If your Herculean assault on the treadmill and weight rack haven’t yielded the promised results, these tips may make the difference.
1. Time Your Rest Periods
Still fiddling with Twitter between sets? You’re ruining your results. True, if you’re trying to get stronger then more rest is better, but sticking to the right work/rest ratio is crucial if you’re trying to add muscle or burn fat.
“Rest is one of the most criminally untracked variables when it comes to working out, despite the fact it’s as important as – if not more so than – your exercise selection, sets or reps,” says Andrew Tracey, Instagram sensation and creator of the Nomad Way (wayofthenomad.co.uk). “Not tracking rest periods is the difference between a killer workout that hits all of the right growth hormone-inducing, fat-burning buttons, and simply going through the motions.”
Fortunately, the fix is simple. “Get a timer app for your phone and keep two eyes firmly on it. If you’re aiming for muscle gain, keep rest periods under two minutes. For fat loss, try doing a set number of reps on the minute, every minute, to keep you honest.”
2. Learn The “Big” Lifts
If the first thing you do when you hit the gym is start curling, you could be using your time more efficiently. “Beginners waste time by focusing on isolation lifts when they need to learn and perform the primary lifts regularly,” says trainer Pieter Vodden.
“The deadlift, squat, bench press and military press should be your bread and butter before you add any frills – they’ll work every muscle and give you a huge hit of growth hormone and testosterone to build strength and help you grow.”
To start, squat and bench press on one day a week, and deadlift and military press on another. Do three sets of five of each, and up the weight each week. Easy.
3. Train For Function, Not Looks
Sure, you’d like to be the embodiment of physical perfection. But there’s going to come a point where having an Instagram account filled with abs shots plays a distant second fiddle to having functional knees and efficient posture.
“Your 30s are a great time to challenge all aspects of fitness, including mobility, flexibility, bodyweight strength and cardiovascular work – it’ll support your ability to maintain an overall level of health and fitness as you age, without the risk of injury or muscular imbalances,” says trainer James Crew (jamescrewfitness.com). His suggestion? Add the short routine below to your training once a week: do three rounds of 30 seconds on each exercise, followed by 30 seconds’ recovery.
TRX single-leg burpees (for plyometric ability) TRX inverted row (for upper-body strength) TRX curtsy lunges (for lower-body strength) TRX jackknife tucks (for core strength) TRX side fast side steps (for cardio)
4. Train Each Body Part Twice A Week
A six-day split is the most “traditional” style of bodybuilding – say, chest Monday, back and biceps Tuesday, legs Wednesday, arms Thursday, abs Friday, calves Saturday – and it’s also the style of plan you’ll often see huge bodybuilders talk about. But they use it (a) because they’re probably taking steroids so they can tolerate more work, and (b) because their muscles are used to such a high volume of training that they need a separate day for everything to get more results.
“Research shows that if you’re a natural lifter – ie you don’t take steroids and you want to make more gains – then you should be aiming to train each body part at least twice per week,” says trainer Scott Baptie. “If you’re in the gym four days a week, an upper/lower body split would work well – so instead of doing arms one day and chest the next, you’ll do both on Monday and Thursday, with legs on Tuesday and Friday.”
5. Warm Up Properly
Five minutes on the treadmill and a couple of arm swings aren’t cutting it. “Not warming up might seem like a way to save time, but it’s the fast-track to wrecked joints,” says strength coach Andy McKenzie. “Change your mindset and see it as the best time to work on things that are inhibiting movement, limiting you during your session.”
Add McKenzie’s eight-joint blast to every session, as part of your injury-free 2018. It should take less than five minutes.
6 ankle circles each side 12 seated heel-to-butt 6 squats 6 lunge-and-reach 6 hip circles 12 cat-and-camels 6 scapula push-ups 6 standing arm circles
6. Do Pull-ups
You’re probably cultivating a forward slump from sitting at your desk, and constant bench pressing will only make things worse. Doing pulling movements will balance out all the pushing, and the lat pull-down machine is a pale imitation of the real thing.
“The pull-up is an awesome full-body movement,” says trainer Tom Eastham. “If you can’t do a single rep, use eccentrics – jump up so that your head is over the bar, and lower slowly. Aim for ten seconds. Three or four single reps will see you right.” If you can already do a handful of pull-ups, add a few reps in between each sets of squats or presses you do.
7. Pay Attention To Mobility
Forget stretching – mobility is what you need to make sure you come out of the gym more agile and limber than you went in. “Most people will get to the gym, do some sort of static stretching and then get on a treadmill or bike for five minutes, if even that,” says Equinox trainer Martin Sutcliffe. “This’ll simply improve your static flexibility and increase blood flow to certain muscle groups rather than prepare your body for exercise.” Instead, do some dynamic leg swings and deep squats to warm up, and save the static stuff for afterwards.
8. Adopt Bodyweight Moves
It seems a shame to ignore your gym’s shiny, expensive kit when you’re forking out for your membership every month, but there’s a reason those guys doing decline press-ups on the benches at your local park usually look like they’ve been carved out of wood: it works.
“Bodyweight exercises such as press-ups and pull-ups use our bodies in the way they’re designed to move: in balance, as a unit,” says powerlifting coach Sally Moss. “They’re also safe. It’s easy to load up a resistance machine with too much weight, but bodyweight exercises are hard enough without any external load.” Finish a workout with three press-ups every 15 seconds for five minutes, for a total of 60. Too easy? Up it to five.
9. Move Beyond The Sit-Up To Work Your Core
Because “you end up using your hips to do sit-ups instead,” says personal trainer Jessica Wolny. “But also, flexing your spine dozens of times isn’t what your abs are designed to do.”
Work on the kind of movements your body has to do every day – keeping a stiff core, and working on rotation. “You can probably already do a plank,” says Wolny. “But superset it two moves done back-to-back, for those who don’t speak gym with a Pallof press – stand side-on to a cable machine, hold the cable, and press it out so that you feel it trying to twist you around. Hold for five seconds, then repeat on the other side.”
10. Try. Hard
Having the latest kit, training tools and scientific backing behind your workout is all very nice, but realistically, almost any training plan will get results if you attack it, and the best programme in the world will fail if you go at it half-arsed. No time to train? “If you do it properly, an all-out 500m row, which you can do in under two minutes, is one of the worst – ie most horrible but effective – things you can do in the gym,” says Gym Jones trainer Rob MacDonald.
“Here’s how to stop making excuses: don’t say you haven’t got the time, just admit that you don’t care enough.” Alternatively, make this the year that you get serious about your body, and go after it. Best of luck.
Written by Joel Snape for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.