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Ways to Make a Good Workout Better

Make a Good Workout Better

For most people, the first few months of working out can produce enormous physical changes. You see strength gains, fat loss and experience a life with more energy. But after a while, bad habits can sneak into your routine and start hurting your progress. Here are four common mistakes and how to take care of them.

You do a high intensity or circuit training program without the intensity. The reason high-intensity programs were developed is to help people save time by doing two things are once. You're building muscle from the weights and burning fat by keeping your heart rate elevated. That's why it's drives me crazy when I see people taking a minute or more between exercises to set things up or walk across a large gym. You can't let your heart rate drop to normal, or you're defeating the whole purpose.

Fix it by using weights or machines that are close together and already set up for you. Don't use equipment you have to share. Waiting for your turn can cause your body to cool down. If the gym layout doesn't have things designed for your convenience, concentrate on exercises that only need your bodyweight or dumbbells so there's no delay between sets.

You avoid lifting weights because you don't like being sore the next day. When muscles are sore one or two days after a workout it's called Delayed-Onset Muscles Soreness or DOMS. DOMS is the result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. Your body rushes immune cells in to repair the damage. The process of healing can make pain receptors in your body more sensitive. Since the levels of the immune cells reach their peak 24 to 48 hours after exercise, that's when you'll feel the pain the most.

Fix it by building up your muscular endurance. Rather than 6-10 reps of a heavy weight, try to complete at least 15 reps of something lighter. Don't increase the weight until you can successfully finish at least 20 reps. Continue working your body with an endurance program for at least 6-8 weeks before adding back the heavier muscle-building exercises.

You train only the muscles you can see. When you look in the mirror you notice arms, chest and stomach, so that's what you work in the gym. Unfortunately, that approach leads to muscular imbalances and injury. Your chest and back work together to support your body. Work just one body part and eventually the opposing one will become overwhelmed and fail.

Fix it by designing workouts that give equal time to opposing muscles or muscle groups. Every chest workout should be matched with a corresponding back program. Biceps and triceps, upper and lower or front and back. And while you're at it, don't forget about your shoulders and rotator cuff.

You use machines without adjusting anything. Modern exercise equipment comes loaded with ways to adjust the height, depth and angle so you get the most benefit from each station. When I see a 5'3" person use a machine with the same settings as someone 6'2", I cringe because I know one of them was using it wrong.

Fix it by reading the instructions attached to every machine and adjust everything accordingly. If you don't know how it should work, don't just watch the person before you. Ask the gym staff to instruct you or hire a trainer for a session to help you adjust things properly. Then write down the settings most appropriate for you.

While we've got your attention, here are a few more things you should already be doing.

  • Warm-up before every workout.
  • If you stretch, do it when you finish exercising not when you start.
  • Write down your weights, reps and sets for every exercise.
  • Concentrate on your workout, not socializing and interrupting other people.
  • Finally, please change your routine every few weeks. Nothing makes me sadder than watching someone that's quit seeing progress because they keep doing the same thing month after month.

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