5 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR GYM SESSIONS MORE EFFECTIVE
Strength Training can be daunting. It's often over complicated and conjures up images of super heavy weights and steroid filled gym junkies.
Leave those thoughts behind. Strength training, and highly effective strength training at that can be simple, convenient and even done from the comfort and convenience of your own home. If you're fed up of those constant injuries, those 'getting old' aches and pains or want to be stronger to perform at your favourite sport following these five key principles will help make your sessions more effective.
1. Start light and focus on technique
When you are new to strength training, it is very important that your body learns the correct technique for each new exercise, this is because your body will be unfamiliar with these new movement patterns. Therefore performing slow and controlled movements at the beginning phase of your strength training is vital as your nervous system is being trained more than your muscles. Why not try of Free Bodyweight Series, it's broken into six simple 10 minute sessions, that are a perfect starting point.
Once your nervous system is able to recruit the muscle groups properly, it is then time to increase the weight and complexity of the movement. Quickly you will be able to identify your capabilities - if you have lost all form, chances are you have gone too heavy, remember we want QUALITY here.
2. Don’t rush, rest is there for a reason
One of the most obvious training characteristics amongst people (especially if used to running, swimming or cycling) is their insistence to perform high-rep sets and volume, with little rest - they are just ‘wired’ in a certain way. They replicate their ‘non-stop’ aerobic training habits and pump thoughtlessly through the reps, often bouncing from one exercise to another.
However the amount of time we rest is very important if we want to maximise the effects of our training, much like a swim, bike or run set. The right interval length depends on the intensity of your efforts, as well as the type of exercise performed. For example, a heavy set of squats may require a 60-90sec rest compared to 30-45 seconds for lighter/conditioning movements.
3. Strength training has a neurological demand, avoid when tired
It is important to consider how we schedule our strength sessions across our week. Sleep, work and social life will effect how you well you train, your concentration and consequently your risk of injury. If you are doing other training throughout the week, regardless of the level, you definitely need to pay attention to planning your sessions.
Your sessions should be no longer than 1 hour, with the majority of the quality work fitting into 30-45 minute. Due to the neurological demand of strength work, any longer and you will greatly reduce the effectiveness of not only your strength session but other surrounding sessions. If you aren't in the right mental or physical state for the session, don't be afraid to adjust, lower the intensity and readjust your focus.
4. Weaker side first
It is very common to have some strength discrepancies from side to side and ultimately that is what we are aiming to reduce, by balancing the body out. But be mindful of this and when performing single arm or leg exercises start with your weaker side. This not only ensures full concentration for quality of movement but if you train your dominant side first, your weaker side will never be able to catch up and all you will do is make the difference greater.
5. Record your sessions
If you're an endurance athlete most of you will religiously upload your data after every swim, bike or run sessions, so get into the habit of doing the same with your strength workouts. Not only will you be able to monitor your improvements, but you will be able to track when you need to progress with either weight or a different training stimulus.
Keeping a record of when you didn't have such great sessions could indicate to you that the scheduling of the session wasn't ideal in relation to other things going on, you may have had a big day the day before and this left you flat for you strength work or vice versa. Allow for flexibility.