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5 Ways to Improve Your Training Today!

With a plethora of information available to us thanks to the internet, it’s hard to separate the good from the bad when it comes to training. YouTube stars promise us “ripped abs in 30 days” and thousands of bloggers try to give us that golden nugget of information to improve our training and help us smash through our plateaus to reach our goals. The truth is, there is no uniform secret formula that will give us the physique we desire. However, there are a few simple changes you can make today to improve your training. These aren’t drastic alterations in how you train, rather small adjustments you can make that over time will allow you to maximise every minute you spend in the gym, making every rep count. This leads us nicely to the first of our 5 Ways to Improve Your Training!

#1 Stop counting your reps, start counting your rest

[caption id="attachment_3367" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Rest appropriately as per your physique goals Rest appropriately as per your physique goals[/caption] How familiar are we all with counting our reps? It’s the backbone of most of our workouts, whether it’s 4 sets of 10, 5 sets of 5 or 10 sets of 20… we count our reps and then “guesstimate” how long we should be resting for. So by now you should know how many reps you need to do for strength, power, growth or endurance – that’s probably ingrained upon your psyche thanks to the big guy at the gym who helped you out when you started. But how many of us know how long we should rest? The best way to put it without going into too much detail is this:
  • To build strength, lift heavy and rest long (2-4 mins)
  • To build size, lift heavy and rest less (60-90 secs)
  • To build endurance, lift lighter and rest little (30-45 secs)

#2 Make that mind-muscle connection

You might hear the term “mind-muscle connection” being thrown around a lot in fitness and bodybuilding circles, and rightly so. We all know how focused sportsmen are on their craft, whether its Andy Murray’s pinpoint focus on the ball in his serve, or an Olympic Weightlifter’s steely eyed determination to hold a weight steady. It shouldn’t be any different for lifting weights. I’m not going to go and recommend you close your eyes for your whole workout and think about the muscle in some sort of trance for an hour while you bench press, but next time you’re lying flat on that bench, instead of thinking about the weight, think about your chest. Think about the muscle stretching as you bring the bar down, and contracting as you press it up. I bet even reading this you’re imagining that would help you “feel the burn”. Personally, it’s vital for a back workout especially, because you can’t see your lats contract as you pull a bar down, or your lower back tighten and flex as you dead lift. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised!

#3 Cycle carbs

[caption id="attachment_3368" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Oats are a great clean carb source Oats are a great clean carb source[/caption] This one could be taken as very much goal-dependent, but if your mind-set gets on board with what your body is going through, cycling carbs can not only improve your physique, it can drastically improve your workouts. For argument’s sake, let’s just say we’re aiming to lose weight. If you’re not familiar with carb cycling, it’s a tool used by many bodybuilders to keep their metabolism burning like a steam engine whilst being able to maintain, and even gain some muscle mass. You take a number of low carb days, then have what is called a “re-feed”. You’re wondering how this will improve your training? Going back to no.2, if your mind is focused on what your body is doing, you’ll be able to train far more efficiently. On your low carb days, your glycogen stores will be depleted, you might feel “flat” and tired, but if you tell your body that you’re working toward a glorious high carb day, it will give you the drive to push through. Then comes the reward. Train a big muscle group on high carb day – legs, chest, or back. You’ll see veins you’ve never seen before, you’ll have the energy of a hyperactive toddler and you’ll max out your lifts. Oats are a fantastic clean carb to load up on when high carb day comes around!

#4 Commit to a plan

Again we’re mentioning the sheer volume of information available to us here, because it’s probably the biggest reason we jump from workout plan to workout plan and diet to diet! We get a few weeks into our plans, then a new one pops up online and we think “wow, this is the change-up I need”! This attitude will breed inconsistency and will ultimately cause you to either go up and down in weight, or plateau at a level your body can comfortably function at. So today, why not find a plan that is attractive, and commit to doing it for 12 weeks. Or if you’ve been doing one for a few weeks, stick at it for a full 12! The same goes with your diet – instead of doing really well for 2 weeks then having a huge blowout and struggling to get back on the horse, keep it simple and commit to perhaps cutting something from your diet for 4 weeks. Maybe that’ll be sugary snacks, fizzy drinks… you’ll know the stuff that isn’t great for you.

#5 Make it fun!

We can get so bogged down in ourselves because we’re perhaps not reaching our goals as quickly as we would like. We start going to the gym because we need to lose the weight, or have to gain strength. Flip that around; go in with a positive outlook! Instead of focusing on the fact you can’t seem to lose that last 5lbs, see the weight loss as a positive by-product of the training which you enjoy. Mind-set and attitude are two incredibly powerful tools when it comes to seeing results from your training. Do it to enjoy it, and the results will come, and they’ll be all the more satisfying because you’ll be controlling your goals rather than the other way around!
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