I have a friend who can either build or fix just about anything—the guy is handy! I’m constantly amazed to see how he can take care of most any restoration or carpentry problem. Something that seems impossible is like putty in his hands, and he usually reminds me, as I am making a sloppy mess of things, to work smarter, not harder—a mantra that applies as much to our workout routines as it does to working around the house.|
We know that there are no shortcuts to getting fit and staying fit. Working out takes perseverance, consistency and well, work! But every once in a while, you should stop and ask yourself, “Am I working out smarter and not just harder?” After all, we don’t want to waste one drop of hard-earned sweat in our pursuit of fitness. We want to get the most out of every workout, run, bike ride, or trip to the gym.
Here are five ways to exercise smarter to get the results you want without spending more time in your sneakers.
1. Tackle weight lifting at a 2-4 tempo. There's more to strength training than moving the weights around. The speed at which you lift and lower those weights is very important if you want to get the most out of your workout. For best results, follow the “2-4 count” during resistance training. Spend two full seconds in the concentric phase of an exercise (typically the phase when you lift the weight up); during the eccentric phase (usually the phase when you return the weight to its start position), take twice as much time—four full seconds. Research shows that exercisers who lower the weight in this slow, controlled manner gain nearly twice the strength as those who do not take as much time.
2. Introduce interval training. Most of us are guilty of logging a lot of mindless miles at the gym. We get on a piece of cardio equipment, set the level and time, and zone out on autopilot. If you really want to get the most out of your time, mix in some interval training to boost your calorie burn. Many studies, including those published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, have found that including several short bursts improve fitness and burn fat more quickly than working out at one steady moderate pace.
3. Switch to supersets for super gains. I am convinced that as more time one spends in the gym, the more the intensity of their workout goes down. One way to maximize your time and get better results is by using supersets. To do a superset, pick a muscle group (we'll use chest as an example) and then do three (or more) different exercises for that muscle group, back to back, without resting. For example, do a set of bench presses, following by a dumbbell chest fly and finish with a round of pushups. In a matter of minutes, you've blasted your chest and are ready to move on to your next muscle group. Supersets will not just cut your workout time in half, but they're guaranteed to keep intensity levels high for maximum results!
4. Turn up the tunes. Music does more than motivate. Research shows it can improve your workout, too. One such study from the Journal of Undergraduate Kinesiology Research investigated whether music had any measurable effect on the strength-training performance of 17 physically fit men and women. The verdict? Music improved performance dramatically among study participants! So bring along your iPod or MP3 player and crank it up! Download some tunes that get your blood pumping and your spirits high. This is also a good way to get motivated for your workout!
5. Never neglect good nutrition. It's easy to just focus on your workout when you're trying to burn calories, build muscle and reshape your body. But working out is one part of the equation; what you eat (and drink) before and after your exercise session is also important. Before your workout, make sure you're well hydrated. Nearly every study available conclusively shows that exercising when dehydrated will impair your performance. Before your workout have a small snack. (Get pre-workout meal and snack ideas.) After you finish, make sure to take refuel your muscles (to prepare them for future workouts) by eating the right amount of food within 30-90 minutes. Studies also show that the right post-workout meal (or snack) will replenish your glycogen stores more quickly and shorten recovery time—two factors that can help you achieve optimum results.
Try these tips and you’ll get the most from your workouts every time. Remember, it isn’t just about exercising harder or longer, it’s about exercising smarter to change your body for the better!