Falling short of your goals? Suffering from frequent injuries? Tired of the same old exercises day in and day out? Make the most of your efforts in the gym by applying these seven tweaks to your workouts to stay on track towards your fitness goals and injury-free gains!
1. Focus on form
Leave your worries and stresses at the door and put all of your focus into your workout. Putting emphasis and focusing on good form will decrease your risk of injury and increase your chance of progression. If you can make a mind to muscle connection, place your focus on the movement you’re doing and the muscle you are working simultaneously – your technique should improve as well. Doing anything repetitively becomes a habit, so the more repetitions you complete with good form and good technique, the more likely you are to continue doing so in the long run.
2. Use a variety of grips/stances
Change up your grip and stance from time to time. Every exercise can be performed with at least one variation that differs from the traditional technique. For example, if you typically perform your bent over rows with a close, overhand grip – try performing the exercise with an underhand or mixed grip to change things up and attack the muscle groups differently. For lower body exercises, if you typically squat or leg press with a hip-width stance, try going a little wider and see how this changes the feel of the movement. Types of grips include supinated, pronated, close, wide, hammer, neutral, and mixed. Types of stances include: wide, close, split/staggered, hip-width, toes pointed in, and toes pointed out. Using a variety of grips and stances will help to prevent plateauing and also help you to find ways that may feel more comfortable and/or challenging!
3. Pause and squeeze
Often times we got caught up with just completing reps and not considering tempo or focusing on the contractions. To get the most out of the work being put in, fewer reps with good form and a solid paused contraction (squeeze) will reap more benefits than simply forcing a lot of reps quickly with bad form.
4. Consider all variables for progression
If you always equate progress with going heavier, this tweak will be a game changer for you. There are many variables to consider when you are ready to progress your programming. Exercise type, number of sets, number of repetitions, weight, tempo, and rest period are all variables that can be modified to prevent plateauing and keep your body guessing. You can change one or multiple variables at once to progressive movements and workouts overall.
5. Perfect your breathing
Proper breathing takes practice. No matter what exercise you are doing, you should always exhale during the exertion or effort portion of the movement and inhale during the lowering and/or return to the starting position. For example, when squatting, one should inhale on the descent into the bottom of their squat and exhale as they return back to the upright position. During a pull-up, one should take a deep breath in and exhale as they pull the body up, inhaling as they return to the hanging position.
6. Perform movements through the full range of motion (ROM)
While pulses and half reps have their place in a training regimen, repetitions performed through the full range of motion will provide you with the greatest benefits and give you the most results for your work. Think about it in this way, if you’re doing half of the movement (half of the full range of motion) then it’ll technically take you twice as long to reap the benefits of the exercise as it would if you simply did it right the first time! Don’t let your ego get the best of you – it’s more important to perform the movement safely, correctly, and fully than to use weights that are too heavy that allow you to do it partially.
7. Listen to your body
Acknowledge pain, prioritize recovery, and push yourself when you can. Change happens when we place challenging demands on the body and take care of it. Train hard and train smart!
Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash