When we walk into the gym, most of us ask ourselves whether we are truly making the most of the time we’ve allocated. Wondering what workout tips you’re missing, or how to make the most of your session looms over every element. Every stretch (this builds muscle?), every warm-up (I already walked from the tube?) and every rest period (I’m paying to stand around?) has to justify its place. This, in itself, is how to maximise your workout.
Steve Coleman works with actors and TV presenters including Daniel Radcliffe who he has trained for over 12 years. Every second in the gym has to help these men achieve their goals – so making the most of a workout is central to Coleman’s job.
“I always advise consistency over less frequent bursts. I try to work out at the same time every day,” says Coleman. “Even if it’s only 10 minutes, over a 12-month period it will give you better results than one hour per week.”
A study from researchers at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, and Japan’s Niigata University and Nishi Kyushu University found that exercising briefly five days a week may be superior to an extended exercise session once a week. The study compared the results of 30 strength exercises in one day with six every day for a week – the results showed greater benefits with a ‘little and often’ approach.
Take a Rest
If you are lifting heavy weights to build muscle or strength, factor in a rest week in every six or eight-week cycle, Coleman says. “I recommend that clients should take a week out from their heavy lifting. During that week they can perform some light cardio but stay away from the gym. This gives the body a chance to recover.” The fear that rest periods undermine gains has been dispelled in a number of studies. A comparison carried out in Japan found a three-week rest period meant no loss of strength. Three weeks off with six weeks on gave the same results as 24 weeks of continuous effort.
Lower with care
Lower your weights slowly. The eccentric phase of the lift – the part where the muscle is lengthened rather than contracted is often overlooked or dismissed as putting the weight back on the floor or lowering yourself from the pull-up. In reality, this is where the action is. Eccentric lifting is a smart way to rinse more from your workout says Coleman. “The eccentric phase is 60 per cent of the exercise. I advise people to try a three count on the lowering phase and a one on the lift phase.”
An article in the Journal of Applied Physiology said, “It has been shown that eccentric training modalities can accelerate or optimise improvements to maximal muscular strength.” The special qualities of eccentric lifting are being researched and applied to older people and those with injuries as well as trained athletes (like ourselves). Sam Quinn is the personal training lead at Nuffield Health gym group. His approach, tailored for busy clients balancing work and family commitments is all about optimising your workout and finding the most efficient way to exercise.
Have a coffee
Not strictly falling under the remit of workout tips, but Quinn recommends caffeine prior to your session. “Try a double espresso in the hour before you train.” A study by Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada found that caffeine, “could permit the athlete to train at a greater power output and/or to train longer. It has also been shown to increase speed and/or power output in simulated race conditions.”
Use compound moves
Quinn also suggests building your workout around compound, multi-joint exercises – this means moves that engage a whole number of muscles rather than isolate just one. So, a pull-up is a compound exercise, and a bicep curl is very specific.
Read the full article here