I love to people-watch. And I love to people watch in the gym. Most of the time I’m looking out for new ideas, great exercise combinations or amazing leggings (during my rest periods, of course!)
But all too often, what I find myself watching is ineffective, unstructured exercise routines.
I remember when my exercise routine went like this:
Saturday morning, go to gym. Do 10-15 minutes on each cardio machine. Row, run, cycle.
Hate every second.
Then complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions on EVERY machine: leg press, leg extension, leg curl, the silly abductors / adductors machines, all the rowing exercises, shoulder exercises, chest and on and on and on.
Hate every second.
Mentally keep a list of how many machines, sets, reps and minutes are left until I could consider my job done.
AND THEN: I’d finish off with 10 minutes of stretching and ab crunches.
My session would take nearly 2 hours. (This was before children, of course!!)
And I’d be so fed up with it (and sore the next day) that I wouldn’t return until the next weekend perhaps. Only to repeat the process over again.
Needless to say. I made zero progress. And eventually stopped going all together.
Then I got enlightened, became a trainer and fell in love with the gym again. Read on to find out the key elements of a great workout plan!
Find the Right Level of Intensity
My workouts used to leave my physically and mentally exhausted. To the point that I never wanted to return.
An effective workout should fall into a tiny little sweet spot between too hard and too easy. It’s quite a hard balance to strike. Too easy is not the most effective but too hard can leaving you feeling like you don’t want to return for another week. And of course, that’s detrimental to your overall progress.
Determine the Right Duration
I see this all the time, and I did it myself. A training session goes on and on. There’s three big problems with this:
- It becomes an easy excuse to say “I don’t have the time” to fit in a training session.
- If your workout is 2 hours long, it’s unlikely that you’re working at the right level of intensity.
- When you’re working out your body releases hormones. We’ve heard of the happy hormones – endorphin which is released when you workout. But if you work out for too long you also start to release the stress hormone – cortisol. Too much cortisol is detrimental for fat burning and muscle building. We want to avoid that. So the key is to limit workout duration! More is not better in this case.
Your Workout Needs Specificity
The workout I described above was a complete mess. It was a clear case of just do everything because I didn’t know what I should be doing. Other than I wanted to get ‘toned’ of course. It lacked any clear objective. Was I training aerobically? Was I training for strength? Flexibility?
A workout should be structure around a specific objective: Like lose weight, complete a marathon, reduce back pain, and so on.
Cardio-vascular fitness, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, balance, core control: these are some of the components of a workout that you might want to include in a workout. But these components need to be complementary to your overall objective.
So if the overall objective is lose weight, then strength training is perhaps the best route to go down.
If your objective is to get rid of lower back pain, you might choose to work on flexibility and core control more.
If you’re running a marathon, you probably want to spend more of your time actually running!
Your Workout Needs Progression
I made no progress. And even if I did, I wouldn’t have known it because I didn’t log any of my workouts or any of my numbers. And I never changed the workout. So I didn’t progress. Besides I didn’t turn up frequently enough to make any progress!
A progressive workout is one that builds week on week or month on month. When you keep repeating the same workout, your body gets used to it and progress stops.
There’s lots of ways in which to progress a workout. The more obvious ones are to:
- Increase repetitions
- Increase sets
- Increase weights
But a really good workout would use some of these other methods too:
- Change the order in which you complete the exercises
- Reduce rest periods
- Change the equipment: machine, cable, dumbbell, barbell and so on
And finally progress the exercise itself that is make the exercise harder. So for example, a bodyweight squat would progress as follows:
- Dumbbell squat
- Goblet squat
- Deep squats
- Barbell squat
- 1 ¼ squat
Or you can build in split squats into it, introducing:
- Rear foot elevated split squat
- Front foot elevated split
- Single leg squat
And so on. As you see there’s SOOOOOO many options. (I <3 squats!)
So there you have it. Ask yourself whether your workout is letting you down.
- Is it at the right level of intensity?
- Is it the right duration?
- Is it specific and built around a goal?
- Is it progressive?
And finally, are you seeing results?
If you’ve answered NO to any of the above and you want to stop wasting time in the gym, then check out my online training programme which will commence soon. Totally individualised training plans to ensure you stop wasting time in your workouts and start seeing results!
Check it out here.