How to Make the Most of Your Workouts
Limit your workouts to 30-40 minutes
Though the tendency of some people who want to get a lot out of their workouts is to spend a lot of time at the gym, the truth is that benefits start to diminish after 30 or 40 minutes. To go that long, you have to lower intensity. It’s better to work out at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time.
If you’re just starting an exercise routine, it’s best to take it slow. If you’re running or cycling, for example, build up for at least a month. That means going at a rate at which you can talk easily without being out of breath. Once you have that base of endurance, keep increasing the intensity to step up the effectiveness of the workout.
Many people don’t pay enough attention to getting the protein their muscles need to rebuild. If you don’t, your workout isn’t going to be as productive as it could be. Both cardio and strength workouts require protein. I recommend either whey or soy protein shakes.
Be sure to hydrate throughout the day. It takes a couple of hours for your body to absorb the water, so you can’t just drink right before exercise. Make it a habit to drink water regularly.
Although low-carb enthusiasts might say otherwise, carbs are the body’s main source of fuel. You won’t have the energy you need for intense workouts if you don’t consume enough carbs, as well as the right kind. If you have a shake, be sure to include at least a banana, a great source of low fiber/high glycemic carbohydrates that you need for exercise.
Shake before and after workout
It’s best to have a protein-carb shake just before and after working out. The pre-workout shake increases the flow of amino acids to your muscles during training, giving them the building blocks they need. The one after stimulates muscle growth. Also, eat a small protein-carb meal 60 to 90 minutes after a workout. A meal- replacement bar would also work.
Many people contract their muscles slowly and then release more quickly. But if you lift slowly in both directions, you are maximizing each move. Lift and lower to a five-second count in each direction. And don’t jerk the weight!
When you’re starting out, it’s best to begin with lighter weights so you can focus on good form. Once you’ve gotten your form down, lift the heaviest weights you can while still keeping good form. Don’t sacrifice form for heavy weights; it’s nearly as ineffective as not lifting at all. If lifted correctly, with strict form, heavy weights will give you better results in a shorter amount of time. Don’t buy into the common misconception that heavy weights are just for those who want to bulk up.
One set to failure
Instead of doing two to three sets, as many people do, maximize your effectiveness by doing just one set with heavy weights until you can no longer keep the proper form. Lifting to "failure" doesn’t mean that you should lift the last few times with a wobbly or inefficient form.
Instead of isolating your muscles with exercises such as the bicep curl, you can maximize the time you spend in a workout by doing exercises that work out multiple muscle groups at once. With just a few exercises, you could get a full-body workout. Another payoff is that your muscles are working together, as they do in the real world, rather than alone. Some great compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, good mornings, lunges, pushups, bench presses, military presses, rows, pull-ups and dips.
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