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Jump-Start Your Training

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By: 
Ashleigh Atkinson, MHK

6 ways to turn your workouts from mediocre to mind-blowing!

No matter how much we look forward to our training sessions, sometimes they need to be shocked back to life. If you find yourself simply going through the motions of heading to the gym to hit the same exercises and are starting to feel the effectiveness fading, it’s time to revamp your daily routines.

If you’re starting to feel like your daily grind has become mundane, more likely than not, your results are going to plateau along with your motivation. We’ve pulled together six things you can do today to turn up the heat on your training.

It’s time to shift out of autopilot and into high gear!

1. Pre-Game Rituals

The first step in taking your workout from 50 percent to 100 percent is getting into the right frame of mind. Following a similar pre-workout routine every day will prime your body and mind for the upcoming work, and we don’t just mean drinking a pre-workout to get your blood flowing (although that helps too, but we’ll get to that). Establishing a pre-workout ritual that addresses all the critical components to power a strong workout will send the message loud and clear—it’s time to work!

Set up your own ritual for the hour or two before your workout. For example, put on motivating music while you get dressed and pack your bag. Eat your pre-workout meal and prep your intra-workout supplements and pre-workout drink of choice. Going through the same motions each day focuses your mind on one thing: your workout.

It’s important that you block out other influences before you get to the gym to establish the focus needed once you’re in the gym. Keeping these rituals the same every training day will shift you into work mode, heightening your anticipation and readiness to put all your effort into the session.

2. Get Pumped

Many lifters turn to pre-workout supplements to give themselves an extra boost to heighten their training session. With so many products on the market, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose the best option. Although some will come down to individual taste preference (literally), a few ingredients should top your list to truly make an impact on your training.

If stimulants aren’t a problem for you, a product that delivers caffeine can give you a helpful energy boost—especially if you train in the late afternoon after a long workday. If this interrupts your sleep at night, look for a product without a stimulant.

Citrulline malate, beetroot extract, and beta-alanine will dilate your blood vessels to improve blood flow. Getting more blood to the working muscles will keep them flooded with nutrients and oxygen to power through each rep. Feeling that elusive pump is a surefire way to elevate your workout and drive you to keep pushing at an intense level.

Last but not least, nootropics are ingredients that target mental processes such as focus and concentration. Check the label for L-tyrosine and L-theanine support focus during times of stress, such as training. Caffeine can also come in handy for your focus by upping your energy and all your senses, which can be directed onto your training session.

Mix your drink of choice and down it about 30 minutes before you plan on starting your warm-up sets. This will give everything a chance to get into your bloodstream and start to take effect. Once you find the optimal blend of ingredients for physical and mental intensity, stick with it! Your workouts will excel beyond what you thought possible.

3. Plan Your Attack

If you want to maximize your training sessions and take them from ho-hum to outstanding, you need to have a plan. One way to lose your intensity is to take long breaks between your sets, letting your heart rate drop and your mental focus shift. Skip the downtime by planning your attack every training day.

Whether you have a coach to do this for you, find one online, or write out your own, make sure your plan goes beyond just naming exercises. It should also include the number of sets and reps, as well as how long to rest between sets. Feel accomplished every time you walk out of the gym by putting your energy into a tailored plan that addresses your specific goals and keeps you moving efficiently.

4. Stay Pumped

Your pre-workout is still flowing through your veins, and your workout is moving seamlessly from one exercise to the next. You’re pushing yourself hard, and your energy and intensity is staying high, thanks to your killer playlist.

Music has the power to energize you, motivate you, and even get you to push some serious weight. Although your musical tastes might shift from week to week, or even by the workout, it makes the most sense to have a diverse library from which to choose. With our current apps, it’s simple to create numerous playlists to suit your mood … or your workout. Maybe one is full of heavy rock for your quad day, some hip-hop for chest and back, and even a little pop music for cardio—hey, it’s your playlist, so no one will judge you.

Music has the powerful ability to alter your psyche. Studies have found that listening to music activates key parts of the brain—those which are responsible for releasing feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. Music also triggers the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, two major components of the brain that control emotion. From uplifted, happy, and energetic to sad or even calm, music has a strong pull on our emotional state.

If your training needs a boost, try refreshing your playlist. Your closest friends at Muscle Insider have shared theirs, so check the sidebar for some new inspiration. Remember, don’t knock it till you try it!

