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5 Workout Hacks
Hacking Your Workout | Getting the best out of your training session
Trim down workout time by making them more efficient while maxing out on intensity.
It’s not really how LONG you workout for that makes a difference – it’s how HARD.
Workouts with shorter rest periods in between sets (let’s say 30 – 90 seconds) have been proven to increase HGH and Testosterone levels, which in turn help with repair and build muscle. Even though other research has been shown this amount to be minimal; why not do it anyway? Every little bit counts! If you multiply the amount of compact and intense workouts over the course of a year and compare it with someone who is not working out with the same density and intensity, I bet you will see a significant difference between the two. Especially if you also implement the following methods in this article.
While making the workout more efficient, you should also increase intensity by paying mind to Time Under Tension. Use a weight that makes you want to quit but still stay within your target range (high reps for conditioning, low for strength and/or size). By extending the time it takes to complete a full movement you automatically increase the intensity. Holding for at least 1-3 seconds at the peak of the contraction and then slowly lowering the weight (or extending for pull exercises) will further obliterate your muscle by using the negative movement. For those of you that workout with a partner try also adding Forced Reps to your set. Once you’re at failure, have your partner spot you while you force out 2-4 extra reps. This has been known to kick hypertrophy into overdrive! (Can also be done while alone if performing unilateral sets, you can spot with your free hand.)
2. Yoga Sandwich
It’s a well known fact that to avoid injuries, it’s very important to warm up prior to your workout. Since intense stretching before a workout can actually lead to injuries it is recommended to do light cardio or ballistic movements that closely resemble the workout itself. The idea is to increase blood flow and mobility for the types of movements involved. Allow me to present to you what I call The Yoga Sandwich. Before I start EVERY workout I precede it by doing 25 mins of yoga. This achieves not only increased blood flow (extremely important for nutrient transport to your muscles when ingesting pre-workout formulas, amino acids etc.) but also primes your muscles and limbs for the work ahead. Yoga activates your stabilizer muscles and core – both are VERY important systems needed for a heavy workout session. I rather do yoga instead of cardio simply because it’s a good way to fit it into my lifestyle, rather than trying to squeeze it in on another day.
The benefits of yoga are many. Cardio health, core strength and flexibility are only a few. The Latter is especially important for people that weight train in order to avoid stiffness and that “robotic” type of immobility. The last part of the “sandwich” would be to finish off with 5-10 mins of yoga as a cool down after your workout. This continues to force blood into your muscles and can have an almost euphoric feeling. After all, working out is supposed to make you feel good right? Feel free to do more intense stretching movements within this component, since it is at the end of your session. This stretching component is also very important for your muscle repair and growth, something that far too many people skip which can actually contribute to better results!
3. To Fast or Not To Fast
Believe it or not – what you have in your stomach can have a big effect on your performance. Many athletes and bodybuilders alike know this and use it to their advantage. It is important to experiment with meal timing prior to your workout in order to find out which method is best for you. I personally only started working out in a fasted state last year (June 2014). Honestly I felt like I just discovered a secret that was being kept from me all these years! Not only did I have more energy and was able to lift more, I also did not feel as fatigued as I did when I used to eat a small meal 30 mins to an hour prior to my session. Again everyone is different. What works for me might not work for the next guy or girl, which is why you should definitely try it out to see if it is for you. I cannot stress enough the importance for everyone to experiment for themselves to find out which methods enable them to get the most out of their training sessions.
I would also urge everyone to experiment with time of day for working out, fasted or unfasted, types of training splits (compound/isolation, push/pull, 3-day splits vs 4-day or even 5) It’s all about finding the most intense and effective workout for yourself in which you are able to push the hardest and achieve the most gains in the shortest amount of time. After all isn’t that why we workout in the first place? For health and fitness and to achieve greatness!
4. Cross Training
Since you’re in the gym for a certain block of time, why not get the most of that time as much as possible?
