Turning up to the gym is one thing, actually knowing how to get the best results is another. To optimize your workout and make the most of it, make sure you’re hitting these 5 key requirements.
1. Know your game plan
It’s best to know what you’re doing at the gym before you get there. This way, you eliminate all the wondering and walking around trying to decide what to do next. “A clear plan is your secret weapon—knowing what you’re doing and why is half the battle,” says Jared Kaplan, founder of Studio 26 to SELF.
A personal trainer or coach can program your training for you depending on your goals. If you don’t have a trainer, then there are programs online that you can choose and adjust according to your needs. You can split your training days according to muscle group (legs/upper body/core) or even by movement (push/pull/legs). By knowing what works best for you before you head to the gym that day, you can spend more time actually training and less time wondering what to train!
2. Time your rest breaks
When training, especially with HIIT and lifting weights, rest breaks are paramount. However, this is where people tend to spend a little too much time resting and having a “quick” scroll through their Instagram feed or chat with their gym buddy. In fact, Scott Lucett, director of education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine told WebMD, “I see a lot of individuals talking with each other in the gym…Next thing they know, an hour has passed and the amount of time they have actually spent exercising is relatively low.” By timing your rest breaks, you can ensure that you stay on track with your workout.
How long you should rest for depends on your goal. For fat burning, HIIT workouts, shorter breaks are beneficial. Try to aim for 30-60 seconds. If you’re weight training, then anywhere between 60 seconds-3 minutes should suffice. Use a timer on your phone so no matter what you do during your rest break, you’ll know immediately when it’s time to pick up that barbell again or hit the ground with some burpees.
3. Focus on form, not numbers
Too many people compromise their form and technique to lift heavier weights or get better numbers. This is not only dangerous but it doesn’t give you the best results from your training. You may end up using other muscles for leverage and not activating the correct parts. Optimize your workout by lowering the weight, if needed, and focus on executing the movement with perfect form. Make sure you can do the exercise with great technique before adding more weight. You’ll be surprised by how much more efficient your training will be because then you’ll actually be using the muscle groups you’re supposed to be using.
You’ll also risk injury, which can make you regress. “If you get injured, you can’t work out,” Lucett also explained to WebMD. “And, if you can’t work out, you won’t be burning calories in the gym.”
4. Eat well-balanced meals
A huge part of optimizing your workout is making sure that you’re preparing your body for it even out of the gym. This means meeting your nutrition needs and hitting the all-important macronutrients and micronutrients. By eating well-balanced meals throughout the day, you know that you’re refuelling your body with what it needs to recover.
Each macronutrient plays an important role in maximizing results from the gym. Protein can support muscle growth, carbohydrates give you the energy you need for training while fat keeps you fuller for longer and helps absorb nutrients. Don’t neglect your micronutrients as well. They provide minerals and vitamins that improve your overall health and energy production.
If you’re struggling with the nutrition side of things, then there are plenty of great meal plan services, like Catered Fit, available. The meals are delicious and you can choose a meal plan that caters to your goals and dietary requirements as well. They do all the hard work in the kitchen so you can put in the hard work at the gym!
5. Get your beauty sleep
Just as you need to make sure your nutritional needs are fulfilled, you also need your beauty sleep! This is where the magic happens and your body recovers and repairs itself. Without adequate rest and recovery time, you may find that you’ll be feeling a bit too sore and tired for your workout the next day. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night can really amp up your workouts because you’ll be both physically and mentally ready for them.
“Snoozing well the night after you exercise makes your muscles and tissues stronger and more resistant to fatigue and injury,” says Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., a clinical sleep psychologist and a member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board to Shape. So make sure you get your beauty sleep!
By looking after yourself out of the gym (as well as in it) and implementing these 5 proven ways to optimize your workout, you can be sure that you’re getting the best results from your training. Try it out and see for yourself!
A powerlifter by day and a writer by night, Emily Trinh has a passion for all things health, fitness and writing—which makes her profession as a health and fitness writer quite fitting.