Follow the 10 Workout Commandments for Your Best Results

STACK Expert Roger Lockridge offers 10 tips to help you avoid mistakes and get you on the fast track to athletic success.

If you're working to reach peak performance in your sport or to get into your best shape ever, make sure you're following these training tips to eliminate excuses and celebrate success. These 10 tips will help you avoid mistakes a lot of other people make and get you on the fast track to improving your athletic prowess.

1. Set Specific Goals

Starting a training program without knowing why you're doing it or without setting goals to accomplish is like driving a car without knowing where you're going. When you set goals, you're already moving forward because the decisions you make will advance those goals.

2. Find a Proven Plan

If you got into that car knowing where you want to go, would you take a random route and hope for the best? No. You'd get a map or a GPS and take a route that is certain to get you there. The same applies with your fitness goals. If you want to play football, don't pick a random bodybuilder routine and hope it works. Talk to a coach and find a plan that has been proven to work for other football players. You will be much more likely to achieve success.

3. Take the Plan With You

If you spend time in the weight room trying to figure out or remember what you're supposed to do, you'll be wasting valuable time, which can hurt you in the long run. Either carry a printout of your plan or take it with you on your mobile phone. If you're not sure about where to go next, you'll have your road map at your fingertips.

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4. Exert Maximum Effort in Minimum Time

You have a lot going on with your day, so spending more time in the gym or running any longer than you have to may not be a pleasant thought. That's why when it's time to train, you need to give it your all from the minute you walk in until you complete your last rep. If you have the mindset to do your best, you'll have no regrets and you'll be less likely to spend more time than you have to.

5. Move First, Stretch Second

You are likely aware of how important it is to warm up. But you also need to know that how you warm up can be crucial to your success. Stretching cold muscles can increase the likelihood of an injury. Start your program by walking on a treadmill or riding an elliptical before you stretch. Getting blood flowing to your muscles before you stretch will help you maximize your performance when it's time to get serious.

6. Establish a Mind/Muscle Connection

Fitness and sports are just as much mental as they are physical. In weight training, that means tuning out everything around you, focusing on the muscle you're working, and paying close attention to how it flexes and stretches during your set. You'll be surprised at how much of a difference this makes.

7. Safety First

Wearing a lifting belt, wrapping your knees and elbows for big lifts like Squats or Bench Presses, and having a spotter ready to help you reach failure are important. You won't look tough if you don't use the proper equipment, and you'll be more likely to be embarrassed and injured by not having a spotter and getting stuck near the end of your set.

8. Socialize Later

Coaches don't want their players to chat during practice because they won't focus on what's important at the moment. When you're training, socializing wastes time and can lead to a bad workout. You'll be much less likely to reach your goals and see improvement. Be polite, say "hi," then get back to work.

9. Focus

There's a reason why Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson likes to say that so much. It's important—whether it's during a game, a workout or a run. Letting your mind wander when you're supposed to be preparing yourself for the next big lift can result in premature failure or making a mistake that can lead to injury.

10. Recovery is Important

When you're done for the day, don't go and grab a pizza or ice cream. Stretch, then eat within an hour post-workout. When you have that meal, make sure it consists of quality sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Don't forget your water. And finally, get plenty of sleep so you will be well rested and ready to do it all again.

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