You’re likely to make a New Year’s resolution to exercise more, lift more weight, or run faster. While showing up is half the battle for many, hard work, consistency and smart training are the other half.
These tips will help you get fit, no matter if you are a seasoned or newbie to the gym. Remember that any type of exercise is a great starting point.
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Bring a plan to the gym.
A plan of action can prevent you from wandering aimlessly in the gym while trying to decide what next step should be. Indecisiveness can not only take away from your workout but also make it more time-consuming. It can also reduce your efficiency, as your heart rate will drop. Jared Kaplan, the founder of Studio 26, told SELF that a clear plan is your secret weapon. You should know what exercises you are going to do, where they will be done, and how you will do them.
A plan B is also a good idea, in case the floor or machine you had planned to use is unavailable. You can continue your workout by moving on to something else or making sure you have a backup plan that uses different equipment.
A solid workout playlist can help you get motivated.
You’ll feel energized on the way to the gym or during your workout by listening to songs that will make you feel powerful and capable. You don’t have to use the same earbuds for years. These four best workout headphones were sweat-tested by SELF staffers in our annual Healthy Living Awards.
Set your phone to airplane mode.
Refrain from checking your Snapchat messages or chiming in on a group text. To avoid distractions, turn on airplane mode and do your workout. Even better? You can leave your phone at home if you don’t use it for music or workout apps. You can save your workout ‘grams for another day.
Do some dynamic stretching to start your workout.
A core component of any warm-up is dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching allows you to move through different stretches instead of holding it in place. You will gradually increase your body temperature, heart rate, and start to prepare your body for exercise. You can also increase your range of motion to allow you to get deeper into each exercise, and reap the benefits of each one. The type of exercise you are doing will dictate the exact exercises you should do in your warm up. You can either use this 5-minute warmup before running or this dynamic warmup before strength training.
Learn foam rolling and practice it often.
Foam rolling can be another great way to increase your range of motion. This will allow you to get more from every squat and lunge. Foam rolling can help relieve tightness by loosening knots in your fascia (the thin layer of tissue surrounding your muscles). The tightness can limit your ability to exercise with full range of motion. Foam rolling is a great habit to start before you go to the gym, and when you have time. Roll slowly and pay attention to tight spots like your hips and calves.
Strength training is something you should embrace.
Strength training is a great option for those who have avoided the weight room in the recent past. Strong muscles will help prevent injuries and make you more mobile in your day, no matter if you’re lifting boxes or climbing stairs. Strength training can also increase bone density which is essential to prevent fractures or osteoporosis. Strength training also helps to prevent age-related muscle loss, which is the natural decline in muscle mass as we age. This keeps your metabolism going. Research shows that strength training can help keep your heart healthy, even though you may associate cardiovascular exercise with benefits for your heart health. Learn more about the many health benefits of strength training for females here.
You can maximize your gym time by taking fewer breaks between exercises.
Are you pressed for time at the gym? Reduce the time you spend resting. You can increase the intensity of your workout by taking less rest. This will keep your heart rate up during interval training or weightlifting. The cardio challenge helps your body and mind to work efficiently and endure fatigue. Rob Sulaver C.S.C.S.S. founder of Bandana Training explained this to SELF. Cardiovascular training is a great way to improve your ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles. This will allow you more energy to push through your workouts, even when you are tired.
There are many factors that affect the amount of rest that should be taken. It is important to remember that each person’s workout will vary. However, it is a good rule of thumb that you take enough rest that you can push yourself harder during the next set. But not too much that you feel exhausted. You might want to reduce the rest periods if you feel this way after your strength workouts. Too little rest will not allow your muscles to recover enough for your next set.
To hit more muscles simultaneously, you can incorporate compound movements.
Compounded exercises target multiple muscle groups and more than one joint at a time. This is in contrast to isolation exercises which only target one muscle group, such as bicep curls. They are great for increasing muscle mass and burning more calories, as they allow you to do more in a shorter time. You can do compound exercises by doing one move that puts multiple muscles to work (e.g., lunges or squats), but you can also combine two moves (e.g. shoulder presses with bicep curls).
Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S. founder of TS Fitness, said that compound moves should take up 70-80 percent of your time at the gym (and target specific muscles with isolation exercises the remainder). This will allow you to make the most out of your time in the gym. Here are seven of his favorite moves.
Add weights to your exercises.
Although you can do a great workout with only bodyweight exercises, adding weights will add an additional challenge to your muscles. To make bodyweight exercises more difficult and effective, if you feel you have mastered basic moves such as squats or lunges, you can hold dumbbells or a medicine balls.
