These days we’re busier than ever, so efficiency has become pretty important to us. In fact, it’s safe to say that we’ve got a serious love affair going on. And if you’re reading this then I know you’re a busy person too. Let’s face it; it’s hard enough fitting everything in; work, gym, intimate relationships, your social life… and still being a happy, sane person at the same time!
The key to fitting it all in is finding a way to get better results in less time. If you spend the time, you can find ways to do this in every aspect of your life. Think about it, if you were able to free up just 30 minutes a day to spend on connecting with friends and family, or in your intimate relationships, or on making headway into your dream job, or developing yourself personally or spiritually… over a year, that will make a tremendous difference to your quality of life.
Your workout is no different, so we’ve put together the best ways to improve your workout, so you can spend more time doing all the other things which are important to you too.
The Litmus Test
Like most things in life, showing up is a good start, but it’s not enough. If you don’t break a sweat or aren’t seeing results, you may need to commit more to your workout. You’ve got to bring it every time. Don’t just go through the motions like so many people, get focused, be present and bring it!
27 Tips to Improve Your Workout
Start with a vision.
Every achievement starts with a vision, so if you want to improve your workout, to take it to the next level, then you need to have a compelling vision of what you want your life to be like when you’ve done it. This vision of how you want your health, vitality and body to be is what is going to provide the emotional fuel to get you revved up for action. You want to spend some time coming back to this vision every day, even if it’s just for 1 minute, the charge it brings you is worth it.
Based on your health and fitness vision, what are the specific goals you have? Write them down and keep them safe because you’ll be coming back to them later. The planning you do up-front will save you a lot of time down the road because you won’t just be going through the motions, you’ll be headed to a destination, so you know when you’re on track or not.
Get a proven workout plan.
If you want outstanding results you need to follow a proven plan. If you show up and just do your own thing it’s going to be hit-or-miss. Anything is better than nothing, but if you’re going to make the effort, you may as well get the results you want from it. Following a proven workout plan takes out the guesswork; once you’ve got it down, then you can adjust it to make it more effective.
Get a proven nutrition plan.
The right nutrition can mean the difference between average results to outstanding results. Like your workout: leave out the guesswork, follow a proven plan, then adjust it to make it better.
Get amped up.
Before you hit your workout, you want to get into the right emotional state of mind, so that you can give it your absolute best. If you’re feeling kind of ‘meh’ then you need to change that: create a little pre-workout ritual which gets you into an energized mood, even if it’s just singing out loud to your workout tunes on your way to the gym. Rinse and repeat before every workout.
Keep your playlist pepped.
If you don’t listen to music while working out then start doing it. Numerous studies have shown that listening to music improves athletic performance; make sure it’s fast tempo for you workouts and you’ll increase your output by up to 15%. Focusing on the music while you’re working out also helps you enter that prized flow state.
Rather than doing marathon workouts, aim to get your workout done in 30 – 45 minutes. Research has shown that after about 45 minutes of exercise cortisol (the hormone released in response to stress) increases while growth hormone and testosterone begin to drop rapidly. Keep your workout bite-sized to maximise the results of your workout.
Hit the high intensity.
If you want to do bite-sized workouts, then you may also want to try a high-intensity interval training protocol to get the maximum results for the time you put in. We love the Tabata protocol, and as with all the protocols, you can use them with strength training and cardio.
Be a workout assassin.
Go in, kill your workout, get out. No distractions. Make your workouts focused, don’t spend 10 minutes socializing between sets, or resting for too long, just focus and get it done. If you want to socialize, do it once you’re finished.
Time to get a bit philosophical. One of the most profoundly useful concepts we’ve found is the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen or continuous, incremental improvement. You can apply this philosophy to any area of your life including your fitness and health. What you focus on has a tendency to happen, so by focusing on how to make small improvements to your workout you will find ways to make that happen.
Get a coach / trainer.
One of the best ways to take your health and fitness to the next level is to hire someone who knows a lot more about it than you do. Making the investment in a personal trainer or a nutritional coach, can be the one of the best investments you can make in terms of results. Even just a few sessions can make a massive difference to your performance. Just remember, you get what you pay for (love is free though) so make sure you find someone who has a proven track record.
Fuel your workout & recovery.
