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Any serious gym goer wants improved strength, lean muscle, cardio, and fat loss. But if you want your gym routine to net you real results, you can’t just show up and go through the motions. Below is a list a 9 ways you can be sure your gym routine maximizes your results.
Too many lifters never get results because they’re always changing up what they say they want. This week, they’re training for strength. Next week, they want to lose fat. The week after that, they’re getting ready for a mud run. You can definitely have goals that overlap (such as using strength-based hypertrophy to get stronger and put on muscle mass at the same time), but narrow your gym routine focus down to one main goal for no less than 8-10 weeks at a time to maximize results.
Many gym routines seem to be based on the calendar. Chest and triceps is done on Monday, back and biceps on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday, and so on. The problem with this is that life often gets in the way, and if you have to miss a workout, you’re not sure what to do. Meaning, if you miss Wednesday, what do you do when you come back on Thursday? Do Wednesday’s workout or Thursday’s? And when/how do you catch back up?
By using a “training week” that’s simply “Day 1”, “Day 2”, “Day 3”, etc, you eliminate this problem. Run through your scheduled workouts in order, regardless of the day of the week. Then when you hit the end, simply start back over with “Day 1” again. If you have to take a day off or miss the gym for a day, just pick back up where you left off. This can reduce missed workouts and it actually makes your program much simpler overall.
Even though doing the same thing all the time can get boring, it is also the best way to improve performance. By repeating the same workouts and increasing intensity over time, you can ensure you’re making consistent progress toward your goals.
However, just because a bigger chest is your goal, that doesn’t necessarily mean every week should see you bench pressing 205lbs for 3 sets of 8 reps. If this week you used 205lbs, next week you should try to increase it to 210lbs. Or if you did 8 reps this week, try to do 9 reps next week.
The point isn’t that every single thing stays the same (exercise, sets, reps, and weight). Instead, the basics should stay the same and be continually improved (bench press for 3 sets of 8-10 reps with consistently more weight). Learn more about progressive overload here.
While consistent gym routine is the best way to achieve your goals-, you do still want to have at least a little variety to stave off boredom. This can keep motivation high and ensure your workouts stay disciplined.
There will likely be some areas of your workout where you can make changes that won’t impact coming closer to your goals. For instance, if your goal is to increase your bench and squat, changing up what arm exercises you do is perfectly fine. Or if your main goal is to currently build bigger biceps, changing up single leg assistance work from split squats to reverse lunges is fine. Small changes like this are enough to keep things fresh, yet still allow you to keep consistent focus where needed.
It’s actually much easier than you think to mistake how long your rest breaks are. And if your rest is off, you could be drastically impairing the effectiveness of your gym routine. Don’t rest long enough between your sets of 5-6 reps, and you won’t be able to lift heavy enough for strength. Rest too long between sets of 8-10 or 10-12 reps, and you could be negatively impacting your pump.
You don’t necessarily have to carry a stopwatch with you, but keeping a clock or watch with a seconds hand nearby so you can monitor your rest periods could be beneficial. That way you can ensure your rest is always in the proper range, and you’re not unknowingly hamstringing your workouts.
It might be fun to train heavy all the time, but your body just can’t handle it. Your joints need a break from the stress and your CNS could always use some extra recovery. Address this by adding intentionally light training into your program. This could be in the form of a monthly deload week, a weekly light or medium workout, or even a cycle of 8-12 weeks of lighter training every year.
It doesn’t matter how motivated or disciplined you are in the gym. If you don’t fuel your workouts properly, your results will most definitely suffer. This means not only eating right in general, but getting your pre-workout nutrition on point. There are many different recommendations on how to do this, but you should experiment for yourself. Some people like to eat an hour prior to training, while others prefer lifting on an empty stomach. Find what works best for you and do that.
One way to step up the effectiveness of your workout is to add intensifiers. This doesn’t have to, and likely shouldn’t, be something you do every time you hit the gym, but periodic use of forced reps, drop sets, “21s”, and the like can ramp up your intensity. This will set the bar higher for how hard you work overall, elevating performance and effort level across the board.
The basis of a strength-based hypertrophy program will be big exercises such as squats, bench press, deadlifts, rows, and the like. However, while these compound movements are great for building overall strength and size, they can sometimes be lacking in individual muscular development.
After your heavy work is done, do some assistance movements with slower, lighter, more quality reps. This will promote better muscular development and ensure the entire muscle is getting worked through a full range of motion. These could be additional compound movements (e.g. – dumbbell incline bench press after barbell flat bench) or isolation exercises (e.g. – leg extensions after squats).
Adding any of these to your gym routine will be more than enough to stimulate new growth and ensure your program is on point. Add one or two of the above, depending on how your overall layout is designed. Then you can add others over time, either as necessary or as “one-offs” to boost individual workouts.