Monday, September 10, 2007

7 Tips to Maximize Your Workout

I'm sure you're busy. I'm sure that even if you like going to the gym, you don't want to waste any possible gains. That means you need to go into the gym with a strategy to see maximum results from your efforts.

1. Eat before your workout
Get energy available in your blood and muscles. Anaerobic work won't use fat for energy, so you need glycogen in your muscles and in your blood. You won't store it as fat if you use it to lift. Eat 1 to 2 hours before your work out so you have time to digest.

2.Warm up
Your blood is stored in your torso. Warming up moves it out to your limbs, where you need it. It causes a gradual increase in muscle temperature which will prevent injury, and increases the elasticity of connective tissue. If you don't take 5 minutes to warm up, you're asking for an injury.

3. Lift before cardio
I've said it before. This is canon. Warm up, then lift, then do your cardio. You lift while you have glycogen available. If you do cardio first, your lifting session will be exhausting and difficult, but you won't have moved the same weight or made the progress you could have. You need to overload your muscles to make them grow, so you need the energy to push yourself. Doing cardio after lifting is fat-burning heaven, as you've already drained your body of alternate energy sources.

4. Primarily use compound exercises
Some bodybuilding routines prescribe massive volume with lots of isolation exercises. They are probably also using lots of steroids. Cortisol starts to overcome your testosterone levels the longer you workout. If you go longer than 45 minutes, depending on your body chemistry, you could be burning up as much muscle as your building. Cortisol is a steroid, but a catabolic steroid that is triggered by inflammation. It destroys muscle and makes fat. If you know someone who gained a lot of fat weight from being on steroids due to illness, they were on an anti-inflammatory steroid like cortisol.

Use compound exercises to get as much working out done with one exercise as possible. Deadlift will work your quads, hams, glutes, and lower back primarily, and nearly every other muscle in your body secondarily. Compound exercises build strength, because while muscles just know resistance, your body knows overall weight. When you move a lot of weight at once, it causes the hormones to flow that will allow you to synthesize protein into muscle. Then, if you want, do a set or two of isolation exercises at the end of a workout to overload a disproportionately strong muscle. For me, it's my triceps.

5. Choose a split
Don't walk into the gym and do a grab bag of whatever exercises you feel like. You need to systematically select your exercises by muscle group to make progress. If you need help, check my series “What's Your Split?” Parts 1, 2, and 3.

6. Lift with intensity
Make sure that the last few reps of your set are very difficult, and don't use more than 12 reps in a set. Don't just go through the motions. If you can do a thirty rep bench, you need to increase the weight. At that rep range, all you're doing is conditioning your muscles to process the lactic acid produced by anaerobic work. You're not making them stronger.

Eventually, you'll have the mind muscle connection to be able to really feel your muscles contract. When you do, you'll be able to pull out an extra rep by digging deep into the muscle and consciously contracting it. You'll feel an entirely different level of intensity once you can do this.

7. Have a post workout meal
If you eat within an hour of working out, your muscle will absorb twice as many nutrients. That means that less turns into fat, and there will be more there for the next workout. With carbs, that equals more energy for more intensity and overload. With protein, that equals more muscle building blocks for your recovery.
I've heard people say, “Well, I'm not in here to get huge, so I don't need to think that much about it.” Even if you're not working out to get huge, you're purpose isn't to waste time. Planning ahead means both shorter workouts and better results. Most people don't go to the gym for fun, so get the most out of the precious time you do put in.

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