We all go to the gym for one, ultimate reason: to get results.
But if you’re a gym newbie, or even a long-term lifter stuck in a rut, ensuring you get the most out of each session to achieve your desired results can be problematic.
Maybe you walk into the gym and are overcome with confusion, anxiety – or maybe your workouts are stagnating and uninspiring.
You’ve fallen into the ‘clock in, clock out’ mentality.
Whatever the case, the following eight workout tips are easy to achieve that and will ensure you get your gym journey off to the best possible start – or back on track.
It’s now harder than ever to squeeze in just one solitary hour during the day that we can dedicate to the gym. So, when we do, it’s vital we get maximal returns. If you adopt even a few of the tips below, I’m certain you’ll be walking into the gym more confident than ever and walking out 100% satisfied.
Let’s do this.
Workout tip #1: Train early in the morning
What’s the best thing about getting to the gym before the crack of dawn? Most people are still in bed sleeping.
How does that benefit you?
Well, for starters, it means you won’t have to awkwardly hang about the piece of equipment you want to use, waiting to pounce as soon as it’s free.
When you hit the gym at 6am, you’ll near enough have the place to yourself. It’s dreamy.
There’s no asking to share sets or hover about waiting for the bench press. You simply rock up to your chosen space, sleepy, probably smelling of bed, and crack on with telling those dumbbells the way you really feel about 6am starts.
When you work-out, you want to be in the ‘zone’ – and training at the break of dawn will allow you to do just that. There’s no group chat shenanigans from your friends or emails from the boss trying to grab your attention (they’re still in bed, of course).
You can get your head down and focus on the workout, distraction-free (if you can’t manage to train in the morning, then make sure to switch your phone onto airplane mode when you work-out, to get the same effect).
The benefits of training early continue after your workout as well.
Exercise releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone) into the body and, when you get these rushing through your system, it will help boost your mood and reduce anxiety, both of which will help towards a positive and productive day ahead.
Workout tip #2: Read/study what you are going to train
No matter how many years of training you have under your weight-lifting belt, there will always be something new to learn or a little trick to pick up.
Reading, studying or even watching a workout video about the muscle group/s you’re about to train can be a great way to get your mind focused for your upcoming workouts. It’s also a great way to remind yourself of little training cues and techniques that can make all the difference to your training and results.
After all, knowledge is power, so gather all the knowledge you can and then put it into practice.
Workout tip #3: Plan your workout
I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “fail to plan, plan to fail,” and it holds true for your workouts as well.
If you walk into the gym without a plan, it can be easy to stick to ‘comfort zone exercises’, doing what you find easy rather than what will be most beneficial to your goals.
If, however, you pre-plan a workout that includes your sets, reps and exercises to be executed, then you’ll find your sessions are much more productive. You’ll have a clear plan of action, defined goals to hit and you’ll no longer be twiddling your thumbs between exercises, contemplating what to do next.
Just like any other muscle, your brain fatigues the more it’s used. It’s why we’re more likely to make bad food choices in the evening, after a long day at work, and why the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama reduce their decision making needs by wearing very similar – if not identical – clothes every day.
I’m not saying you should chuck out your wardrobe.
But eliminate the decision-making process, write down your workouts and let yourself get fully-focused on your technique and form.
Workout tip #4: Have a personal gym playlist
This is one I’m sure the majority of people already do, but do you know why music appears to make you feel stronger, fitter and less tired when it’s blasting through your headphones?
Research by sport scientists found that listening to your favourite tunes can reduce the rate of perceived effort by 12%, improve endurance by 15% and can even help you gain greater pleasure from exercise.
Further research also found that working out in tempo with your music can increase your levels of work output during repetitive tasks.
In fact, music can have such a positive impact on performance that, in 2007, The American Track & Field USA, the national governing body for distance racing, banned the use of headphones and portable audio players at its official races, in order to prevent runners gaining a competitive edge.
Workout tip #5: Have a gym partner
Let’s face it, we don’t always feel motivated to get to the gym, but when you know you’ve got someone relying on you to turn up, it becomes much more difficult to skip your workout.
Gym partners are great for accountability, but it’s not the only benefit of a lifting buddy.
Having someone to spot and encourage you through a set can help you push harder and lift a little heavier than you would have otherwise on your own.
If possible, try and have a training partner that is just that little bit stronger and more experienced than you. This will keep you pushing to get better and means you’ll learn as you lift.
Workout tip #6: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate…
Making sure you’re well hydrated isn’t just for the hour you spend in the gym. To get the most out of your workouts, you’ll want to make sure you’re well hydrated before, during and after training.
If you go into a workout dehydrated then your core temperature will rise quicker and your heart will have to pump harder than usual, which can decrease performance and lead to heat stroke.
And no-one wants that at 6am in the morning.
Drinking during your workout is vital to replace the fluids lost through sweat and breathing, which can be up to as much as two litres per hour. Not replacing these fluids will lead to a significant drop in energy and could lead to cramps.
Once you’re done, keep that water bottle close-by. Drinking after your workout will help your body cool down and transport vital nutrients to your muscles to help them start to repair and grow.
Workout tip #7: Train on an empty stomach
If you follow tip number one, then this hack will be easy to implement – it’s just a case of get up and go.
If, however, you need to train later on on the day then make sure you don’t have any food digesting in your stomach. For large meals, leave 3-4 hours before walking onto the gym floor and for small meals, leave 1-3 hours.
If food is still being digested in your stomach when training, then your body is going to try and divide your blood supply between your organs and your extremities.
When your body is trying to digest food, whilst at the same time, rushing blood into your muscles, it’s only going to cause your performance to suffer and leave you feeling groggy at best.
Now you know the reason your mum always warned you not to swim on a full stomach.
Just note that training on an empty stomach won’t do any wonders for additional fat burning. That’s still (and always will be) down to a calorie deficit, but that’s for an entirely different article altogether.
Workout tip #8: Have an ice cold shower
There’s no two ways about it, submerging yourself in a shower of freezing cold water sucks (unless you’re Wim Hof), but that is exactly why you should do it.
Putting yourself through controlled difficult situations is a great way to strengthen your mental resilience and willpower.
It means, when you get to that set of heavy squats, you’ll be better equipped mentally to deal with the discomfort and keep pushing for those few extra reps that make all the difference.
It may be a tough habit to commit to and uncomfortable to endure, but those few minutes under the icy cold water, will supercharge your mind and workouts like nothing else.
Implement these now, perfect them later
These tips are all habits that I have included in my own routine, some of which I’ve been doing for years and others just over the last few months. Nonetheless, I’ve found them all to have a positive impact on my training and/or mindset.
You may want to try all the above tips above or maybe just pick out a few that you think will have the biggest impact on your training right from the off. It all comes down to a little trial and error to see what works best for you.
Do you already use some of the above tips in your own routine?
Let me know and share your experiences on how they’ve helped your gym performance and boost your mental fortitude.
See you on the floor.