When it comes to working out, many of us throw on our gym shoes, push through our exercise, and quickly move on. Any time you can fit in exercise is great, but there are things you should do every time you work out to help improve your muscles, prevent injury, and maximize recovery. When we get so caught up in our routine, we often forget to focus on proper form, nutrition, and even when to rest, and these can cause problems later on that make working out harder.
"If you find yourself performing the same exercises at the gym, you might be going on autopilot," says James Kilgallon, CSCS over email. "Having a game plan will ensure you get the most out of your workouts. It will also help you avoid muscle imbalances which can wreak havoc on your body. [Following proper protocol] helps build variety in your program, which is important as our bodies tend to adapt to exercise or stress that we continually place on it."
If you want to make the most out of your workouts, make sure you do these six things every time you exercise to increase your safety and to maximize what your potential.
1. Warm Up
"Not warming up is one of the best ways to cause an injury," says personal trainer Jacqueline Kelly over email. "Warming up consists of achieving an elevated heart rate, increasing respiration, and a warming of the skin." According to WebMD, your muscles respond better to challenges once they are warmed up, so be sure to a five to 10 minute aerobic warm up before diving into your workout.
2. Improve Your Posture
"Posture is overlooked much to often," says Kilgallon. "If you have a poor musculoskeletal alignment you won’t have the ability to activate certain muscles. Proper alignment is key for optimal muscle development and it can significantly reduce your chance of injury."
3. Fit In Some Cardio
"The American College of Sports Medicine asserts that we need to elevate our heart rate every day for heart health and to prevent coronary artery disease," says Kelly. "For most of us, we want to do cardio because it burns more calories and helps us to increase our stamina and endurance. You’ll feel more energy throughout the day if you add cardio into every workout."
4. Cross Train
If you do the same workout routine every single day, you may be putting your body at a disadvantage. Cross-training involves combining different workout strategies to improve your overall fitness levels. Try to incorporate different types of exercises each time you workout to help increase your aerobic capacity.
5. Take A Technology Break
It may seem tempting to use our phone during workouts to distract ourselves, but studies show taking a break from technology is good for our wellbeing, so your workout is a good time to put your phone and computer away. Whether you're at yoga or running on the treadmill, allow yourself to become fully immersed in your exercise.
"Once we’ve done our workout and the body is warm, we need to stretch out the muscles we just worked to aid in recovery and continue the body’s ability to function in its right range of motion," says Kelly. Cooling down helps prevent a drastic drop in heart rate and blood pressure, says WebMD.
Taking the right steps each time you workout will help ensure you keep your muscles strong and healthy, and you'll likely see more improvements along the way.
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