The 5 best ways to get the most out of your workouts

I was called to write this blog.

I need to address some issues that I have seen in every gym I have been to, or coached.  Some of these observations may seem like common sense, but for some reason, not everyone got the memo.

So, here is the company wide memo regarding the things that you need to be doing in order to get the most out of your workouts.

1. Always do the full-range of motion for each movement.

I see this very often with movements like push-ups and pull-ups.  Often people don’t get their chest to the floor and/or lock all the way out at the top when doing a push-up.  It’s cliche’ to say, but, you’re only cheating yourself.

In order to actually get better at the movement, you have to do the full-range. By the way, if you are shorting reps or half-assing them, your coach knows it and so do the other people in your class.

Do your body a favor and complete the entire movement.  There’s no award for “winning” the workout unless you’re a professional athlete.  And trust me, the pros didn’t get to the top by kinda doing the movement.

2.  Lighten the load

As I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve become a more patient and conservative trainer.  I know it sounds un-American to not go all out every time you hit the gym, but I’ve learned that it’s not always how intense you workout, but rather how consistent you are.

My best athletes developed their abilities by being cautious, meticulous and consistent.  Sure, sometimes you gotta let the wheels come off, but most of the time you need to train properly and with a weight and intensity that you can manage.
3.  Prioritize form over intensity

Julien Pineau is a strength and conditioning coach that said something in a podcast that really stuck with me.  I’ll paraphrase what he said: bad form strengthens the wrong muscles and weakens the muscle you are trying to target.

So what does that mean for you?

a. you are lowering your maximum potential for this specific movement
b. undoing these muscle patterns will be very difficult
c. your risk for injury is elevated

If you look at a sport like, gymnastics, it’s scored based on execution, not goals or touchdowns. In other words, how well do you perform the specific movement.  We need to take this approach when we are working out.  As you will see, the hard way is not only the correct way, but also the only way.

Greg Glassman, Founder of CrossFit, calls this virtuosity, which is- doing the common, uncommonly well.  I LOVE this definition.

Mastery of anything, simple or not, is rare.  You can and should always seek to improve.  It reminds me of the saying, “Always a student, never a master.”

4.  Identify and address your weaknesses with tenacity.

We all have weaknesses that need to be addressed.  For me, its my feet and ankles.  They are flat and weak and I’ve largely ignored them my whole life.  It’s my fault, not my genetics or because I didn’t know.

Most injuries are the result of a specific weakness.  In other words, most injuries are not traumatic and happen slowly over time.  You wake up and your shoulder hurts, or all the sudden your knee starts to ache.

Usually these problems are due to things like, weak hips, glutes, traps, and joints.  These problems are usually caused by poor posture, too much sitting and bad form….there’s that word again!

My flat feet are a result of standing like a duck for 28 years until somebody said your supposed to stand with your feet straight ahead.  I developed my weakness over 28 years and therefore I have to work harder to undo it. Otherwise, I will have additional problems, like, knee pain, hip pain, low back pain and neck pain.  The body is an entire system, and it is all connected in some way.

Here’s the bottom line: Identify and fix your weakness or you will have problems, sooner or later.

5.  Mobility, Mobility, Mobility

First let’s define mobility because it’s different from flexibility:

Mobility– Being strong in the proper position.

The best athletes in the world often are very strong or enduring within the optimal position.  Look at Peyton Manning, for example.  He wasn’t the fastest athlete, but he was unquestionably strong in his mechanics.  Tiger Woods raised the bar for what a good golfer is by perfecting his swing and then becoming very strong in these positions.  Usain bolt, is so strong as a sprinter that it looks effortless.

To improve your mobility you have to do mobility- and then reinforce those positions by repeatedly practicing proper form.

Mobility can be tedious and sometimes you don’t even know if it’s working or not.  But, it’s just like anything else in life- the more you do it the better you get.

You have to trust the process, or just look at the people that are better than you.  The majority of these athletes spend time on mobility and it’s hard to argue with that.

Do. it.

In summary

As you can, see all 5 of these these guidelines relate.  Lighten the load so you can improve your form and do the full range of motion.  If you can’t do the movement properly then spend time on mobility and going after your weaknesses.

I promise you that you will see better results if you follow these guidlines, and isn’t that what it’s mostly about?

Unfortunately, you can’t rush progress.  The Kardashian’s didn’t become famous overnight!  It took years of consistent drama to get them where they are today.  Just like the Kardashians, it’s going to take you years of consistently doing the right thing to get what you want as well.

Stay patient my friends,

David Duff, RDN, CSCS

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