Sometimes, simply giving it everything you’ve got during a workout won’t get you the results you want—you’ll have to create a strategy like an elite athlete to earn your gains. Here are some small ways to give your workout a big boost and ensure you get the most out of each and every set and rep you perform.
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Work out before your workout
In the case of weight lifting and other anaerobic exercise regimens, pre-fatiguing your muscles can help you get your body into muscle-building mode more quickly, boosting results. First, prime your muscles by performing a set of body weight exercises or easy lifts that incorporate multiple muscle groups (including the one you’ll later fire up) at the same time. Then, launch into lifts targeting your muscle choice—the results are especially apparent when you follow up the lighter pre-exhaustion sets with an isolation exercise, such as bicep curls or bench press.
Pick it up at the end
For endurance-based workouts, follow a similar methodology but keep in mind that your goal is to exercise your heart and lungs as long as possible. To keep up your endurance, you’ll have to manage the stores of glycogen in your muscles. When you’re on a slow, long-distance run or swim, start things off extra easy so your body’s burning primarily oxygen for the first half of your workout. For the next 40 per cent, you should pick up your speed by still be hovering just under your target pace. For the last 10 per cent, however, you should let it rip at a lung-burning pace. This final sprint will burn through your glycogen stores, ideally leaving with an empty tank at the finish line, real or imagined.
Squeeze the most out of each rep
As you may have noticed by now, most of your results come from the last 10 per cent of your workout. Likewise, the most muscle-building effort comes from the last few moments of each rep. If you’re lifting weights, start paying attention to your follow through and slow things down. At the point of the repetition that you’re bearing the most weight, hold and squeeze your muscle for roughly three seconds to encourage the fibres of your muscles to tear on the microscopic level, priming them for massive gains down the line. This one move improves results dramatically, and can be applied to most exercises.
… and then give it a little bit more
Within reason, you should always aim to do a little more than your energy levels—but not your body—dictate. On your last set of a certain weight lifting exercise, you should continue safely and carefully until you reach temporary muscle failure to cap things off. This feeling of numbness is no cause for alarm; it simply indicates your muscle has been completely exhausted and is ready to regrow stronger than before.
Break down mental barriers
Things like the risk of injury or treading into unfamiliar territory can create a mental roadblock that can hold you back from giving a workout your all. If you’re worried about hurting yourself, dedicate yourself to a injury-reducing stretch regimen and see a specialist regularly. If you’re stepping onto a court of hostile fans, scope out the arena ahead of time. For everything else, visualizing anything from emerging victorious on game day to how you’ll feel having achieved your goal body during a meditation session can create very real results.