It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all that goes into structuring an effective and successful workout program. Sure, you could just show up, lift this and raise that but would you actually be doing yourself any justice? Would you be utilizing your time wisely?
Sweat the small stuff. The often perceived small details can sum up to become the fix to a better, more results-oriented routine.
Sometimes a major overhaul isn’t needed – just a few tweaks and adjustments to put you squarely on track to a better physique.
I personally don’t see these details as small at all. To me, these are the attributes that make up the very routines I put together and perform myself.
Below is a list of twelve checklist items so you can give yourself a “workout audit” and why they are so important.
Have a few you would like to add in? Be sure to put in your two cents in the comments section at the end. I’d love to hear your personal experiences.
The Beginner Workout Checklist
Don’t forget the warm-up: I cannot tell you to this day how many trainees come into the gym, pack weight on the bar and just go for it – no warm-up sets just straight to the big weight. Warming up in any form primes the body and specific body parts for the more intense work ahead. It also fires up the nervous system for better performance. Better performance means more strength which leads to more lean muscle.
Get dynamic: On the heals of the traditional warm-up is the dynamic warm-up and stretching. This isn’t your grandma’s warm-up and stretching routine, I am talking about overall, full body warm-ups that also serve to open up joints. Some examples include high steps, jumping jacks and jump squats. The key is to get your body moving, firing and performing in full ranges of motion.
Unload the ego: We’ve all seen these guys; as they attempt to lift more weight, their form becomes something that looks like it’s form Cirque du Soleil. Great for entertainment, but ultimately bad for your health. I always have a silent motto if I am genuinely in doubt of a lift: When in doubt lift a little lighter with perfect form. I can’t prove it, but I am sure it has saved me from injury a few times.
Form first: Form always trumps weight. Put plainly, if you can’t lift with decent form and function then don’t do it. The risk of injury is too high and the reality of it all is if you start to lose technique for the sake of getting that last rep you call into play momentum and other factors that can become detrimental to your progress.
Set a time: Another scene we are all too familiar with (and one that has become an epidemic) is the yacking on the phone, texting and other time-wasters that prevent any real work from happening. Set a time for training and train! If you are like most people in this world you don’t have all day to be at the gym. Block off your time to train, use it wisely and get out – Facebook can wait.
Be realistic: Set realistic goals for yourself. Telling yourself you will loose 50 pounds by next month or pack on 20 pound of muscle in three weeks isn’t the best way to go about setting goals. If it’s sounds to good to be true it probably is. Set out to loose a pound per week or gain three pounds of muscle per month.
Mind your rest periods: This is my little secret for making almost any workout instantly more effective. Regulating your rest periods will quickly transform any workout from an “eh” to a “holy crap!” I can honestly say I hardly see anyone do this. Take a watch or keep an eye on the wall clock for your next workout – see what happens. I bet you’ll be surprised. That is also why I include rest periods in all of my programs.
Keep a close eye on volume: Tell me if you see this at your local gym: Guy does 30 sets for chest, he’s in there for two hours and complains his chest just can’t get bigger or stronger. Too much volume is a progress killer. Anywhere from eight to twelve sets for any body part is plenty to illicit gains. If you don’t think so, monitor your rest periods, perform every sets like it’s your last and with perfect form and focus on every single rep.
Use the right rep range: There is a bit of a debate around the interwebz on what rep range is best for what. Here is my not too complicated, simple doctrine on the whole matter: For mainly strength gains go with 4-6 reps, for mainly hypertrophy gains go with 8-12 reps and for muscular endurance go with 15 and above. These ranges can sway a bit, but you get the idea.
Think balance: Taking for the example form earlier: Guy does 30 sets for chest and four sets for legs. Aside from looking like a candy apple balance is an important factor for not just aesthetic reasons (looking proportionate) but also performance reasons. Having an over powering chest and a weak back may cause postural problems, having weak hamstrings may cause back pain, etc. Work those weak areas, put them first in your program so they get priority. Sure your ego will take a hit, but who cares really?
Build some abs: Building a strong midsection will go a very long way toward better performance, posture, injury prevention and subsequently less doctor’s visits. Supporting the trunk during heavy lifts, protecting the spine and helping align your entire body are just a few of the benefits to strengthening those abs. Stronger abs also translate to stronger lifts due to the fact that they provide support and help direct power to the limbs.
Go long term: It is not a race, it is a lifestyle. Always think long term when setting goals, training, dieting or anything in between. Quick-fix, short term thinking is a dead end. Building muscle, losing fat and creating that new you takes time – lots of it. Relax, think long-term and build on your plan little by little each and every day, week and month. Every rep, every set and every workout will add up to some serious changes over time.