5 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Workouts.

I must sound like a broken record to my clients. And rather rude. With each exercise I'm always asking them if they feel it here or there. I'll cut them off mid-sentence when they're telling me about their weekend and tell them to shut up and think about what they're doing (well, I don't say it quite like that).

There's a good reason for it. I want to ensure they are getting a good workout. A strong mind - muscle connection separates a workout that is merely going through the motions into a f**in' awesome one.

I recently read about an amazing study conducted by Guan Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. In it he compared one group of people who went to the gym and worked out to another group who simply thought about working out. The results were pretty awesome. The group that went to the gym for 12 weeks saw a 30% increase in muscular strength. No surprises there. What was surprising was that the control group who only did mental workouts from the comfort of their lazyboys saw a muscular gains of 13% -- almost half of the gym goers. Wow!

I'm not, of course, suggesting you forgo physical trips to the gym in favor of developing your mind-control skills but rather harnessing the power of both. Yes, I'm talking about the power of visualization.

Here's a few of my tips of how to get the most of you workouts.

1. Think about the workout you are about to do. On the way to the gym or as you're changing in the locker rooms go over all the exercises you are going to do. Think about what each exercise is trying to accomplish. Which muscles are you hitting? What is the purpose of each exercise?

2. Get loose. Tight fascia and joints can really hamper your mobility, blood flow and the neurological pathways that the brain uses to send messages to the muscles. It's a mistake to jump into a tough workout without adequate preparation -- both mental and physical. I suggest foam rolling for 5 to 10 minutes to loosen up the fascia and muscles, followed by some specific mobilizations and activations that focus on the muscles and joints you'll be working. Use this time as an opportunity to "check-in" and connect with your body.


3. Do a warm up set. Your first set shouldn't be an attempt at smashing your one rep max. Have you ever noticed that the third or four set of an exercise is usually better executed than your first, even if the resistance is more? It's because you've already established a neuromuscular pathway. Your mind and body has already coordinated the move and knows how to improve on it next round. Always consider the first set a kind of warm up. Perform it at about 80% of the weight of the working set. Add extra resistance on subsequent sets.

4. Think about what you're doing. As you approach the squat rack visualize what you are about to do. While you ease the bar across your shoulders think about how your core has to brace to take the weight. As you begin the movement think of every little sequence of moves you have to do; a slight forward pelvic tilt, sitting back, knees bending, dorsiflexion of the ankle. More importantly, think about the muscle contractions that are happening. At the bottom position actively think of firing up with your glutes by firmly pushing through the heels. Think of the glutes and quads engaging, shortening and lengthening. Think of nothing else except for the right now. Seek the burn. Chase it. Don`t dodge it.
5. Be conscious of your body all day.
It's such a shame how disconnected some people are from their bodies. They use them and abuse them then wonder later why their body has given up on them. Try to be aware of your body, what it's feeling and it's movements even outside of your workouts. Brace your core as you're sitting at your desk. Take a moment to reflect on what muscles are working when you go up stairs. Hey, is my right shoulder feeling a bit tight today? Fitness doesn't end when you leave the gym. It's just beginning.

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