Been going to the gym for a while and still enjoying it but no longer seeing or feeling the gains you achieved earlier? Don’t worry, this is not an unusual scenario and just means it might be time to inject something new into your gym workouts to provide the necessary boost!
Gym Exercise Tips
1 – Overhead squat assessment
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An overhead squat can tell you much about your body and the way it moves, if you struggle to perform this movement by breaking down a joint to joint approach starting from your feet, you can have an idea of the weak, over-active, immobile or unstable parts of your body.
Feet over-pronating, knees medially rotating inwards, excessive forward trunk flexion, arms falling forward, weight shift to one side are all areas that could be observed. You don’t have to perform the overhead squat with a heavy barbell, just try maintaining arms in the air in line with your ears.
One example is the observation of excessive forward flexion of the trunk.
Probable overactive muscles: Soleus Gastrocnemius Hip Flexor Complex Abdominal Complex (rectus abdominus, external oblique).
Probable underactive muscles: Anterior Tibialis Gluteus Maximus Erector Spinae.
Areas to focus on flexibility/ Self-myofascial release: Calf Stretch, Hip Flexor, Stretch, Ball Abdominal Stretch.
Another method to assess if tight calf muscles/lack of dorsi-flexion causes the excessive forward trunk flexion is to perform a squat with small plates under your heels. If this corrects your overhead squat, then specific calf stretches and dorsi-flexion mobility is key to addressing this.
2 – Structural balance
The overhead squat can tell you a lot about how your body moves and functions and you can start ironing out key areas to stretch and activate, but it’s no good if you keep loading in the same manner you did previously and end up with the same result.
For example: your bench press is amazing, but you can’t do anywhere near the same load on a bent over row and your chins are a disaster. Chances are your shoulders look like a Silverback Gorilla and you could be (if not already) heading in the direction of shoulder impingement.
So, strengthen your weaknesses and be sure you’re aware of postural imbalances. For example, if you’re predominately tight and over-active in the chest department, the chances are you have elongated and weak posterior muscles. You could address this by splitting your routine into Posterior, Anterior and Corrective days, instead of the traditional split routines.
3 – Primal movements
Squat, Lunge, Bend, Push, Pull, Twist and Gait are all primal movements we would need to survive and function as cavemen. We seem to be more and more operating our bodies in the sagittal plane. Adding rotational forces of the transverse plane and frontal stability will not only minimise risk of back pain and other common injuries, but also enhance sporting performance.
It’s a well-known fact amongst health professionals that most injuries occur in the frontal plane. So not only will you minimise injuries, you might get yourself a 6 pack!
Tip: add side planks and cable wood chops to your routine.
4 – Breath more to recruit your core
This is an area that many people could improve on. Our diaphragm is a key stabilising muscle of the spine and is switched on by deep breathing techniques. The problem is a lot of people tend to chest breath. That means you’re missing out on a lot of your oxygen requirements and pelvic floor stabilisation.
If, for example, pre-squat you deep breathe in prior to the eccentric phase of the squat and slightly draw in your belly button (also activation Tranverse Abdominus) this will cause what’s known as intra-abdominal pressure, which keeps your pelvic floor stable right through the bottom of the squat.
As you come out of the bottom range of the squat and you feel safely towards the upward motion, you can start letting the air out through pursed lips (known as piston breathing).
5 – Watch the clock
Workouts are often affected by too much chatting and often last longer than intended. Research shows that shorter more intense workouts are much more effective. So, minimise your rest periods to 60 seconds between sets and be aware of your planned tempo. You’re in the gym to make results, not friends!
6 – Make your body the machine
Most of us sit down at work, jump in the car, on a bus or train and are seated to and from work and most likely spend some time seated in front of the telly for a few hours prior to bed, so why go to the gym and sit on a machine?!
With so many options in the free-weight section or functional zones of your health club, start implementing your routine with movements from a standing position. You’ll reap the rewards of more motor unit recruitment, better stability, improved posture and ultimately speedy results.
7 – Bodyweight super-sets
Bodyweight plyometric/power orientated movements will recruit the fast twitch muscle fibres and increase heart rate, so you’ll get an afterburn from training (enhanced metabolism), increased speed and power, build more lean muscle and you’ll also increase your work capacity.
Try coupling these movements with the super sets below:
Back Squat – Box Jumps
Bench Press – Clap Push-Ups
Chin ups – TRX Single Arm Power Row
Front Squat – Suicide Sprints
Kettle Bell Clean and Press – Burpees
8 – Specificity
If you’re training for a particular sport or event, you’ll need to tick the right boxes to be functional, injury free and enhance performance. Leading up to an event, you may taper off the heavy weights and aim to improve key movement specifics such as agility, power and work capacity.
I’m not saying mimic the movements of the sport completely, but if you’re a tennis player doing some cone drills, working on dynamic movement and reaction time using medicine balls could do you a world of good. This goes for any sport: if you’ve signed up for an obstacle race and don’t include running on different terrains, you could be faced with ankle/foot/knee injuries on the day.
Get someone to look at yourself performing some skills required for your sport or, even better, video some of your key movements that you could enhance with some gym training. You may need a lower centre of gravity in your movement to enhance agility, so you can look into lunging laterally.
If your vertical jump isn’t up to scratch, you could certainly focus on adding more activities that improve jumping mechanics. When using video analysis, break the skill down into 3 segments: Preparatory Phase/Action Phase/ Follow through.
Once you’re aware of where you may be losing balance, lacking mobility or losing power, you can start looking at treating this issue through specific movements.
If you have any questions please get in touch through my WatchFit Profile Page.