Spending hours in the weight room without seeing results can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, there are several easy fixes you can implement to maximize your training. In the first article in this series, we covered the first 10 ways to have better workouts. Here we offer 10 more tips to help you redesign your workouts to maximize your gains.
Have a Plan
Find a program, create a program or at least plan what you are going to do on a given day. Pick the exercises ahead of time, then execute accordingly. Don’t just roam randomly around the weight room with no direction. Having a plan will make better use of your time and help you keep track of your progress.
Follow a Periodized Program
Whether you’re writing your own program or following one, make sure it has periodization built in. I recommend a linear (western) periodized program, because it has phases with distinct objectives that slowly build upon each other so you can peak at the right time. Check out this article for a periodized workout template.
Perform Explosive Exercises
If you’re an athlete, you need to be explosive. Perform Olympic lifts and plyometric exercises at the beginning of your workout to target your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Perform every rep with maximal effort and speed. I recommend 3-5 sets of 2-6 reps of explosive exercises.
Use Time Under Tension to Spark Muscle Growth
If your goal is to add muscle, time under tension (the time it takes to complete a rep) is crucial. The longer it is under tension, the more stress you place on your muscle, promoting strength gains. Follow this rep scheme to maximize your muscle growth.
- Concentric (upward phase): 1-2 seconds
- Isometric (top of rep): 1 second
- Eccentric (lowering phase): 3-4 seconds
Incorporate an Unloading Week
I hate to admit this, but unfortunately you cannot train hard 365 days a year. You will eventually fatigue, lose your strength and size gains, and increase your chance of sustaining an injury. To counter this, plan to have an unloading week every four to six weeks.
Don’t think of it as a week off from activity, but as a week of less intense workouts. During an unloading week, do a few short, low-intensity workouts, focusing on prehab exercises, foam rolling and cross training activity, like yoga, swimming or riding a bike.
Perform Single-Leg Exercises
Single-leg exercises fix muscular imbalances, improve balance and strengthen stabilizing muscles that help prevent knee injuries. Great single-leg exercises to start with are the Single-Leg Squat and Bulgarian Split-Squat.
Wear a Watch
Recovery time between sets is one of the most overlooked aspects of training. Wearing a watch helps keep you focused between sets and ensures that you rest for the proper amount of time to reach your desired goal.
- Muscular Endurance: 30-45 seconds
- Muscle Growth: 60-120 seconds
- Strength: 2-4 minutes
- Power: 2-5 minutes
When I was in college, I had to take yoga to graduate. At the time, I dreaded it because it looked easy and boring. After a few weeks, my opinion completely changed. I became more flexible, balanced and stronger from head to toe. I had hit a plateau in my Squat, and yoga helped me blast through it. If you want to move and feel better, increase your core strength and lift more weight, give yoga a try. Check out STACK’s Yoga for Athletes 101 to get started.
Use Filler Exercises Between Sets
You don’t have all day to train, and filler exercises are a great way to work on small things while you’re resting between your main sets. Choose low-intensity moves, like dynamic stretches, that won’t cause fatigue or detract from your primary workout.
Train Your Grip
The grip is a critical and often overlooked aspect of training. I recommend avoiding gloves or straps on any exercise to build your grip strength. Also, add grip strength exercises, like Rice Grabs, to the end of your workouts.