How to Increase Your Workout Benefits
Any exercise program is going to relieve stress and have auxiliary benefits for our health, but unless we train for our specific goals, we will find our progress stalling and the excitement of the chase dying.
Therefore, determining your goal is Step 1. It doesn’t mean you can’t change it later, or that goals can’t be combined to some extent. However, you need a focus to get started.
What is your Fitness Goal?
For simplicity's sake, let's break down common fitness goals into five categories:
- Increase Muscle Mass
- Increase cardiovascular endurance
- Increase muscular endurance
- Increase strength
- Create a deeper mind-body connection
Your personal goals may incorporate more than 1 of these goals, which is fine. Based on your goal, prioritize those that apply and utilize the techniques for that goal.
Better Muscle-Building Workouts
No matter what the latest muscle-building program claims, the basics behind building muscle remain the same.
Work your muscles to failure
- Use compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, Turkish get-up, pullups, dips etc.)
- Eat a lot of healthy food
- Get even more rest
If you are already doing all of this and your progress is stalled, try one of these techniques to bust through your plateau:
- Change your routine. The body adapts to the same routine very quickly. Changes can be subtle; increasing weight, to extreme; using completely different exercises.
- Do supersets/giant sets/complexes. Supersets are two exercises done back-to-back with no rest. Bench press followed by bent over rows, or pull-ups followed by pushups, for example.
Giant sets are more than two exercises (typically) done for one muscle group. An example would be Pull-ups/Bent-over rows/Deadlifts one after the other.
Complexes are several exercises strung together with a single pair of dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells (or any free weight for that matter.)
Complexes cause a huge metabolic reaction in the body, and even though no single exercise causes the muscles to fail, they will exhaust all muscles used by the end of the complex set.
Coach Istvan Javorek is famous for several complexes using up to 6 compound exercises in a row, a challenging feat for anyone.
- Do Negatives. Lowering the weight on the eccentric (downward) portion of the lift over 3-5 seconds for several reps causes additional damage to the muscle tissues, and therefore can elicit a big anabolic response. In other words, it’s a muscle builder.
***Keep in mind that negatives, intervals, giant sets and supersets should only be used once or twice a week maximum!
Increase Strength Workout Benefits
Strength is an interesting thing. Champion powerlifters have discovered that the best way to train for it is to combine hypertrophy (muscle-building,) power (fast reps w/lighter weight,) and maximum effort training techniques for the best results.
To get more out of your strength workouts, make sure to:
- Schedule weekly maximum effort days, working from sets of 3 down to 1 repetition maximum sets.
- Dedicated certain days to power and hypertrophy
- Do cardio. Daily 30 minute cardio sessions keep the heart strong and able to endure through tough strength workouts.
- Schedule recovery days. At least one (preferably more) day should be dedicated to increasing mobility and flexibiity, and massaging sore muscles by whatever means is available.
Power is the rate at which a force is moved. Building strength and muscle allow you to push, pull or lift more weight, but focusing on moving that weight faster is the purpose of power training.
To increase your power, make sure you are including:
- Power band work (attaching power bands to power racks and barbell, etc.)
- Plyometrics (Jump squats, back squats with jumping, clapping pushups, etc.)
- Light, fast repetition sets. Use 45-60% of your 1 rep maximum. Execute a fast concentric and eccentric movement under control. Stop the set when speed slows down.
What you Get from your Workout Routine
Most of us don’t need to be convinced of the health benefits of exercise. There are constant reminders everywhere we look. But just as a quick refresher, let’s take a look at what we’re accomplishing when we exercise regularly.
Cardio workout benefits include:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Lowering high blood pressure
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Losing body fat
- Lower risk of diabetes and related diseases
- Increased endurance and lung capacity
- Increased blood volume
- Increase oxygen supply to tissues and organs
- Lowered workload for heart
- Just to name a few…
Benefits of weight training include:
- Building muscle
- Maintain or build strength
- Strengthen ligaments and tendons
- Increase range of motion
- Control cholesterol levels
- Better glucose tolerance and sensitivity to insulin
- Improve resting heart rate
- Improves functional movement, balance and coordination
- Builds stronger bones
Flexibility workouts like yoga and pilates also improve range of motion and mobility while promoting strength, balance, coordination and peace of mind.
Keep reading to find out how you can get more out of your workout time, whether you are pumping iron, in yoga class or riding your bike.
More Benefits from Endurance Workouts
Endurance can refer to muscular or cardiovascular endurance. While there is some overlap, generally they are trained separately.
Cardiovascular endurance is training for the heart, which requires extended periods of steady state exercise to affect its unique muscle fibers.
Muscular endurance can be trained through resistance exercise with shorter workouts of higher repetitions or longer time under tension.
We need muscular endurance for long bouts of steady state cardio, but we also need to train for intense short-term exercise bouts lasting 2-10 minutes. Again, while there is some overlap, one type of training does not satisfy both requirements completely.
Improve your muscular endurance workouts by:
- Doing complexes of higher repetitions with free weights
- Doing timed intervals combining bodyweight, free weight and running or jumping exercises
- Cycling in isometric holds for time
- Combining strength and endurance workouts
Improve cardiovascular endurance workouts by:
- Change your running shoes, get a better bike
- Incorporate core strength training. Your core is the only thing keeping you together! Don’t be afraid of deadlifts, pullups and other free weights as these are great core builders.
- Try suspension training. Suspension training is all about your core and is an excellent way to build strength and muscular endurance.
- Using Fartlek training (long cardio sessions punctuated by moderate to high intensity intervals)
Improving your Yoga Practice
It may sound redundant or cliché’, but the number one step you can take to improve your yoga practice is to focus on the breath. Be with your breathing and let everything else go; fear, anxiety, to-do lists, etc.
When there is nothing but the breathing and you are fully present in the movement you are doing, it is easier to tolerate or work through pain and fatigue, and ultimately to achieve a sense of peace.
Practice yogic breathing in your car, while you are waiting in line, on a walk or right before you lay down to sleep. The practice helps your practice and you daily life.
The Number One Way to Increase Workout Benefits
The number one way to get a better workout no matter what you do is to eat healthy and fuel for your activity. In most cases this will mean eating enough complex carbohydrates before the workout to keep your energy levels up.
However, it may mean changing some bad eating habits, bringing some extra fuel with you to consume during the workout or making sure you consume enough carbohydrates and proteins afterwards.
Most importantly, keep exercising for life, and keep it interesting!