1. Don’t overdo it
If you have been working hard at the gym with little success, yet you persist in pushing your body week after week, an injury is just waiting to happen. If you have learned how to put in maximum effort, then you should also learn the art of “backing off”. According to the iron guru Vince Gironda, “Over enthusiasm is the most dangerous virtue of an athlete.” Avoid overtraining, you should listen to your body and give it the time it needs for optimum rest.
2. Consistency is the key
I have met parents who tell me that they are sending their children to the gym because it’s summer holiday time and they need to be kept busy. But for the rest of the year, these kids are inactive as they just study, eat and sleep. Now will you expect your kid to do well in their exams if they study for just one month in a year? Same is the case with physical training. Just like other fields, physical training requires consistency. Likewise, all those would-be brides and grooms who think a 30 day package at a slimming centre is all they need to lose weight permanently, are deluding themselves. You can’t have breaks throughout the year and see progress, you have to train consistently.
3. Progressive overload
The primary principle of exercise physiology is progressive overload. If you embark on a journey of strength training and fitness, you should be improving consistently both in terms of muscle strength and endurance, depending on your goals. This can be in various ways such as increasing the number of reps or the amount of weight lifted or cutting down on rest between sets.
4. Form comes first
Lifting weights is important, but lifting heavy barbells with poor form is equally dangerous. You do lifting exercises to improve your strength, not to impress the girl on the treadmill. In a gym, you will find two types of people—those who give no attention to their form and those who pay too much attention to it. For example, their form in some movements such as the deadlift is so poor that an injury is just bound to happen. On the other extreme, isolation movements like barbell drag curls are done with such strict form that people are stuck lifting the same weight for months, as they aren’t ready to compromise on form. I am not telling you to let your form deteriorate, but just to loosen up a little in the event that you are not improving. Loosening up your technique doesn’t mean using excessive momentum though. What you could do is in every four sets of barbell curls, try one or two sets of cheat curls and see if that makes any difference to how much you can lift.
5. Focus on the basics
Today, the market is flooded with new techniques and products which claim to make you leaner, more muscular and more athletic. Most of these claims are not only false but may even affect your performance negatively. Combining exercises from different sports like Crossfit does nothing to improve your performance but only brings you a step closer to injury. A traditional Crossfit workout combines Olympic lifts with plyometrics in a single session, a recipe for disaster. Any exercise can improve your heart rate and burn calories, but they may do nothing to improve your performance and could, in fact, impede it. So focus on the basics. If you want to develop strength in legs, first learn to squat before doing anything else. If you want strength in the upper body, first learn how to do bench press, parallel bar dips, pull-ups and rows before moving on to the more fancy stuff.
So the next time you are working out, keep these five golden rules in mind to ensure optimum results.
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