Do you even lift, bro?
You clicked on this article, so chances are you do.
In that case, here are 11 ways to maximise the time you spend pumping iron.
1. Use free weights, not machines
If you’ve committed to weight training, you may as well go full hog and use free weights.
Let’s say you’re working your core. You’re gonna do crunches. You could either use your body weight (and/or incorporate a swiss ball), or you could use this machine:
that is a fake smile
The above machine guides your body in the right direction (which can be helpful for beginners) but the downside is you don’t get to engage stabilising muscles that help you balance and slyly improve your core strength.
You should choose the free weights because they force you to stabilise.
2. Get your breathing under control
It’s sounds ridiculous, but when you’re training with weights, it’s easy to forget your breath.
When you’re bracing to lift something really heavy, you might find yourself automatically trying to forcefully exhale while your airways are closed (pardon this awful comparison,but it’s like the feeling of trying to push through constipation).
The technical term for this is valsalva manoeuvre, and it makes sense: doing it forces your body to contract your muscles, thus bolstering them and protecting your spine.
Only problem is, when you’re tearing through a set of squats with heavy weight, you can’t hold your breath the entire time. You’d die.
It’s important to pay attention to your breath, know when to hold it in, and when to let it go.
To maximise intra-abdominal pressure while lifting heavy, you should breathe deeply (approx 75% of yr maximum capacity) into your belly and hold that breathe through the repetition, exhaling when you’re done. This way, your spine will stay supported and you won’t faint. Win win.
Otherwise, when you’re doing high-rep, lower-weight workouts, keep your breathe rhythmic and pay attention to it.
3. Try exercises that make you wobbly
When lifting weights, it’s tempting to stick to exercises that feel stable and simple, like deadlifts and squats.
But, if you give exercises that require balance a crack, you’ll work far more muscles (and ones that you probably don’t engage much).
A great go-to?
Single leg deadlifts.
These are a big challenge, especially if you’re not the most coordinated individual. You’ll find your dominant leg is probably a lot easier.
4. Train each side of your body individually
We’re not necessarily saying you should do this every time you train, but it’s a good idea to incorporate some unilateral exercises into your routine.
Focusing on each side of your rig ensures you’re strong all over. You’ll find that one side of your body (usually the one you write or wank with) is stronger than the other. Training to get both sides as strong as each other has obvious benefits. Sure, it makes for an aesthetically pleasing rig, but it can also combat bigger problems like back pain.
5. Write up a circuit for yourself
A trap I often find myself falling into when training weights is aimlessly doing the same thing every session.
I’ll walk onto the gym floor at 6:30pm, when the gym is packed to the rafters. I’ll go wherever there’s the least amount of people and start doing an exercise with whatever weights are available. 10 mins passes and I move onto the next free section.
The problem with this is, I end up doing the same thing each session (like squats, followed by bicep curls, push-ups and TRX rows). This way, I end up working the same muscles each time with no clear plan on progressing past a certain weight range.
To stay on track and keep motivated, the best thing to do is to write down a weekly plan (or, if you go to a gym, ask a trainer to write one up for you – if you ask and they’re worth their salt, they’ll do this for free) and stick to it.
6. Keep lifting heavier
Our bodies are incredible at adapting to stress. If you’ve been lifting for a while, you’ll be well aware of this.
You start off bench pressing 10kg and after 5 reps you’re spent. After a few weeks, you’re doing 10 reps with ease.
Heck yes! It’s the best feeling, especially when you first start out. But a trap a lotta people fall into is staying in this weight range. Sure, consistently training with the same weight will maintain muscle, but it won’t do much to gain it.
The key to avoiding this plateau is to gradually and continually add weight. Like point 5, your gym should be able to write one up for you.
7. And hit that fatigue point
Training to fatigue is controversial. Some say it can lead to injury, others figure it’s necessary in the building of muscle.
It refers to lifting a heavy weight until you literally could not push out 1 more rep. This works your muscles to their
Be mindful of the difference between training to failure and training to injury – it should burn but it should never acutely hurt.
8. Slow it down and hold it
It’s tempting to rush through a set. It’s painful and you want to get it over and done with. Only problem is, when you rush through a rep, you run the risk of compromising your form and copping a nasty injury.
Generally speaking, the slower you go, the faster you’ll see results.
Contracting a muscle and holding it in the flexed position can prove to be a little more challenging than blazing through a workout, but it provides killer endurance benefits. It prolongs muscle tension and increases blood flow, which is conducive of building muscle.
less of this
9. Get around compound exercises
Not all exercises and muscle groups are created equal. Some exercises focus on one particular part of the body (bicep curls work… you guessed it, your biceps) while others, like planks, work your whole body.
These are grouse because you can work more muscles in a shorter amount of time.
The deadlift is the ultimate compound exercise because it involves just about every joint and major muscle group in your body. Primarily, the deadlift will work your posterior chain (the muscles on the backside of your body, such as your hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles), but your whole rig will benefit from it.
10. Listen to your favourite track
This is an oldie, but a goodie.
Eminem genuinely makes you stronger. His music has been scientifically proven to give you a legit athletic boost to the tune of up to 10%.
#1 suggestion? Cleanin’ Out My Closet. Oomph.
11. Oh, and so does swearing
Yep, scientists say letting rip some filthy adjectives while lifting weights can improve your strength. So fuck off and squat, folks.
Photo: Don Jon.