Working out is the only real way to gain strength and lean muscle, and that’s why millions of people make sure they get their reps in every single day. What if you could get more from every single workout, enabling you to look and feel better in less time? Here are some tips to help you do just that.
#1 – Find a Spotter
Spotters are invaluable when it comes to workout. Not only are they there to make sure you don’t overexert and injure yourself, but they can also provide you with that extra motivation you need when you need it the most. If you’re ready to push your muscles to the very limit and add another 10 pounds to your rep, the spotter makes all the difference. He or she can give you the confidence you need to bench your new record, or be there for you in the event that you just aren’t ready for that much weight. In short, a spotter can help you lift more weight safely and motivate you at the same time.
#2 – Warm Up Beforehand
If you aren’t warming up your muscles before each workout, you’re just not getting the most out of your reps. Not only does it reduce the risk of injury that comes from pushing cold, unpliable muscles to their limits, but it also increases the blood flow to those muscles, allowing them to absorb more nutrients and proteins. Failing to warm up also impedes the amount of energy that your muscles receive, which can lead you feeling fatigued and sore only part of the way through your workout.
#3 – Visualize Muscle Contractions
An article published by Scientific American alludes to the fact that it’s possible to grow stronger without ever lifting a finger. How? By visualizing the movement of your muscles. A remarkable study at Ohio State University wrapped the wrists of 29 volunteers in surgical casts for four weeks. During that time, the volunteers were asked to sit perfectly still and concentrate as hard as they could on moving their wrist muscles for 11 minutes a day, five days a week. Astonishingly, when the casts were removed at the end of the month, the volunteers who envisioned the movement had wrists that were two times stronger than those who did not. Visualization can help you better activate the muscles you workout which will allow you to progress much faster.
#4 – Focus on Negative Reps
During a workout, you probably spend much of your time concentrating on the positive part of a rep, which is when you’re actually pulling or pushing weight. However, when you also focus on negative reps, you’ll get much more out of them. The goal is to actually control the weight, not just move it. It’s during this phase that more of your muscle fibers are engaged, which means they’re getting the most out of your movements, and it’s also why many people often need a spotter on the negative portion of their bench rep than the positive portion. The negative portion of a rep should take you at least twice as long to perform.
#5 – Perform Reps with Your Eyes Shut
This may sound like a weird tip, but closing your eyes while performing certain exercises forces your muscle spindles and other proprioceptive mechanisms to work harder to stabilize movement and help you control the weight – i.e. an overhead press. Doing so means you’ll slow the movement and put more emphasis on technique. The end result is an improvement of neuromuscular efficiency, movement mechanics and motor unit recruitment. Just make sure to use a spotter the first time you try this.
A workout is much more than just a set of reps; it’s an experience that requires your mind and body to work in harmony if you want to get the most out of it. Focus on visualizing your muscles, not only during the positive phase of your reps, but also during the negative phase. Make sure you’re warming up so your muscles can benefit from nutrient and energy delivery, and make sure you have a spotter for motivation and safety.