Make your workout more effective with these 4 tips

by Ryan Wagner

I’ve always had an eye for efficiency. Perhaps it is my engineering background, but I am always on the lookout for a better way of doing things. This week I want to talk about ways that you can make your workout more effective. These are the “macro” strategies that will help you to become a better lifter and help you to build a sustainable fitness habit.

Track your progress

Whether your goal is to lose fat, build muscle, or do both, recording your progress with a fitness journal is a smart move. It’s far too easy to just go to the gym and go through the movements. For those times when you find yourself daydreaming or aimlessly wandering around the free weight area, a fitness log can help keep you on track. It’s your roadmap, your guide. It’s also a reminder that you’re serious about this whole fitness thing and that you have a plan to get where you want to be.

Begin your workout with one big movement

I like beginning my workouts with one or two big compound movements. This could be the squat or the deadlift or something else entirely. A good rule of thumb is that you should begin your day with the more complicated and skilled movements while you’re fresh. As you grow more tired and your body fatigues, you can focus your efforts on the smaller muscles and the exercises that don’t demand too much of your attention.

If you save these big movements for near the end, you’ll be more prone to making mistakes and/or programming poor movement patterns since other areas of your musculature may be worn out already.

Last set, best set

This is one of Martin Rooney’s┬ámany wonderful sayings. Last set, best set.

The idea being that even though you may have three or four sets of an exercise planned, you should aim to only get better as you go. Too often we tend to see our planned workout, and each individual exercise, as an obligation. And when we’re halfway through, we say to ourselves, “OK, I’m just about done with this.” And what do we do? We start to lose focus on the task at hand and look towards the finish. We forget that the process is the most important thing.┬áThis is a great philosophy to adopt to make your workout more effective.

When you’re in the gym next, I want you to focus on that last set and that last couple of reps. Those are the whole reason you are in the gym, so make sure they’re the best ones.

Don’t work out on an empty stomach

In my opinion, one of the worst things is going to the gym when you’re just a little bit hungry. And when you start to move and lift weights you only grow more hungry. Pretty soon you start to feel tired and worn out. This certainly doesn’t make for a fun time in the gym or on the racquetball court.

The topic of nutrition before a workout can be a bit of a controversial one. An entire industry of supplements has grown out of the need to optimally eat prior to exercise. The Internet is full of nutrition advice suggesting just about everything under the sun. And we’re all unique, so there really is no single best food to eat or supplement to take prior to your workout. What works for me may very well be different for you.

That being said, and speaking from my own experience, I think it’s important that you don’t work out on an empty stomach. Not only can it make you weaker – and under a loaded barbell, this can be a very bad thing – but if you make a habit of it, you’ll begin to associate your workout with negative feelings. Hopefully, that’s not the case already!

Wrap up

All of us can improve the quality of our workouts. We all get into ruts sometimes where we just feel like we’re doing the same thing over and over again without making any progress. But taking a step back and looking for ways to make your workout more effective can really help to keep you in the game.

Make your workout more effective with these 4 tips by