Tips For a More Effective Workout

The majority of people I see at the gym are doing ineffective workouts with all the wrong exercises, and consequently, not getting results. One thing I see so many people in the gym doing wrong is only working certain muscles while neglecting others. For women, it's usually tricep kickbacks and the inner/outer thigh machine that they focus on, and for men, it's usually abdominal machines and chest exercises.

Most women's workouts I see at a typical gym consist of cardio, the inner/outer thigh machine, a few ab exercises, and then maybe some bicep curls and tricep kickbacks. Very rarely do I see women doing pushups(one of the best exercises you can do!), and almost never do I see women squatting with any significant amount of weight, and definitely NOT with a barbell on their back. 
Don't be scared to squat!

Even though most of us know that you can't spot reduce and that lifting heavy weights won't cause women to get all huge and bulky, I think that most of the general population still believe those myths. Based on what I see on a daily basis at the gym, people still believe that crunches and ab machines burn fat from their waistlines and that light weights will "tone and sculpt" your arms.
Don't waist your time trying to "spot reduce"!

Rather than focusing only on trouble areas like the midsection or inner/outer thighs, a good exercise routine will work every muscle in your body with a focus on compound, multi-joint exercises. Why? Because not only will  you be working those trouble areas, but you will also be involving other muscles as well. This will allow you to lift heavier, hit more muscle groups in one movement(more bang for your buck!) and burn more calories. 

Here are a few tips for a more effective workout:
*Always warm up! You would think this shouldn't even have to be mentioned, but so many people skip this part of the workout, and I am even guilty of doing so in the past! It is SO important to get the muscles warmed up and to make sure to do some dynamic stretching and mobility exercises before you jump right in to your workout.
*Focus on the basic, compound exercises first(these are exercises that involve multiple joints and muscles). For example, pushups are better than tricep kickbacks, pullups are better than bicep curls, and squats are better than the inner/outer thigh machine.
*Make sure to pick an exercise for every muscle group. This would include one exercise each for: back, chest, shoulders, legs, and core. With those exercises, you will also be working your biceps and triceps as well.
*Start with the biggest muscle groups first(legs, back, chest) and work your way to the smaller muscles(shoulders, arms, calves).
*Use mostly free weights(dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells). Machines have their place, but free weights allow for a more natural movement, are more functional , meaning they translate better to real life activities, and they require you to use more stabilizer muscles.
*Use a weight that is challenging, meaning that the last few reps should be hard to squeeze out, without losing form or control. Aim for 8-12 reps. If you can't get 8, it's too heavy, but if you can do more than 12, it's too light.
*Decide how you are going to set up your workout. There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite is to "superset" exercises. This just means going back and forth between two exercises that work non-opposing muscle groups(such as chest and back, or upper body with lower body). If you don't have a lot of time to spend in the gym, this is the way to go, as you are able to get more work done is less time this way. You can also choose 3-4 exercises to do in a circuit, with no rest until after the last exercise.
*Go in with a plan of what exercises you are going to do, and I would even suggest to keep a training log to track your weights and reps from week to week. This will ensure that you are progressing as you get stronger, not just using the same weights and reps over and over again.
*If you absolutely feel the need to isolate your biceps and triceps, do those exercises only after you have worked your bigger muscle groups with the compound lifts. So after you have done your presses and rows, then you can do a few sets of bicep curls and tricep pushdowns if you have the time.
*Finish your workout with some core work, such as plank holds and woodchops, but don't waste your time doing hundreds of crunches or using abdominal machines.
*Of course, everyone wants to make cardio the priority of their exercise plan because most people have fat loss as their goal, but I would challenge you to make weight training your priority(along with good nutrition) and cardio secondary, no matter what your goals are.  If you have time, do 15-20 minutes of the cardio of your choosing after your weight training workout, or on off days, or just go for a walk a few times a week!

If you're not getting results with your current workout routine it may be time to challenge yourself a little more and venture out of your comfort zone! Don't be afraid to lift a little heavier or to try something you've never done before!


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