Getting fit isn’t just as simple as hitting the gym a couple times a week. In order to see maximum results, targeting your workout to meet your fitness goals is very important. Whether you want to drop ten pounds, tone your abs, or build some serious muscle mass — when it comes to fitness, work smarter not harder. To see results, while saving time, follow these top tips to work smarter and not harder.
Mix It Up
You might think that your exercise routine is rock solid, but the truth is, mixing up your gym routine is crucial in order to evenly tone your body, and stay safe while exercising. Doing the same moves day after day can over-develop certain muscles, while not engaging others. Having muscle groups that are uneven in strength can lead to compensation, muscle strain, or injury, so focus on staying well rounded.
Are you a marathon runner? Introduce some swimming into your exercise routine. Deeply committed to spin class? Make sure you work your upper body with some weight training. Love lifting? Sign up for a yoga class to keep you limber. Inserting a little bit of variety into your gym day will make you healthier and stronger overall.
High Intensity Interval Training
In terms of exercise routines, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best bang for your buck. Reap the benefits of an hour long workout session, with just twenty minutes of hard work. HIIT is lauded for being the best way to burn fat, and reduces your risk for Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease.
High Intensity Interval Training pushes your body hard for short period of time, and repeats the same circuit several times, with a minute break between circuits. Here are some exercises to get you started:
- Do as many pull ups as you can in 30 seconds.
- Focus on your form: your hands should be placed shoulder width apart with straight arms. Pull your elbows directly downwards towards the floor. Your chin should clear the bar.
- If you aren’t strong enough to complete a pull up, work on chin-ups, where you grip the bar with your palms facing upwards.
- If chin ups are still too difficult, work on negatives. Jump up over the bar and lower yourself slowly downward, trying to stay as in control as possible.
- Do 60 reps of jumping jacks.
- Make sure you open your legs slightly wider than your hips as you jump.
- Land lightly and immediately jump back to your starting position.
- Do 20 burpees.
- Begin in a standing position
- Drop to a squat with your hands touching the ground.
- Kick your feet back into a straight armed plank and complete a push up.
- Jump back into the squat position.
- Explode into a jump straight up.
Take a one-minute break after completing all three exercises, and repeat the circuit three more times.
If you’re not a fan of circuit training, you can also reap the benefits of HIIT through Krav Maga or boxing. The short intervals of intense sparring mirrors the structure of High Intensity Interval Training in a fun class setting. The adrenaline gives you the encouragement you need to break a serious sweat. Even better — Krav Maga and boxing are great self-defense training, so you will be stronger and safer.
Focus on Your Form
You aren’t getting the most of your workout when you perform your routine with improper or sloppy form. Crunches and push ups are among the two most improperly performed exercises.
When you do crunches get double the toning power when you keep your abs contracted and flat as you lower back down to the floor, not just on the way up.
For a proper push up, make sure your shoulders are directly over your hands and that you keep your elbows tucked in close to your body as you lower to the ground. For an added challenge, try crossing your ankles.
Healthy food makes for a healthy you, but skimping on calories can be detrimental to your exercise routine. Diet culture gives carbs a bad rep, but carbohydrates, like brown rice and potatoes, are an important source of energy for an active adult. Most runners swear by a big pasta dinner the night before a big race, while fruit and high fiber crackers make for a great pre-workout snack.
Your body burns through carbohydrates quickly, so if you are planning on working out for more than 90 minutes, be sure to add some protein to the mix to slow down the carb breakdown and give you longer lasting energy.
A few pre-workout snack ideas:
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana slices
- Greek yogurt with trail mix
- Oatmeal with berries
Daily Fitness Habits
Getting fit doesn’t have to require clocking major hours in the gym. Sneak some exercise into your daily life by make your regular habits work double duty. Switch out your office chair for a yoga ball, which will help you build ab strength over time. Keep some 10 or 15 pound weights handy, so you can do sets of curls and overhead presses while you work or watch TV. These little habits can have major effects, helping you get stronger and fitter with minimal effort.
Putting it all Together
Making small changes to your workout routine can ensure you get the full benefits without changing your entire life. Add some of these tips into your regular routine and watch as your body changes and you get stronger!
Bryan Carlos is a fitness guru and freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. He has been a personal trainer and coach for over 10 years and he enjoys writing about fitness and nutrition. When he’s not writing, he enjoys attending Krav Maga classes in Los Angeles to challenge his body and mind.