Maximize Your Gains, Minimize Your Frustrations
2020 has not turned out the way any of us envisioned it. Travel plans, home improvement projects, family trips and gatherings have all been put on hold for who knows how long? Political and financial uncertainty keep many of us awake at night wondering and worrying. While a lot of these factors are beyond our immediate control, there are some mighty important things we can do to stay healthy as we look forward hopefully and with certainty to better times ahead. Besides wearing that mask, washing your hands, and respecting social distancing, why not take time to evaluate and shore up your workouts? Whether you are working out at home, in a buddy’s garage or braving a commercial gym, here are some pointers to help light a fire under your exercise program.
Make time to warm up. Warmed up muscles and joints are more flexible and less prone to injury than muscles at rest. Try a light jog around the gym parking lot, or 5 to 10 minutes of light to moderate pedaling on a recumbent bike before you begin lifting. Warming up will also speed up your metabolism and help you burn a few more calories during your weight training routine.
Stretching is important. After warming up, stretch briefly before your workout to maximize flexibility. Stretch the muscle group you are working between sets and exercises while to prevent strains and sprains.
Pyramid your weights. As a rule, 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps of each exercise is great for bodybuilding and overall strength training. But be sure to begin with a lighter weight for your initial set. Increase weight gradually. When trying something new, always use light weights so that you can develop proper form before slowly moving on to heavier loads.
Take your time. Go through the full range of motion for each exercise. Maintain a slower, more regular pace as you lift, keep control, and breathe regularly without holding your breath. For example, while performing a standing dumbbell curl for biceps, make sure to supinate the forearm and flex the elbow as you lift the weight from the starting position at your side to your chin. Inhale as you lift the dumbbell and exhale as you lower it with each rep.
Vary your routine. Doing the same things every time you workout is a recipe for burn out. Change your workouts every 2 to 3 months. Set ambitious, but realistic goals each time and then dedicate yourself to achieving them. You may want to take an inch off your middle by spring or increase your bench press by 10% by the end of the year. Be open to learning new exercises.
Rest properly. Each muscle group you train should have approximately 2 days rest before being worked out again. Muscle fibers recover and grow not when you are breaking them down in the gym, but when you allow them proper rest. 8-10 hours of quality sleep each night will help worked out muscle fibers to recover and grow.