Figuring out specific guidelines for how to have a successful workout isn't easy, especially if you don't know what you're doing to begin with. There are so many options out there, and it's tough to figure out what exactly will work best for you. I learned this the hard way in college, when I downloaded a workout guide I found online that I thought would help me get stronger fast. I hit the weight machines hard, and was clueless about what I was doing. I ended up pulling a muscle in my hip during week one, so... needless to say, that didn't really go as planned. This, of course, could have been avoided if I had had any idea how to do the exercises correctly.
In phone interviews with fitness guru Ashley Borden and Nick Mullin, fitness manager at Denver's OrangeTheory Fitness, I learned the dos and don'ts of how to make your workout as successful and safe as possible. As long as your form is correct and you're using the appropriate weight, any move you're doing is better than no move at all. Yes, there are some exercises that are more successful than others (depending on what your fitness goals are), but trainers are generally hesitant to say "never" to do a particular workout. Instead, you need to find what makes you feel good, and is most effective for your body.
1. DON'T Do Anything That Will Put You In Danger
This may seem like an obvious one, but it's incredibly important. "If you're going to try to lift something over your head, you need to make sure it's something you actually can lift," says Mullin. Don't overexert yourself, especially if it's your first time trying a new workout.
2. DO Be Realistic About How Much You Can Lift
Some of us really want to look like a badass while bench-pressing huge weights Ronda Rousey style, but it becomes ineffective if they're too heavy. Mullin says, "Take it down to a level you can handle, and add an extra set instead of going heavier." Beware of going too light, though. The test? "If you’re doing 10 reps of something, reps 8, 9, and 10 should be hard to finish — incredibly hard — but you should still be able to do them in perfect form."
3. DON'T Forget About Your Core
According Borden in an email to Bustle, your core is the most important thing to strengthen, because it's the part of your body that keeps you upright, which becomes more and more necessary as you age. The best exercise to achieve this? The classic plank, because it works your ab, back, and glute muscles all at once. To maximize results and minimize injury, make sure you lock your legs, squeeze your butt and engage your core.
4. DO Consult a Trainer
Most gyms offer one free consultation with a trainer who will teach you how to use the equipment, which is something worth taking advantage of. But make sure the expert you're consulting with actually is an expert; double check their credentials and make sure they're accredited properly. If you decide to work with a trainer, make sure he/she has a plan for you for both the short and long term, and knows what you want to achieve.
5. DON'T Forget Major Muscle Groups
"Major muscle groups give you the biggest calorie burn," says Borden. "So you want to hit a major muscle group first, then finish with a smaller muscle group." Your bigger muscle groups are your glutes, quadriceps, chest and hamstrings, and your smaller muscle groups are your shoulders, biceps, triceps and calves. For example, after a heavy bench press, finish off your workout with 30 tricep band extensions to get the full effects of both exercises.
6. DO Remember to Roll Out
According to Borden, rolling out (with a foam roller) before a workout is just as important as stretching afterward. "Everyone needs to roll out for 10 minutes before every session. And they need to do their whole bodies," she says. Need help figuring out how, exactly to do this? Consult a guide to rolling out.
7. DON'T Stick to the Same Workout Forever
In order to avoid focusing on certain muscles and ignoring others, says Borden, it's important to build your body with a functional training foundation. If you've been hesitant to commit to these types of workouts, be aware that you may start to see less results with small-muscle targeting programs (like pilates, barre, and dance classes) as you age.
8. DO Make it Fun
Says Mullin, "The main word of working out is 'work' and that's what people don’t want to do. If we called it 'funning out' do you know how many people would be in shape right now?!"
That said, you need to find what works for you personally. Try different things (Classpass is a great way to test out a variety of fitness classes) until you find something you love. Set a goal for yourself, like training for a half marathon or just gaining more energy, to keep you motivated. The more you enjoy what you're doing, the better you'll feel.
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