Here I wanted to go through my 5 top tips when it comes to achieving your body goals. I go through these top tips with all of my personal training clients when they start a training programme. They will still apply no matter whether you are training at home and have no equipment or whether you have access to an endless supply of weights in your gym.
Each tip should be implanted into your subconscious so that you can be called upon whenever you are training to ensure that you get the most out of your sessions.
Once you have read them, they will now be you 5 commandments in resistance training. That's it.... I think I've relayed their importance enough now. So here they are:
1) Time under tension
Always keep control of the entire movement. All too often we focus on the concentric part of a movement (when a muscle shortens) but forget about the eccentric movement (when a muscle lengthens). Take the humble bicep curl as an example - from a straight arm we bend our elbow and raise our hand upwards during the concentric movement and straighten our elbow again during the concentric movement. It's important to keep control of the weight both on the way up and down to ensure that all of the muscles in our arm are being used to their full extent (biceps, triceps, shoulder, forearms). It's also good practice to focus on holding the movement when a muscle is at its maximum contraction. This drives more blood to the muscle and helps to stimulate muscle growth.
Note: don't relax your muscle at the top and let your arm straighten too quickly as your are no longer own control of the weight and are stopping the exercise from being as
2) Work each muscle to its full range of movement.
It's important to train your muscles to be strong through a full range of movement. This has many benefits not only aesthetically but also helps with reducing potential injuries and muscle imbalances. When working 1 muscle group you may find that you will have to use multiple exercises to ensure that the muscle is working it's full range of movement. Each exercise should be approached with a "stretch and squeeze" through process whilst also utilising tip 1 (time under tension and control throughout the whole movement).
Exercise. I want you to think about your tricep (back of upper arm) now think about which position you need to put your arm in to feel your tricep full "stretch".
Now put you arm in a position where your tricep is fully "squeezed" (contracted).
Ideally we want to try and train our triceps under resistance from a stretched position (image 1) all the way to being fully contracted (image 2). 2 examples of exercises that may achieve this are a French press and a seated dip.
3) Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is a simple concept. Strive to continually improve. Progressive overload can be achieved in a few different ways: increase in resistance, increase in reps, increase in sets, decrease rest between sets, increase training frequency.
This brings me onto a very important point ALWAYS TRACK YOUR PROGRESS (in fact that should probably be top tip number 6).
The only way you can improve is by knowing what you have already achieved.
No doubt we have all fallen into the trap of simply turning up whether that is the gym, a class, an online session etc and not really having any sort of plan. With this approach we are not likely to find ourselves improving or achieving our goals and, should it actually happen it's likely that we won't track it so won't know what we achieved or how to do improve again.
However, if we can achieve 1 more rep, 0.5kg more in resistance or 1 set extra in each session or each week or each month then you will undoubtably continue to improve and achieve the goals that you've set yourself.
4) Mind Muscle Contraction
This is one of the steps that will need to be developed as a skill set and is often not achieved immediately. The idea here is to make a conscious and deliberate contraction of a specific muscle during an exercise. Now this concept can be easier for some muscles than others. For example if you wanted to contract your bicep that might be very easy. However, trying to contract your pectoral muscle (chest) or specific muscles in your back might be a lot harder. There are exercise and methods that can help you improve your mind muscle contraction. - - Focus on training the muscle, not simply lifting the weight.
- Visualise the muscle you are trying to work by either looking directly at it or I find looking at a muscle anatomy diagram useful (hence why I have one in the centre) to then identify the muscle I'm about to focus on.
- Do warm up sets. low weight, muscle focused.
- Flex between sets
- Having a training partner touch the muscle. this helps your brain identify which muscle it needs to contract.
5) Consistency is key
My final point is one that often gets overlooked especially when we are starting an exercise programme.
If you implement all of the tips above perfectly you will guarantee to improve but as soon as you stop being consistent you'll find yourself going backwards, which in turn will undoubtable effect your motivation and overall wellbeing. Try to find a system or plan that is manageable in the long term.
It's important to have a back up plan for when our circumstances change. Now I know that sometimes things can come up which are unprecedented and are impossible to plan for (our recent lockdown is a great example) but it's always good to have a plan to help you stay consistent. You may have to adapt slightly in your training approach but when it comes to your health and wellbeing it should be one of your main priorities if not your top priority.
We know that from the moment you start a fitness plan challenges and obstacles will be thrown in your way at some point such as your motivation levels varying, work commitments changing and the ever changing unpredictability of family.
Note: If you train regularly but happen to miss 1 or 2 session here or there. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just focus on getting back to it as quickly as you can.
I'd just like to finish by saying that by no means are these the ONLY important things to focus on when training. Some notable points that have been excluded are:
- Focusing on your nutrition and ensure your diet supports your training.
- Get plenty of rest and let your muscle recover and repair after each training session.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Stay hydrated and drink ample amounts of water.
There are of course more....but that's enough for now.