There’s a secret among personal trainers they don’t want you to know, but we’re going to tell you anyway because we don’t really like most personal trainers (except for the ones that read our newsletter, we definitely like them). One of the easiest ways to get results with a new client is to have them do the opposite of what they’re currently doing. If they’ve been lifting weights for 3 sets of 10 reps and doing steady state cardio, a (smart) personal trainer will put them on 10 sets of 3 reps and have them perform interval training sessions. Magically, the client will start losing weight and adding muscle, and the magician personal trainer will reap the monetary benefits.
Well, it’s definitely not magic (and it’s no longer a secret…sorry). Performing the same workout for more than a month or so will eventually lead to physiological adaptation and minimize further progress. It will also lead to staleness and boredom, and it’s tough to keep someone motivated when they aren’t getting results and they aren’t enjoying the process. So, here are seven ways to change up your workouts, add some spice back into your training, and supercharge your results.
1) Circuit Training
Circuits are a great way to develop your cardiovascular system and destory fat without boring cardio. The constant movement keeps your heart rate elevated, and the added resistance stimulates growth hormone which helps build muscle and burn fat. Circuits can be comprised of 3-10 exercises and should include multiple muscle groups.
An example of a full body circuit would look like this:
A1) Barbell back squat
A3) Stability ball leg curl
A4) Dumbbell row
A5) Hanging leg raise
Pick a weight that you can normally lift 10 times and perform 6-8 reps for each exercise. Move from one exercise to another without stopping to rest. After completing the first circuit, take a short break – 30-60 seconds – and then repeat the circuit 2-3 more times. To progress, add more circuits, decrease the rest time between circuits, add more exercises, or increase the weight.
2) Reduce Rest Periods
Most weightlifters and powerlifters know that to make maximal gains in strength, muscles need to be well rested before the next set begins. To build muscle and burn fat, however, rest periods of less than 60 seconds are preferred. Short rest periods stimulate growth hormone production; they also allow you to spend less time in the gym while achieving equal or better results.
3) Superset Opposing Muscle Groups
Another way to decrease your time in the gym is to superset agonist/antagonist (opposing) muscle groups. For example, perform a set of dumbbell bench press (chest) and then, with little to no rest, perform a set of cable rows (back). Repeat this sequence for the prescribed number of sets. Other agonist/antagonist muscle pairings include biceps/triceps, shoulders/lats (specifically an overhead press and lat pulldown), and quadriceps/hamstrings.
4) Be Explosive
As the adage goes, “If you want to be fast, lift fast.” On that note, if you want to be lean, lift fast. Despite what your ignoramus personal trainer tells you, lifting weights slow will not enhance fat loss, it will just make you weak and slow. Whatever exercise you’re doing, perform the concentric (lifting) portion explosively (less than 1 second) and the eccentric (lowering) portion under control (usually about 2 seconds). When you move up to heavier weights, you won’t be able to lift with blazing speed, but as long as you are trying to move the weight as fast as possible you’ll be reaping the benefits of explosive training.
5) Opt for Intervals Instead of Steady State Cardio
Most people hate cardio. It’s boring and it takes too long. Instead of going for an hour at the same pace, spice things up by going back-and-forth between periods of high and low intensity for 20-30 minutes. You’ll burn the same amount of calories in less time, avoid high levels of cortisol, spare muscle, and have a lot more fun.
An example of an interval training session on a stationary bike might look like this:
Warm up 5 minutes
Resistance 10, speed 100 rpm: 1 minute
Resistance 4, speed 60 rpm: 1 minute
Repeat 9 more times
Warm down 5 minutes
Exit gym in a wheelchair
6) Replace Machines with Free Weights
Many people find free weights intimidating. Don’t be scared; most quasi-competent personal trainers should be able to show you how to correctly perform basic free weight exercises. When performed correctly, free weights are actually safer than machines, burn more fat, build more muscle, make you stronger, faster, smarter, and sexier. Well, maybe not those last two, but free weights are superior to machines in every way that matters.
7) Practice Proactive Recovery
If you’re all work and no rest, you’ll eventually burn out. At the same time, you shouldn’t spend your off days on the couch eating Oreos and watching Real Housewives of Orange County. Instead, go the gym and do some low intensity cardio, mobility drills, body weight exercises, foam rolling, and/or stretching. This is also a good time to do some extra prehab and grip work (if you need it). Other forms of proactive recovery include chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue therapy, massage, Epsom salt baths, and hot/cold water plunges or contrast showers. By increasing blood flow, eliminating metabolic wastes, and enhancing soft tissue quality, these activities will augment the recovery process and help keep you training hard.
Adding any of these methods to your training program will make it more enjoyable and more effective, and when you’re having fun and getting results, staying on track is a piece of cake. It will also allow you to fire your overpriced, under-qualified personal trainer. Did we mention we don’t care for them?