Hit It Hard Playlist

“Johnny Cash”
– Kid Rock

“Can’t You See”
– Black Stone Cherry

“War Cry”
– Diamante

“The Only”
– Welshly Arms

“Vicious”
– Halestorm

“Lasso”
– Moonshine Bandits

“Trenches”
– Pop Evil

“In Da Club”
– 50 Cent

‘Remember the Name”
– Fort Minor

“Dirty Diana”
– Shaman’s Harvest

 

5. Push Yourself

Hitting a slump in your training usually relates to doing the same thing for months on end, whether that means the exact same training plan or pushing the same weight. There’s something to be said for sticking to a very similar training plan for those who are seriously working on improving their physique as it allows you to track your progress in terms of strength. If you’re constantly changing your exercises or using strange Instagram variations, this tracking is nearly impossible. But that doesn’t mean you should be stuck in a rut.

For a true lifter, the rush of hitting a new PR can’t be beat. You need to walk into each training session focused on pushing yourself in one way or another, something you can note in your training log for progress. This might mean adding a small amount of weight to a lift or hitting an extra rep that you’ve been struggling to complete. Maybe you increase the intensity by adding a rest-pause set or a drop set.

This drive to push yourself is internal. If you walk into your session aimless and unmotivated to work, your workout will drag. But when you walk in with a purpose and the drive to want to be better, you’ll find your training hitting new heights.

6. Or Find Someone to Push You

Yes, you need to push yourself, but there’s also a huge benefit to having a solid training partner. This external push can help you get that one last rep, or give you the confidence to add some weight to your last best. They also have an important role in verbally pushing you when you’re working.

Consider your training partner a source of information, too. You both come with different experiences and knowledge, so you can learn from them too. Maybe they have a tweak to your technique that helps you recruit the target muscle better, or have a keen eye to point out when a muscle is disengaged. This outside perspective can be hugely advantageous for taking your work to a higher level—which is exactly what you’re looking for.

The one thing your training partner shouldn’t be is a distraction. If they want to talk too much between sets, or aren’t as interested in the same goals as you, they can actually pull your intensity and focus down. Our word of advice: Look to partner with someone who is on your level, or even higher. You should both offer something unique to each other, but if you regard them as beneficial to you and your progress, you’ll be motivated to rise to their level.

BONUS TIP ...

7. Consistency Makes Perfect

Ask any successful bodybuilder or long-term lifter and they’ll tell you their life looks basically the same from day to day. While this sort of consistency may seem mundane or even impossible, it’s a huge advantage for solid training sessions. This consistency spans every aspect of life—meals, recovery practices, and sleep. Each of these aspects plays a direct role in how effective and intense your training session is.

Regular eating—both in quantity and timing—fuels the body for the hard work you put in at the gym. Consistently sticking to a well-rounded meal plan that addresses your goal isn’t as easy as it sounds, but is essential to ensure you have the energy and calories for training and recovery, especially around your workout. Your pre- and post-workout meals should focus on whole foods with a solid serving of protein and the optimal amount of carbohydrates for you. Outside this time frame, take in a variety of nutrient-dense foods that work well for your digestive system.

Hitting the gym hard causes trauma to the muscles. Taking care of your body is another time (and financial) commitment, which keeps things in good working order. Taking the time to cool down and stretch or foam roll is easy enough, but many people don’t make it a priority. Taking it up a level, Epsom salt or ice baths can help release toxins and reduce inflammation. Finally, having a short list of great therapists, including physiotherapy, chiropractic, and massage, is smart for maintenance as well as injury rehab. If you find your body isn’t recovering the way it should and your workouts are slipping in intensity, address your recovery habits.

Last, but definitely not least, is your sleep. Everyone has felt the effects of a really late night—you’re unable to focus, feel groggy, and generally just drag through the day. Add up numerous days with poor sleep, and your training is going to tank. Sleep is critical to your physical functioning. It’s when your body recovers, replenishes energy and hormone stores, and refreshes your mental skills. It’s simple—when you don’t sleep, you can’t perform at your best.

If you’re sick of feeling like your training has plateaued, or you want to see if you can find a new level of intensity, start addressing these factors. Taking your training from mediocre to outstanding is the end result of a variety of habits, not just one simple answer. Maybe you’re already doing a few of these things but are missing others, or you’ve let some of these practices slide over time. It’s time to get your head back in the game and kick it up a notch (or ten)!

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