Stuck in a rut when it comes to your exercise routine? Not getting the dream body you desire? Find out how to get more out of your workouts and make exercise more fun with personal trainer Ian Gardner’s top tips.

Sleep more

Sleep is when our bodies repair and grow. If you’re getting the training right and the nutrition right but you’re not sleeping enough, then you’re missing out on vital recovery time. Our body has four stages of sleep and it is in stages three and four where our body produces large amounts of human growth hormone which increases the rate of muscle growth, more oxygen goes to the muscles helping to remove lactic acid, and prolactins are released which is important for joint recovery.

Additionally, when you wake up the next day feeling refreshed you are going to have more energy to put into a great gym workout. Studies recommend that between seven to nine hours of sleep is what is necessary for adults and we need to make sure that it’s uninterrupted. Try to not look at any TV or device screens at least an hour before bed, perhaps read a magazine, and try to keep your room completely dark. You could use an eye mask to stop the light from any clocks or the morning sun.

Change your program

The body has an unusually wonderful ability to adapt to any challenges it may face. In the gym I often see people performing the same routine, using the same exercises, working the same rep schemes, week in week out for months on end. It is important to constantly change the stimulus to your body. Change the program you are following every six weeks. Try to work different muscle groups together on the same day, use different exercises, push different rep ranges, adhere to different rest times. Trick your body into growing muscle. Try to get someone else to write the program for you, either a personal trainer or a training partner who you know has good gym knowledge. If you write your own program then you’re more likely to give yourself exercises you find easy or comfortable to do.

Log your workouts

In order to keep getting results, you need to challenge your body. If you are lifting weights for instance, you need to keep progressively increasing the stimulus on your muscle, either through more reps, more weight or more sets. Most people can’t even remember what they did at the weekend so how do you expect to remember the exact amount of weight, reps and sets you did on each exercise of your workout last week? Some days you are more willing to push yourself than others, and so by writing down our workout statistics we can use those figures as a goal to work towards and surpass in each workout. And in times when you think you are making no progress, you can look back on what you were lifting six weeks ago and see that in fact you have improved, which will keep you motivated.

Get a training partner

Training with someone has many benefits. Not only does it give you the encouragement to push out that extra rep because your training partner is there shouting at you to do it (and will judge you if you don’t), but it also opens up a few ways of constantly changing the stimulus to your muscles. An example of this is forced reps, where you do the exercise yourself to failure and then with the same weight and without resting a partner helps you to do a few more reps.

Push yourself 

Don’t be afraid to push yourself from time to time. Pushing our muscles to limits that they’ve never experienced is what provides the stimulus for them to grow. But remember to use it appropriately. Failure when lifting generally also means CNS (Central Nervous System) fatigue, which can take several minutes to recover from and a reduction in the number of reps you are able to do. Say you did 10 reps to failure, you then had 90 seconds rest and then did another set – you would probably only be able to do four or five reps. If on the first set you only did nine reps, you’d likely be able to do eight or nine reps on the second set and so this would be more productive to muscle growth. Therefore, look to only work to failure on the last set of each exercise.

Leave the phone in the changing room

Not only is it incredibly frustrating when you’re waiting for a machine when someone else is texting, but it’s also a detriment to your workout. Studies show that rest periods of one to two minutes between sets give a greater release of anabolic hormones and so by resting longer than this you are missing out on optimum results. Do not get distracted by your phone. Leave it in the changing room.