You’ve been here before. You walk into the gym, the smell of sweat mixed with cleaning agents fills the air. A general mixture of gym veterans and newcomers are spread out amongst the machines and equipment. Your routine is the same. You go in, sit down at some of the machines, pump out a few reps, take a break, and walk around. Often our workouts in the gym can become mundane, routine, and honestly, ineffective. In this article, I’m going to break down the process of working out, what it does to our body, and how to get more out of your workouts.
What working out does to the body
The act of weight lifting puts strain and tension on our muscle fibers. The goal is to actually cause tiny tears in our muscles. During our rest period, new muscle fibers build themselves over the torn fibers, similar to how a scab functions.
As these new muscle fibers get built over the old, our muscles grow larger and stronger. So if we are not effectively putting our muscles under enough strain to actually tear the fibers, we are robbing ourselves of a good workout.
Focus on form, not weight
There are many ways to get more out of your gym experience when it comes to lifting, so let’s start with the basics.
First off, get rid of the “go big or go home” mentality. In fact, think the complete opposite! All too often in the gym, I see people lifting weights that are too heavy and, as a result, their form is suffering. This significantly impacts their gains.
Let’s take a bicep curl as an example. You pick up a couple dumbbells and start curling them, pumping your arms back and forth. As you near the end of your set, you start to get tired, you start to move your body more, By your last few reps, your whole back is arching with a rocking motion as you struggle to pump those dumbbells up.
Several things are happening here. First, by incorporating your back and full body into the workout, you’re not effectively working out the muscle that was intended, the biceps. Second, you’re risking injury.
Form is the most important aspect to lifting weights, it can make the difference between gains and injury. If you want to start improving your gym game, start focusing on form.
Drop down the amount of weight you are lifting, and make sure that the movement you are doing is isolated to the muscle group you are working out. In other words, don’t put your whole body into a movement. If you are doing a bicep curl, make sure only your arms are moving. Use all those mirrors to monitor yourself.
Take it nice and slow
The second biggest thing you can do to improve your workouts is slowing down. If there is one thing I consistently talk about, it’s this.
Have you ever been trying to hit a certain number of reps and are unsure if you are going to make it? As a result, you start speeding up your reps to hit your number. Once again this is robbing you of a full workout. In fact, you want your exercises to be painfully slow.
Going back to our bicep curl example, you want a nice smooth and slow lift. But it doesn’t end with the lifting motion. When lowering back to the starting position, go even slower, count to three as you gently and slowly return the weights to that starting position.
You will find when you start doing this, you won’t be able to hit a certain amount of reps, that’s okay, and this isn’t a rep counting competition. Ten reps with solid form at a slow speed is far more beneficial than 50 fast and sloppy reps.
Prepare to get more out of your workout!
Slow down and focus on your form. If you begin to implement these habits you will find yourself getting stronger over time as you properly develop the muscles you are targeting.
Again, working out is not a race or competition. After all, the gym is a place to go and better ourselves, to become stronger, leaner, and more fit. Focus on you, not what is going on around you. Be intentional with every single repetition, because yes, each one does matter. You got this!
Author bio: Bryan Parady is a certified personal trainer, developer of the Bones to Bulk program, and host of the Bones to Bulk podcast and blog. His focus is to help those struggling with their self-image, to help them achieve their fitness goals. But while gaining lean muscle is the backbone of what he teaches, so is staying healthy on a physical, internal, and mental level. He truly believes those three things are the triad to succeed in any fitness goal.