When you train, use your brain!
Lifting weights is an activity you can enjoy throughout your entire lifetime. When you consider the benefits of resistance training and that most physical activities come with an expiration date, this is a big deal!
To reap the benefits and ensure that you have many productive years in the gym, it is important to approach lifting with a smart mindset. Here are 5 things you can do to train “smarter”, get better results, and extend your years in the gym.
1. Listen to your body
The feedback from your muscles, joints, and the rest of the body while you’re training is valuable information for adjusting your program, both during a training session and in the future. Make sure you pay attention!
Do those nagging aches and pains go away as you warm up, or do they get worse as you continue to exercise? Does something not feel “right”? Does everything feel good and you feel like you could put a bear in a headlock?
Your body will let you know when to push, when to pull back, and when to stop. All you have to do is listen when it tells you something!
2. Detach yourself from certain exercises
It is common to think that we must do certain exercises to build muscle. Some even believe that certain exercises are a “rite of passage”.
It isn’t true. I’ve been in many gyms and weight rooms over the past 20 something years and I have yet to see a squat ceremony. Not everyone can perform this exercise, and not everyone needs to!
The only thing you must do is train consistently and gradually do more work. Any exercise can be modified to fit the needs of a situation, so don’t feel like you have to keep doing something that isn’t working for you.
If an exercise causes bad pain, is risky to perform, or requires a complicated set up, let it go. There’s no need to put yourself at risk. Find exercises that don’t cause problems and keep moving forward.
3. Strengthen the weak links
If you only do exercises you like or that work muscles you can see in the mirror, you’re leaving a lot of potential growth on the table. Not only that, but you’ll probably end up with weak muscles due to the lack of training.
You might be able to get away with this if you’re training to look better, but problems are all but guaranteed if you’re training to improve performance.
If you want to be strong and fit, train your weak spots. This means performing exercises for muscles and positions that challenge you from a strength, stability, or conditioning standpoint.
You’ll be stronger, have a better balanced physique, and less likely to run into injuries from doing too much of the same movements.
4. Measure the effectiveness of your training with stuff that matters
It is likely that you already have a goal for your training: gain muscle, lose body fat, improve fitness, feel better.
These are good goals to have, but how are you keeping track of your progress?
What do you consider a sign of a quality workout?
How much you sweat has nothing to do with building muscle, getting stronger, or improving fitness. If it did, I would be the fittest man on Earth by a mile!
Training to exhaustion every day isn’t progress. It is a great way to make yourself unable to exercise and injured, though.
A muscle pump is sometimes part of a good workout, but how did you get it? Were your reps all good quality, or did you blast out a ton of fast, halfhearted reps with no attention given to technique?
You’re most likely going to sweat, be pumped, and tired from your workouts, but none of these are the goal of training!
Never forget that you’re training to make progress towards a goal.
The following list is what you want to focus on in order to hit your goals and get the results you want:
- using more weight
- performing more reps at a given weight
- less rest time needed
- better ability to actively contract muscles
- more sets
- improved lifting technique
- what you see in the mirror
- how your clothes fit
This is what tells you if you’re improving or not. Enjoy the other things, but this is where your attention needs to be if you’re serious about making progress.
5. Warm up
I don’t care if you say you don’t have time, can’t wait to get started, feel great today, or whatever other reason you come up with…
Never skip your warm up.
Any machine needs time to warm up before it can do it’s job properly, and your body is no different. Treat warming up as part of your workout, not a thing to do when you feel like it. This is the easiest thing you can do to prepare your body, improve workout performance, and reduce the risk of injury.