Your body is the most sophisticated vehicle in the known universe, so you need to make sure you give it the right fuel and the right building blocks for recovery, and that all comes down to your nutrition. Make sure you have outstanding nutrition if you want to have the best results possible. Make sure you have a pre-workout and post-workout protein shake to fuel your workout and supply the nutrients for recovery. And remember your carbs! Bananas are a great source of energy for exercise.
One glass of alcohol during the day is enough to just about wipe out the whole day of growth hormone in your body. That’s bad news because growth hormone helps us maintain muscle, decrease body fat and live longer. It’s also known as the “hormone of youth” so we want as much of it as we can get. Alcohol also impacts you getting a good nights’ sleep negatively, which is when your body does most of it’s repair.
Hit the protein sweet spot.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl, you need to get enough protein. Getting enough protein is crucial for muscle growth and body repair; for the ladies, it doesn’t make you big, it gives you a tight, toned body when combined with regular strength training. How to calculate your daily protein needs.
Compound your workouts.
Compound exercises are the best way to get the most reward for your effort because they target multiple muscle groups per exercise. Instead of doing isolation exercises stick to the compounds (like squats and deadlifts) to get the most out of your workout.
Want to be even more efficient? Try using supersets. Supersets are when you do 2 or more exercises in a row with no rest. Cut out the rest and boom: more done in less time.
Quality not quantity.
To get the most out of every set you do, make sure each rep you do is a quality rep. Make it a 5 star rep by focusing on getting perfect form, it’s much better to do fewer high-quality reps, where you focus on controlled movements, than to bang out more, but sloppier reps.
Focus on the contraction.
One of the keys to an effective workout is to focus on the muscle you’re using during the contraction. It may seem like it doesn’t make that much of a difference but it really does. Try this test, do a crunch normally and then focus on contracting your abs as you move up, can you feel what a huge difference it makes? Now remember to do that with all your exercises.
One of the keys to getting the most out of your strength training is to lift the heaviest weights you can while maintaining strict and proper form. Leave your ego at the door, perfect your form, then slowly increment the weight you’re lifting. Proper form is also one of the best ways to prevent injury.
Beat the mundane, make it fun.
If you don’t enjoy your workout then it’s going to feel like a chore to do it. The secret is to find something you do enjoy – if you hate the treadmill, then find some cardio which you do enjoy, there are a ton of options out there, from dancing to windsurfing. If you don’t enjoy lifting weights then try bodyweight exercises like rock-climbing. Don’t skip something just because it’s hard, find a way to make it fun, do whatever it takes to motivate yourself.
Studies have shown that you perform better when you’re adequately hydrated, so remember to drink water throughout the day, including through your workout (maybe with some branch-chained amino acids). Drink 400 – 600 ml two hours prior to your workout to ensure that you are properly hydrated.
The key to strength training is progressive overload. In other words, you want to slowly increase the weight you lift, by a small amount, each time you exercise. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to track your progress: so you know how much you were lifting last week!
Fail on the last set.
Force out 2 or 3 more reps on your last set to make sure you really don’t have any more left in the tank. As always, remember proper form.
Hills and steps.
Running hills and steps is one of the best conditioning exercises you can do. Forget about your usual long run, throw in a few sessions of step running each week and you’ll soon feel the difference. To get even more benefit from this, use an HIIT protocol with it, but remember: run up the stairs, but walk down. We want you to be safe!
Great news for coffee-lovers, studies have shown that getting caffeine before a workout can boost your performance by about 12%. Not only that, but more recent studies have also shown that caffeine reduces the intensity of muscle pain you feel. So having a coffee before your workout could be a case of no pain, all gain.
Review workouts honestly.
If you want to ensure you’re making the most of your workout time, then you must review your workouts honestly. One of the major keys to improving anything in your life is to measure it. Try to make every workout a 5-star workout, but be honest, if it was only a 2-star workout that’s fine, aim to make the next one better. If you keep track of these ratings, over-time you’ll see the progress you’re making.
Want to recover faster? Studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice before or after your workout, helps your muscles recover quicker.
Phase these tips into your workout and soon you’ll find yourself getting better results in less time. The only question you’ll need to ask yourself is: “What am I going to do with the free time?”
Your turn: Which tips are you going to use? Have we missed any? If you had more free time, what would you do with it?