We are all engulfed in the fast paced hustle and bustle of modern life – it becomes very hard to fit in all the training sessions that we truly would like to perform. Fitting in yoga, cardio, core and/or strength training sessions can be next to impossible depending on your weekly schedule. Cross Training is a good way to include certain techniques or movements that would otherwise end up excluded from your schedule. For example: to do core training in between or even during a set of heavy weight training, while performing Chin-Ups, try sticking your legs straight out in front of you to activate your core. Feel free to do many variations of this (knees from side to side, or leg raises in tandem with every repetition of your chin-ups) By the end of this routine (pull-ups/chin-ups) I guarantee that your abs will be on fire for virtually any other set you do until the end of your training session. You can also interlace some light cardio in between sets to keep your heart rate up and burn fat. However be sure to refrain from doing hi-intensity cardio as it would hamper the effectiveness of your weight training sets.
Cross training target muscles even during your main set is also possible. I have not worked out on my traps specifically for years. Although they get worked out secondarily in other workouts – I kind of miss looking like I have an extra set of shoulders! What I have done for workouts like the Deadlift, Calve Raises or even Dumbbell Lunges was to to add a Shoulder Shrug at the height of every repetition. This not only works out an extra set of muscles but it barely takes you a split second longer to complete your sets. If you are keeping your rest time in between sets to a minimum as suggested in this article, then these extra movements in combination with lower rest time will not increase your workout session at all. Experiment for yourself on which additional movement you feel comfortable and natural adding and your on your way to achieving a more balanced and proportioned looking body. I personally do my shrugs at the height of my Deadlift exercise simply because shrugging 300-400lbs is more likely to put on mass in comparison to shrugging with a lower weight at the height of Dumbbell Lunges.
5. Location Location Location!!!
Just like in real estate – location is very important in weight training. No – I’m not talking about the gym that you train in, I’m talking about the positioning of your hands and limbs. Countless magazines and articles tout the importance of proper form and execution of weight training movements – but I haven’t seen many that spend a lot of time talking about the differences between hand positions. For those of you that have read my previous article, you will notice that I am all about efficiency and effectiveness. So that being said let’s get right to the point. It is a known fact that for your training session to be most effective you need to make sure you are contracting the target muscle as much as possible. For example; doing a partial chin-up or partial curl will not be as effective as doing the full range of motion and squeezing at the height of the movement. Hand positioning for certain exercises can actually affect this contraction “intensity”. What I’m going to explain here is NOT discussed regularly in the fitness community and I feel that it should not be overlooked. It will definitely change your way of thinking when it comes to the conventional workouts that we all have grown to love and have gotten used to.
Let us take a look at the Bench Press. More specifically let’s look at the incline bench press as well as the flat bench. With regards to hand positioning, people use either a wide grip, narrow grip or a grip that is shoulder width. Since I am an advocate to efficiency, I like to remove all movements that would be considered inferior from my training session and keep only the ones that give the best results. This is why I will never use wide grip while doing the Bench Press. There is no such thing as an “outer chest”. Contrary to what some people believe – NO I will not end up with an underdeveloped “outer chest”. You only have an upper and lower chest. The lower chest takes up MOST of your pectorals.
Look in a mirror and raise your arms up at your sides as if doing a lateral raise. With your arms parallel to the floor (doesn’t matter if wrists are neutral or pronated) move them slowly towards the front of you. You will see that your chest continuously contracts until your arms are slightly narrower than shoulder width in front of you. Now picture yourself (or even do it with the bar) doing a bench press with wide grip vs. shoulder width. You will notice that your chest only gets FULLY contracted during the closer grip. why not do 5-6 close grip or shoulder width bench presses rather than multiple sets of wide grip and other variations? You not only activate your pectorals more, but you also stress the secondary muscle groups (anterior shoulder, triceps) as an added bonus. The key is to get the most out of every single exercise within your training session, so would it not make sense to stick with only the exercises that provides more force and activation to your muscles? As the sets continue you will notice how much your pecs will burn. You will even see better results by focusing your sessions only on exercises that really count. Experiment with your hand positioning on other exercises and see for yourself which grips give you the best pump and contraction. It will totally destroy your target muscles (in a good way) and lead to faster and greater gains.
The aim of this article was to enable athletes and bodybuilders to get the more out of their training session within the same or even LESS time spent in the gym. By understanding the mechanics and intensity of movements, you can achieve that amazing pump leading to great results. With time being the one thing that many of us do not have, it is also important to cross train certain exercises within your training session so that it does not get missed. This is especially very important in the quest to building a strong, balanced, and proportioned physique.