Surprisingly enough there’s more to working out than just grabbing a set of dumbbells and busting out “three sets of 10.” I guess if you don’t mind mediocre results and being bored then there’s nothing wrong with that regimen. But I’m not satisfied with it, and you deserve better!
Doesn’t it sound a lot more promising to learn some cool tips that can help you tap into potential you didn’t know you had? That’s what I thought. Then pull up a chair and pay close attention to what I’m about to say. You may think I’m nuts, but give these tricks a whirl before you judge.
Learn how to get tight.
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Have you ever heard of this thing called bracing? It’s a technical term used to describe keeping your spine neutral and body in good alignment during an exercise. It’s also often referred to as “abdominal bracing” because you are basically squeezing your abs forcefully.
Creating tension in your body is similar but to a higher degree. This is a great technique to instantly produce more power and strength, and insure that your back never suffers excessive strain from poor mechanics.
I’m going to give you an example of how to use it with a lift and then elaborate a bit more on why it is important.
Let’s use a dumbbell military press. You know that point you come to when you’re hoisting heavy weights overhead and stop dead in your tracks?
This is often referred to as a sticking point. Well, if you create tension in your body you will likely be able to breeze past that point and finish the full range of motion.
Here’s how to do it. Once you get to your sticking point, squeeze your quads, glutes and abs as hard as you can while simultaneously squeezing the handles of the weights like you want to break them in half.
We often refer to this as a crush grip or trigger grip. In other words, you want to create as much tension in your body as you possibly can.
Using this technique will instantly make you stronger and allow you to push the weights the rest of the way up with relative ease.
Practice the crush grip and full body tension technique with every lift you do and watch what happens. As an added benefit, you’ll also get more defined abs without ever having to do a single crunch!
The end result of getting your body tight is more strength, more definition and back pain prevention.
Wear flat-soled shoes.
I see too many fancy, schmancy shoes on people’s feet these days.
They have all kinds of cushion technology with flashy colors to match. All of those shoes are completely worthless in my opinion. Yes, you heard me correctly and I’m not afraid to say it.
Before you get mad, just stop and think about it for a second. Those shoes are very rigid and do not allow your foot to do what it was designed to do—move comfortably.
If you lack foot and ankle mobility, you also lack balance and are cheating yourself the ability to build quality strength.
Those big, puffy soles elevate your heels way off the ground and are very spongy. If you stand on a spongy surface, how much stability do you think you’ll have? Not much.
When you are lifting weights off the ground then overhead, which is the case with a clean and press, you will not be able to fully grip the floor beneath you. That leads to a force leak, which leads to poor balance, which leads to compromised strength gains.
The simple fix is to wear flat-soled shoes. Take a good look at powerlifters the next time you are in the gym. If they are huge and serious, chances are they will be shod with flat-soled shoes.
That’s because they like to drill their feet into the floor for better force production. Follow their example!
I would also throw running into this mix as well. Having that huge sponge under your heel gives you a false sense of security every time your foot contacts the ground. It’s true that this will absorb impact and spare your heels from eternal damnation, but your joints aren’t spared a crumb of mercy.
They still feel ALL the impact from your toe joints all the way to your neck.
Shift to a flat-soled shoe and focus on landing on the balls of your feet with your heel touching the ground last and you will add years to your running career.
And if you are confused about flat-soled shoes, just think in terms of skater shoes. Converse All Stars, Airwalks, Vans and Sketchers all fall into this category. And, they are fashionable, cheaper than scientific shoes and stylish.
Stay loose between sets.
You know that pain you feel in your muscles a day or two after a hard workout? Most people wrongly assume that it’s lactic acid. In reality, that pain you feel is due to micro tears in your muscles. It’s actual pain!
Lactic acid is a substrate that builds up in your muscles during a series of reps. It’s that short-term burn you feel and it just so happens that it is often accompanied with muscle soreness days later because you technically broke down muscle cells. Of course that’s going to hurt!
If you were to reduce the amount of lactic acid build-up, you can recover quicker between sets and achieve better results. Here’s how you’re going to do it.
Instead standing around, checking your Facebook status between sets, hop and down in place, and shake your hands and arms wildly. In the kettlebell world, we call this “fast and loose.”
Have you ever seen Michael Phelps before a big race? He stands on the block and waves his arms back and forth violently like he’s swatting hornets. That’s a technique to get really loose before he starts pulling his arms through the water.
Follow this example and do the same type of thing between hard sets when you are working out. If you are doing leg exercises, literally grab your quadriceps and shake them back and forth quickly. You will see the lactic acid pain disappear in seconds.
Carb up at night.
This last tip specifically pertains to all of you who work out first thing in the morning like me. I know I’m going to get crucified for saying this but it’s got validity. All the experts tell you to never eat carbs at night but I say that’s bunk.
The truth is, everyone reacts differently to different stimuli. What might work for you might not work for John Smith down the road.
I know what works for me, and that’s eating carbs at night. Ponder this thought for a minute. If you have carbs at night when your metabolism slows down, they will get stored in your liver and muscles.
When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have energy because you just got done sleeping, and your carb storage will be topped off so you won’t bonk during your workout.
I know for one, that I feel awful side effects from eating before a workout. My breathing is labored, my heart is pounding through my chest and I experience horrible stomach discomfort and cramps. I’d rather avoid these complications and go in there on an empty stomach.
The only thing I do is drink water to stay hydrated. Even in the off chance I was forced to work out in the afternoon, I’d fast for a few hours before my workout just to make sure I won’t feel any eating-related side effects.
I don’t suggest noshing on unhealthy carbs at night either. Stick with complex carbs that get digested slowly and feel free to add some protein to your meal or snack. Greek yogurt with all natural honey and granola is a good example.
OK, I think I rambled on long enough. Take these tips with you the next time you hit the gym and think about me while you’re training. I’m always available if you should need any further assistance too.