Get the best results from your exercise routines with these handy training tips bound to ensure that every workout counts.
Check your posture
It sounds simple, but it’s surprising how many people don’t give posture a thought when they exercise. Perfect posture – shoulders open and relaxed, spine straight and core muscles engaged – ensures you target the right muscles and work to your capacity. It’s also an absolute must for preventing injury, particularly lower back strain.
Before any dynamic movement, move your shoulder blades out and down to broaden your upper body and tighten the muscles around your midriff. Never hold your breath during a lifting exercise – breathe in deeply as you prepare for the move and breathe out through pursed lips as you lift.
Exercising with a friend or trainer has many motivational benefits. For starters, you’re less likely to skip sessions if there’s someone waiting for you at the gym or park. You can check each other’s form and get competitive in cardio sessions to maximise intensity. There is strength in numbers – buddying up is also a good safety tip if you decide to train outdoors.
Do more in less time
Make every minute of your workout count. Research shows people who spend a long time in the gym often clock up ‘dead miles’. So 30 minutes of exercise working at 80 per cent capacity (eight on the Scale of Perceived Exertion, where 1 is minimum effort and 10 is maximum effort) is as good as an hour at 60 per cent. A study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology found people who reduced the length of their workouts by 25 per cent could still improve their fitness, provided they boosted the intensity.
Keep your body guessing
You won’t get fitter by doing the same thing day in, day out. Aside from being dull, your body gets used to the routine and stops developing new muscle. To make progress, change your workout every few weeks. Increase the weight of your dumbbells, perform more reps in a set time or make subtle changes to your exercises – for instance, add a resistance band. For cardio, cross-train in a variety of activities, rather than sticking to one exercise type, and up the intensity of your workouts using the Scale of Perceived Exertion. Mix up swimming strokes or do a trail run rather than pounding pavements.
Leave stretching until later
A pre-workout stretch may be second nature, but the latest sports science research suggests static stretch poses could actually be detrimental to your fitness. Static stretching can shock cold muscles, risking injury and depleting muscle strength by up to 30 per cent, say experts. Limber up with light cardio and some dynamic moves to raise your heart rate and flush your muscles with oxygen. Save those static poses until your cool-down!
Turn up the music
There’s nothing like uplifting music to boost your exercise endurance. Not only is it a distraction, it’s also a rousing performance tool. Studies show some exercisers who listen to music put in up to 10 per cent more effort without realising it. For the best results, choose tracks with a beat that matches the pace of your workout. Optimal exercise music is between 135 and 190 beats per minute. If you need some help compiling the perfect soundtrack, check out Audio Fuel.
Increase the Intensity
HIIT training (switching between bouts of high-intensity and low or moderate-intensity exercise), is one of the best methods for losing weight and improving fitness, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. During the high-intensity interval periods, it’s important to exercise as hard as you can – this means no talking, lots of sweating and plenty of heavy breathing!