By Mark Barroso Men’s Fitness
Trust us, we understand a busy schedule, and how important your time at the gym is. In fact, you should be reaping the fruits of your iron-induced labor every minute that you’re at the gym. So to cut out the time wasters, we tapped our experts for their tips to make your workout more productive.
Prior to lifting weights, you need to prepare your muscles for the exercises you’re about to do during a muscle preparation phase. “To get the most muscle action out of all your pressing and pulling, it’s always better to prep the exact motions you’re going to do and do a lot of isometrics at those ranges,” says Pete Bommarito, C.S.C.S., U.S.A.W., M.A.T. Jumpstart certified. “It’s not a stretch or warmup, it is prepping the muscles to be able to properly accept the heavier load.”
Before an upper-body workout, Bommarito suggests doing the following routine:
Thumbs-Up Dumbbell Front Raise (using 2.5 lbs each hand)
What It Does: Shoulder Flexion
Bommarito says: Raise weights slowly and when weights are shoulder level, do a 3- to 5-second hold, then slowly bring weights down. Raise arms into a V-shape on the way up.
Side Raise and Shrug (using 2.5 lbs each hand)
What it does: Shoulder abduction and scapula elevation
Bommarito says: Raise arms out to the side so arms are parallel to the ground, then shrug shoulders to ear height so arms are raised at maximum height. As you bring arms down, hold arms out to the side for 3-5 seconds, then slowly return to start.
Palms-Up Side Raise Rotation
What it does: Shoulder rotation and shoulder abduction
Bommarito says: Rotate arms so palms face forward. Raise arms out to side and at top of raise palms are facing up. At the top, rotate arms forward so your palms face down, then roate your arms palms face forward again. Hold in this position for 3-5 seconds and bring arms back down slowly.
Palms-Up Incline Rear Delt Raise
What it does: Shoulder rotation and scapula retraction
Bommarito says: Lie flat facing an incline bench. Put the back of your hands together and do a T-raise, bringing arms straight out to the side with thumbs up at the top. Hold for 3-4 seconds at the top and slowly bring arms back down.
What it does: Scapula retraction and scapula protraction
Bommarito says: Get in pushup position keeping elbows locked. Move shoulder blades together, then move shoulder blades apart. Keep elbows locked the entire time so scapula does all the movement.
There’s no substitute for hard work and commitment in the gym or your sport. Achieving athletic success will come from within. With that said, there are supplements that have been shown to increase weightlifting performance. Bommarito says pre- and intra-workout supplementation is key to getting the most out of training. Bommarito suggests taking 1-3 grams of beta-alanine, 5 grams of creatine, and 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin B12, vitamin c, vitamin e, and zinc with a trace amount of magnesium before resistance training. When it comes to caffeine, Bommarito says, “if it’s not coming from a supplement, then a 10-ounce cup of organic coffee is a general rule of thumb pre-workout.” Seven grams of BCAAs during the workout will bring your gains to new levels.
Beat Your Bests
Bring a notebook and pen to your workout to write down the exercises, sets, reps, and weight that you do. This way, next time you can be sure to beat those numbers. Bommarito says to have goals in terms of body weight, body composition, muscle mass, 1-rep or 5-rep max, and vertical jump. Bommarito tests his athletes’ blood and VO2 max to get the full scope of their improvements. Regardless of the objective, Bommarito says a three-month goal is a good standard to start with.
Knowing how long to take a break between exercises is crucial for improving performance in the gym. Interval training, which is based on short rests with longer periods of work, are a time-saving way to burn fat. “For people who want to optimize training in the gym, decrease the rest periods,” says Jay Cardiello, C.S.C.S. “If you’re working out for 30 seconds and for reps using machines or body weight, decrease rest to less than a minute because you don’t want the body to fully recover.” When Olympic lifting with heavy weights, Cardiello suggests resting for 3-5 minutes between sets to demonstrate maximum muscle force and power.
Take a Whiff
Believe it or not, smells can influence the intensity of your workouts. “Smelling peppermint will boost exercise performance levels and can make your exercise more rewarding,” Cardiello says. “The scent alters your perception of how hard you’re working out, which makes training sessions seem less strenuous and slower paced.” Chew on an Altoid before and during a workout or take a whiff of any minty smell to give your workouts a boost.
Train to Function
“People need to be doing more unbalanced, unstable training, posterior training, and compound exercises where you recruit more muscle fibers and joints,” Cardiello says. That means, perform movements in the gym that you might find yourself doing in everyday life. For example, Cardiello suggests that doing burpees continuously for five minutes, resting, then doing another five minutes of burpees is both an effective strength builder and conditioning workout.
Get the Gear
Being comfortable and able to move freely is key. “Wear five-toe Vibram shoes because you want to build your body on a symmetrical basis, having the least amount of contact between the bottom of your foot and the floor,” Cardiello says. “If you lift heavy, you’re going to push down into a high heel and if your body is brought down more toward the right shoe than the left, you can create asymmetrical hips, which can throw off your total strength gains.” Cardiello warns against sneakers with a bubble in the heel or an exposed heel. Reebok Nanos and Converses are two strength-training shoes Cardiello suggests.
In terms of apparel, compression shorts or shirts are best, according to Cardiello. “Compression keeps muscles warm, adds elasticity to the joint, and has been shown to increase recovery.”
Training the muscles in your legs will enable you to produce more explosiveness from the ground up. Also, training legs requires more energy to repair and grow since the muscles are larger proportionate to other body parts. “When you work your glutes, hamstrings and thighs, the three largest muscle groups in the body, you create a greater afterburn effect so caloric expenditure is higher during that time,” Cardiello says. “Think of a body as one unit; you’re going to expel more calories post-workout, which is very beneficial to taking inches off your waist.” Train legs to shed pounds.
Static stretching should be implemented post-workout to bring your body back down to a resting position. “Static stretching can range anywhere from 3-10 minutes, and stretches can be held anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute,” Cardiello says. Another post-workout tip: “Take a cold shower to expedite the recovery process of the muscle or take an alternating shower where you go lukewarm then cold alternating 1-1.5 minutes between each because this helps decrease lactic acid buildup.” Reducing lactic acid buildup will help you work out harder and for longer before your muscles slow down and you start feeling a burning sensation. Stretch and use cold water to properly recover from workouts.