BY: Lively Staff

September 30, 2015

7 Ways to a More Effective Workout

Girl stretchingAre you getting the most out of your workout?  Here are some signs that you might not be:

  • You are putting in hours upon hours at the gym, but your body isn’t changing.
  • You are constantly pulling a muscle, which keeps from working out for an extended period of time.
  • You find exercising mind-numbingly boring and feel a great sense of relief when it’s over.

There are ways to maximize your workout in order to become stronger, faster, to lose weight, to gain stamina, and to reduce risk of injury.  And here’s the kicker: you can probably accomplish all of these things in less time than your current routine demands.  Here are seven ways to make your workout more effective in less time:

1. Don’t Skip Your Warmup

Warmups of yore involved participating in a series of static stretches.  You counted slowly to make sure you held the stretch long enough, and then would move on to another muscle.  It was so boring that on many days you decided to just skip warming up all together.

Today’s warmups are dynamic, and they incorporate multiple muscle groups.  They get your heart moving, increase your body temperature, increase your blood flow, and prepare your muscles for the job they are about to perform.  Why shouldn’t you skip a warmup and jump right into your workout routine?  You can, of course, but you will put yourself at a greater risk for injury, and your workout will not less productive.  The warmup primes your body for hard work by maximizing muscle expenditure, increasing energy needed for endurance, and by sharpening your motor faculties.

Jumping jacks, jumping rope, swinging your arms, or a short yoga routine are all excellent ways to warm up.

2. Use Proper Form

If you’re not using the proper form while doing a push-up or a bench press, you might as well skip the exercise altogether.  When your form is correct, you actually receive the intended benefit of your workout.  Improper form is not only ineffective, but likely to cause injury.

The best way to ensure you are using the proper form when exercising is to have a trained professional guide you.  Sure, those little guides on the sides of the machines in the weight room are useful, but the best way to make sure your workout is most effective is to get a second set of eyes to check out your technique.

Lifting weights that are too heavy is the most common way to mess up your form and injure yourself.  Don’t do it!  Work your way up to heavier weights.

3. Fuel Up

Staying hydrated when working out is crucial.  The body is comprised of mostly water, and every cell in the body depends on it to function.  Water regulates temperature and heart rate, lubricates joints, and removes waste.  You dehydrate much faster when exercising, which is why its’s so important to always drink lots of water when working out.  The number one symptom of dehydration is fatigue, which will definitely have a negative impact on your quest to stay fit.

Food provides the fuel you need to exercise, and the right foods maximize the benefits of a good workout.  Carbohydrates provide fuel, while protein helps build and repair muscle.  High-glycemic carbohydrates are best before and after a workout.  Berries, bananas, low fat yogurt, energy bars, and whole grains are great examples of high-glycemic carbohydrates.

Protein can be found in nut and legumes, lean meats, eggs, and protein shakes.  Eating protein directly after a workout will aid in muscle recovery.

Supplements are a surefire way to make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need.  A vitamin deficiency can quash the expected results of your workout.  Calcium is important for strong bones; vitamin C helps the body absorb iron and supports connective tissue.  Collagen supplements can help increase elasticity and strength in your joints, helping you to keep injuries at bay.  They have the added benefit of making skin look beautiful.

4. Go High Intensity

What makes a workout high intensity?  If you achieve 75% of your maximum heart rate, you are performing at a high intensity.  High intensity workouts burn more calories, increase your metabolism, and get rid of fat faster than continuous aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity.  Studies also show that high intensity workouts stave off or can even help reverse chronic illnesses like heart diseases, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and diabetes.  Short, demanding workouts are more efficient, and they take a lot less time than your regular hour jaunt on the treadmill.  Since time is one of the greatest hindrances to exercising, there’s no reason why kicking your workout up to a higher intensity shouldn’t be considered.

High intensity exercise is not for beginners, who should increase intensity over time.  To get there, start out slow, rotating intense bursts of exercise with low intensity exercises.

5. Incorporate Compound Exercises

A compound exercise is any exercise that employs more than one major muscle group at once. For example, a leg curl works out just the hamstrings while a squat works out your hamstrings, glutes, back, and other secondary muscles.  If you plan carefully, implementing compound exercises is a great way to maximize your workout time.  (It’s imperative that you don’t accidentally train the same muscle multiple days in a row.  A carefully scheduled program should be devised before you add multiple compound exercises into your routine.)  Compound exercises imitate real-world activities, burn more calories, and utilize muscles that might otherwise be overlooked.

6. Be Accountable

Accountability affects motivation, which results in a more effective workout.  A lot of people have enough discipline to hold themselves accountable.  Tracking calories expended, distance traveled, time spent at the gym- all of these things are ways of holding yourself accountable.  There are a plethora of tools available to help you track your progress; from websites to those colorful tracking devices everyone is wearing like a fashion accessory, it’s never been easier to check your stats at the end of the day.  Tracking progress will compel you to work harder in order to reach your next goal, thereby making every workout more effective than the one before.

Some of us were not blessed with willpower, at least when it comes to exercise.  Getting up at the break of dawn to run or going to the gym is often fruitless if you’re left to your own devices, but if you have a friend who’s in it with you, you will be much more likely to follow through with your workout plans.  If your schedule doesn’t mesh with any of your friend’s, a personal trainer will keep you on track, even if you only meet with him or her once a month.  Remember, the least effective workout is the one that never happens.

7. Listen to Music

Some people arrive at the gym, realize they forgot their headphones, and head right back home, because working out without music is incomprehensible.  Music provides a great distraction, making time go by faster and those tough inclines seem more manageable.  But did you know that that the specific kind of music you listen to can actually make your workout more effective?

Researchers from Liverpool John Moore University studied how tempo affects athletic performance.  They asked a group of cyclists to pedal to the same song three different times.  During each trial, they increased or decreased the speed of the song by ten percent.  This was not a significant enough change to be noticed by the cyclists, but researchers noted that listening to faster music resulted in an increase in performance.  When the music slowed down, so did the cyclists.  Syncing music to your BPM actually increases endurance, making your workout more effective.

There you are.  Apply these seven tips, and your workout will become more efficient, your chance of injury will be greatly reduced, and you will capitalize on the benefits your workout can provide.  The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll notice real results.

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