You’re ready to work out, and you have a solid plan that promises tremendous results. But you go into the weight room, go through a half-hearted warm-up and struggle through your exercises. Your form may not be up to par, and you may miss your expected weight goals.
Well, you may have the best program in the world, but if you don’t prepare correctly, your performance will fall short.
Next time you’re getting ready to work out, follow these six simple steps to ensure you get the most out of your hard work in the gym.
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1. Pack Your Bag
What’s a workout without the right gear? Mike Robertson, President of Robertson Training Systems and co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST), makes sure his workout bag is always ready to go. “I love to have my bag packed the night before,” he says. “This includes my training gear and post-workout recovery shake.”
2. Review Your Plan
The first thing you should do before you step into the gym is establish a plan. “I grab my workout sheet and review my movements for the day along with the specific activation exercises that correspond to my needs,” says P.J. Nestler, director of sports performance at Velocity Sports Performance (Irvine, California). Then you are able to create your warm-up and get mentally prepared for what’s ahead. Also, review the equipment you need and make modifications to your workout if your gym doesn’t have what you need.
3. Eliminate Potential Distractions
Before you do anything, your mind must be fully committed to what’s ahead. That means filling up your water bottle, tightening your shoes, going to the bathroom or putting headphones on so you’re not distracted. There’s no set plan here. Do whatever works for you.
4. Get Your Blood Pumping
We always preach the need to do a dynamic warm-up, but you can’t forget to get a quick sweat in. “My goal here is to increase my core temperature and heart rate, break a sweat and increase blood flow to my muscles,” says Nestler. “I always start my warm-up with various calisthenics, jump rope or shadow boxing drills.” You can also try slowly jogging or biking. And it should only take five minutes.
5. Loosen Up and Increase Mobility
Your day-to-day routine takes a toll on your body—probably more than you think. Simply sitting in a chair causes your hip flexors to tighten and your posture to degrade. So, before you work out, Robertson recommends resetting your body back to neutral. To do this, foam roll three to five target areas and perform exercises (such as Floor Slides) designed to restore range of motion.
Next, move into more dynamic drills to prepare your body for athletic movement. “This section focuses on mobility so I can move my joints through a full range of motion and activate my muscles for the coming workout,” adds Nestler.
Try this routine, which Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Performance (Hudson, Massachusetts), recommends for his athletes.
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6. Prep Your Muscles to Work
The last step is to prepare to lift heavy weight or move at high speed. “If you’re doing a sprint workout, you may do some skips beforehand,” says Robertson. “If it’s a strength training workout, we’re going to do a lightweight warm-up before we start working.”
“I make sure that my first working set is not performed until I’m ready,” adds Lee Boyce, owner of Boyce Training Systems. “That means that I’m lightly sweating, with a charged central nervous system that’s primed for action.”
Boyce recommends the following warm-up scheme, which he uses when deadlifting for five sets of five reps.
- 2x as much as needed @Bar
- 2×5 @ 135 lbs.
- 1×4 @ 185 lbs.
- 1×4 @ 205 lbs.
- 1×3 @ 225 lbs.
- 1×3 @ 255 lbs.
- 1×2-3 @ 275 lbs.
- 1×3 @ 295 lbs.
- 5×5 @ 315 lbs. (work sets)