussed below), partly because it acts like an extended activation exercise and partly because it pre-exhusts that muscle group. Pre-exhusting a muscle group with isolation exercises is an advanced technique that forces that group to work even harder in compound movements. So when I murder my glutes before squats (but not so much that neurological fatigue sets in) they are already super engaged and are forced to work harder. This ensures they are getting ample stimulation, which hopefully leads to mega growth. Boom. Priorities/weak spots. Likewise, if you have a muscle group that demands priority either because of want (I want a bigger booty) or weakness, do them first. Some people hate doing core work. If that's you, do that stuff first before you fatigue and before you decide it's time to blow this joint. Do cardio last. If you must do cardio, do it after your weight lifting. It's much better if all your energy and focus is diverted into lifting weights. It's also a lot more neurologically demanding and you're more likely to hurt yourself lifting.   Do a warm up set and get progressively heavier. Another mistake I often seeing people do is stepping up to the bar and immediately going for their PR best, or max weight. Please do a warm up set first. You wouldn't believe the intricate neurological pathways that have to be established before you can do a movement beautifully and with full force. The very first set of any exercise should be about 50 to 70% of the max weight you intend to smash. Do 10 to 15 reps at this weight, do it slow and controlled, and think about the muscle working. Try to visualize the contraction taking place. It will help with all the important mind-muscle connection. Do it like you mean it. Whatever exercise you are doing, be completely mindful about it. If you're carrying on a conversation with your bestfriend on your hands-free about what you did last night, you're doing it wrong (you're also being that person in the gym on their phone). There's a HUGE difference between going through the motions and doing exercise like you mean it. Put your mind into it, and control every aspect of the movement. Don't let the resistance pull you. And don't go too fast. Maintain a good time under tension for each exercise.   Don't workout for hours More isn't always more. My main workout, not including preliminaries and cool-down, is rarely more than 45 mins. Rest, recover and rejuvenation are incredibly important. Overtraining has the opposite effect of what you want. Stretch! Do your stretches. The muscles you just worked are going to feel tight. Hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds and do them twice. That's how I do it and that's how my clients do it. We get results, stay injury-free and love life.  

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