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Choose the right weight
Beginners often have the same question: “Which weight should i use?” Your muscles will grow stronger if you choose a weight that is heavy enough, but not too heavy. You won’t be able to see any improvement in your fitness or strength if your weight is too low.
It can be difficult to choose the right weight. You want to be able to complete all the reps of your last set of exercises without feeling like you are struggling the last two or three reps. You can complete the final set of exercises easily, so it is time to increase your weight. You can finish the set if you don’t manage to complete all reps. If this happens, it is time to reduce your weight.
Think about the muscles that you are working on during each exercise.
You can make every exercise more effective by thinking about the muscles that you are trying to engage instead of just doing the motion. It’s easy to lose focus on your workout and chat with your friends, or pay more attention to your instructor. We’ve found that if you concentrate on the muscle you’re involving, you can get a better outcome,” Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., exercise physiologist, and ACE-certified personal coach, shared with SELF. To make sure that you are using good form, and your glutes doing the job, when you do a squat, think about how your glutes are supporting you through each rep. This will ensure that you are not letting other muscles take over.
Keep track of your workouts by recording the details.
Trainer Adam Rosante, C.S.C.S., said that tracking your workouts is a great method to ensure you are always pushing yourself. SELF was told by Adam Rosante, C.S.C.S. Rosante suggests that you keep a notebook or an app so you can track how many reps you did for each move and the weight you used. The next week, you will repeat the same exercise, but with a different set of elements, such as reps, weight, sets, or other variables. You’ll also be able to see your progress over time and how you have improved.
Give interval training high-intensity a shot.
High-intensity interval exercise, also known as HIIT, is a short burst of intense work followed by periods for recovery. They don’t call this high intensity training for nothing. You should give it all whether you’re doing sprints on the treadmill or nonstop burpees.
HIIT is incredibly efficient. That’s the main draw of HIIT. You can do a lot in a very short time because you are putting in so much work during the hard intervals and keeping your heart rate high during rest. This will improve your aerobic fitness, and if you include strength exercises in your HIIT sessions, your muscle strength, and/or endurance.
If you are looking to lose fat, HIIT may be a good option. You’ll burn calories while working out. This is called EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen intake). Although the impact isn’t significant, it can have a huge effect on your overall calorie balance. It all depends on how intense and frequent your workouts are. A heart-rate monitor is a great investment if you are driven by data.
A heart-rate monitor, which measures how fast your heart beats, can help you gauge your intensity level. This will help you to make sure that you are not pushing yourself too hard every day. This is how you can determine your heart rate zones with data from a monitor. You can then use this data to improve your training efficiency. It’s important to note that a wrist-worn heart-rate monitor is less accurate than a chest strap.
New heart rate monitors can also monitor your resting heart rate throughout a day. This can provide insight into your body’s recovery from exercise. A significant drop or spike in your resting heart rate could indicate that there is something wrong. Find out more about what your resting heart rate can tell you about fitness.
You can follow a particular fitness program that is tailored to your needs.
A program designed for a particular goal is a good idea. A 6-week 5-K program designed for running 5K races will prepare your body more effectively than just running a few miles a week. Although this may seem obvious, it is important to understand why. Your body will adapt to the challenge by becoming stronger and fitter through consistent workouts over time. If you have a goal in mind, such as a faster time or heavier deadlift, this is what you want. You don’t have to change up your workouts too often. Your body will adapt. However, your workouts will still have many health benefits and improve your overall fitness.
Get your z’s.
For many reasons, sleep is crucial for your fitness game. “Exercise causes physical stress to the body. Muscles become stronger after a workout when the body repairs the damage,” Pete McCall (M.S.C.S.S.), host of All About Fitness podcast explained to SELF. It’s easier to complete a workout the next morning if your body is properly recovering. You also risk injury if you aren’t getting enough sleep.
These are some ways to get better sleep. You may feel that you are getting enough sleep, but you are still tired all of the time. This could be a sign you have a medical condition.
Active recovery days are important.
It’s the time spent outside of the gym that makes the difference when it comes to building muscle. Your muscle fibers are damaged by micro-tears when you exercise. Your body repairs those muscle fibers and makes them stronger after a workout. You need days off to rest, repair, and recover. Without them, your body will not be able to make muscle mass and you may overtrain if you do work out often. Good sleep and active recovery days are key. However, we are not suggesting that you stay on your couch all day. Active recovery days are when you can go for a walk or do gentle stretching. You may also want to take up restorative yoga.