We've all been there. That point where you've been going to the gym consistenty, but you haven't seen progress in a while. You're not really getting stronger and you're not really building more muscle. So what can you do to see more progress with your workouts?
We're all about making your workouts more efficient, so you're not wasting any time in the gym. So this one is for you.
Whether you're stuck in a workout plateau and haven't seen progress in a while, or you simply want to make sure you start your fitness journey in the best way possible, here are 5 workout hacks you can steal (that I as a personal trainer always do), to get better workouts and ensure you feel progress with every. single. workout.👇🏼
Let's get into it!
#1 Increase the reps, sets or weights every few weeks
You probably knew of this technique already. It's what's called "progressive overload" and is key to building muscle and seeing progress with your workouts.
Progressive overload means to gradually add more “volume” to your workouts - it could be lifting heavier weights, adding more reps or extra sets. We do this because your body will gradually get stronger, and weights that used to feel heavy will no longer be heavy for you. It also helps us avoid plateaus in strength gains.
But how do you actually implement it? A simple way to do this is to add 1 rep each week.
30kg x 8 reps
30kg x 8 reps
30kg x 8 reps
Next week it will be:
30kg x 9 reps
30kg x 9 reps
30kg x 9 reps
Contunie this up to 10-12 reps. Then, increase the weight and start back down at 8 reps.
💡 Tip: If you reach a point where you can't keep increasing the weight, try instead adding an extra set of the exercise, or swap it out for a different exercise for a few weeks.
#2 Advance the exercises that felt easy
Let's say you've been doing lunges in your workout for quite some time now, and it's starting to not feel as challenging as it did on day 1. How can you make it harder?
Once way is to advance the exercise, for example by adding weights, or to do Bulgarian Split Squats instead. You're still targetting the same muscles, but in a much more challenging way.
Another example could be pushups. Try adding a weight plate on your back or doing them decline with your feet up on a bench. You can also advance it to doing chest press with weights. These are great ways to advance the exercise.
💡 Tip: make a mental note of which exercises often feel 'easy'. Look into ways of advvancing this exercise, or swapping it out for another exercise that targets the same muscle group
#3 Focus on compound exercises
I'm not saying bicep curls, lateral raises and crunches aren't great exercises, but these are all 'isolating exercises' (meaning they only target one muscle group at a time). If you really want to see progress in your workouts, start doing more compound exercises. Here's why:
Compound exercises are some of the most efficient exercises, because they engage multiple muscle groups at once. A few examples are squats, deadlifts, lunges, chest press, pushups and pull ups.
These are typically the exercises you are strongest in and can lift the heaviest weights in, because you have more muscles in your body helping you. That's why it's best to put them in the beginning of the workout when your body has plenty of energy.
💡 Tip: Aim to do at least 2-4 compound exercises in your workouts. They are efficient and will help you progress further. Do 8-10 reps of each exercise
#4 Go to failure on the last set
We can often do more thant we think. And often we have a tendency to always stop on 10 or 12 reps. But to continue seeing progress in your workouts and building muscle, you have to sometimes push past where it's 'comfortable'.
Going to failure on the last set can help with this. The last set is where you know you don't need energy for another set of the exercise, and it's therefore okay to "go all out". Push yourself and see how many reps you can actually get in. This gives you an indication of how much you can actually do.
If you can do 15+ reps, then chances are you can increase the weight on the exercise next time around.
💡 Tip: We're often stronger than we think. Going to failure and doing as many reps as we can on the last set really helps us understand how we probably could have 'pushed it more' in the previous sets. Either with more weight or sets.
#5 Fuel yourself properly every day
The simple fact is however hard and diligently you workout, without enough calories and the right nutrition, your muscles won't have the fuel needed to build themselves bigger and stronger. You need to ideally eat at calorie maintenance or in a calorie surplus so there's an excess of "energy" in your body your muscles can take from. However, if your goal is to burn fat at the same time (and you're therefore in a calorie deficit), it's still possible to build muscle. You just need to make sure youre 1) not too low on calories, and 2) eating plenty of protein to compensate for the lack of "energy".
Eating a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats is essential as they all play an important role in building muscle:
Protein is the building blocks of your muscles and is needed to help restore muscle cells.
Carbohydrates is your body's main energy source. Without them, you won’t have the energy to do your workouts. Aim for unprocessed and wholegrain carbs.
Healthy fats help keep your hormones, organs and brain functioning properly, as well as keep you full and satiated after meals. Aim for unsaturated fats, as these are healthier than saturated fats.
Fruit and vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, and will help keep you healthy.
Looking for meal inspiration? Check out this article on how to get 100g of protein each day.
Conclusion: how to never stop seeing progress in your workouts
Okay so, let's conclude. If you want to make sure your workouts are efficient enough to see progress and build muscle, here are 5 proven strategies, I use myself as a personal trainer:
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