by Zac Howe
For those that catch themselves doing more diddly-squats than actual squats at the gym, remember that good workouts depend on purpose and intensity, not time. Create a plan utilizing the tips below to get the most bang for your metabolic buck.
Use Food as Fuel: To get the most out of a workout, it is important to fuel the body with high-quality foods. It is generally a good idea to have an easily digestible pre-workout meal. Ideally, consume meals from whole foods, but if this is difficult to achieve on certain days or in particular environments, substitute a homemade protein shake. This will help provide the energy levels needed to keep moving.
Lift Something Heavy: People tend to think that heavy weights are only for those that want to bulk up, which is not true. The fact is that if one lifts heavy, he or she will gain muscular density, get toned and burn fat. What a person consumes determines the rest. Added bonus—lifting heavy weights has been proven to strengthen connective tissue, increase bone density and optimize cartilage health. For beginner lifters, it is important to focus on perfecting the form of lifts. This will decrease the likelihood of injury and increase the effectiveness of the exercise. Once the form is perfected, then it’s time to start adding some weight.
Utilize Tempos: Fitness aficionados perform hundreds to thousands of reps each week, but most never incorporate tempo training into their workouts. Tempos are simply the time spent in each phase of a chosen lift. Biomechanically speaking, there are three distinct phases of a lift:
Eccentric phase: the lowering of the weight
Isometric or transition phase: the dead-stop period, or mid-point
Concentric phase: the lifting of the weight
An example of a 3:1:2 tempo squat rep would be a three-second eccentric, a one-second pause at the bottom and then a two-second concentric.
Recharge the Battery: The simple fact is that if the body isn’t in a state of training, then it’s in a state of recovery. Don’t complicate post-workout nutrition. Eat within a couple of hours, and keep it clean. Add a little bit more to the plate on training days, or take in an extra protein shake. As for sleep, one should be fighting for sleep like a mother bear fighting for her cub. Develop rituals to help set the stage for sleep. Put the phone away and avoid blue light after dark. Keep the temperature cool in the room and as dark as possible. During the winter months, never settle for less than eight to nine hours of shuteye per night.
Zac Howe is an Oklahoma City-based holistic strength coach, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Connect with him at CoachZacHowe@gmail.com or visit ZacHowe.com.