Fitness success: 7 ways to upgrade your workouts for better results

Josef Brandenburg, special to

WASHINGTON – This time of year is when most people are thinking about fitness. But one of the biggest killers to motivation is not seeing immediate results. However, there are several things you can do to help maintain momentum towards your fitness or weight-loss results.

  1. Power training is not just for athletes. No matter how old you think you are, you should do something that is fast and explosive. Kettlebell work (with instruction from a legitimate professional) and medicine ball work (throwing balls at a wall or the floor) are the most practical tools for power training. There are certain crucial muscle fibers that you will only get access to with an explosive movement, and these muscle fibers can have a huge, positive impact on your metabolism.
  2. Don’t compete. A lot of people think working out requires a big chunk of time. In addition, many think it’s boring because they often do workouts based on repetition at targeted body parts.

    Instead, use pairs or groups of non-competing exercises to maximize your time and your results. An example of this would be to do some sort of lower body exercise (like a squat), then, while your lower body is resting go straight to an upper body exercise (like a push-up). Then take your break. This sequence gives you “local recovery” in minimal time, meaning your lower body is mostly recovering while your upper body is working hard, and vice versa.

  3. Earn and use your rest. Sometimes people take my advice from the aforementioned tip to mean that they should simply keep moving non-stop for 30 to 45 minutes. This is not true. Work hard enough that you need to take a rest break at the end of a circuit of non-competing exercises.

    The “magic” of strength training is that you need to be moving something that is heavy for you — like your own body. If you can keep moving at a constant pace for 30 minutes, then whatever you are doing is too easy to produce any results. In short: If you don’t need the break, then you’re wasting your time. You can only workout hard or you can workout long, but it is physically impossible to work hard and long. This leads us to the next tip.

  4. Remember the point of working out. Sweating more will not lead to faster or better results. A workout is something you do to stimulate your body to make a change — to lose fat, gain strength, etc. Results do not happen during a workout, they happen between workouts.

    If you beat yourself into the ground (or pay someone to do this to you) on a regular basis there will come a point in time when you stop getting better and start getting worse, since you aren’t allowing any time for recovery. In addition, you will also begin to dread exercise, sleep poorly, have aches and pains, not feel well.

  5. Maximize the most important meal of the day. Here’s a hint: It’s not breakfast. While the first meal of the day is an important meal, it’s not always the most important. The most important meal is the one after your workout because this meal determines if the magical recovery period will be productive or not.

    Because results happen between workouts and during your recovery period, the better you recover, the better you progress. A poor recovery will lead to poor results. For best results, your post workout meal should be the largest meal of the day and it should contain lots of protein. These calories will go to your lean tissue for fuel, energy and repair to make you look and feel great.

  6. Write it down. If it was worth doing, it’s worth recording. To see progress in the mirror, you need to make progress in the gym. You need your records so you can push to do more today than you did last week, and so you can tell when you are no longer making progress and a change of plans is in order.
  7. Get your priorities in order. Trying to focus on two conflicting goals at the same time only ensures that you will accomplish neither. An example of this would be someone who wants to train for a marathon and lose 30 pounds of body fat at the same time. You only have so much time and energy to spend exercising and recovering from exercise.

    If you spend most of your time on training for fat-loss, then you are not going to do very well in your marathon. At the same time, the training you do for completing a marathon will prevent you from doing effective fat-loss training and will usually make you ravenous and lead to weight gain, not loss.

    A better way to use your time wisely would be to lose the 30 pounds first, and then go focus on your marathon while you maintain your weight.

Editor’s Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book “Results Fitness.” In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube.

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