Training regularly, sleeping well and getting enough protein and carbs are key to making progress in the gym. However, have you considered these simple tips to generate even more growth? If you’re weight training, particularly for hypertrophy (increasing muscle mass), these tips will help you to have a more efficient workout!
Avoid fasted training
You need to fuel your body to build muscle mass. Our body has increased cortisol levels in the morning to wake us up. If we exercise without eating, cortisol levels can increase, and thyroid function may slow down and could contribute to increased fat storage. Weight training relies on carbs, but if you work out early in the morning, a heavy meal may not be feasible, so opt for a banana or a similar snack. Make sure to have a carb-heavy meal with a source of protein in the hour after your session.
Dynamic stretches before you train
If you want to stretch before your lifts, opting for a dynamic warm-up over static stretches is optimal for weight training. Holding a stretch for under 30 seconds seems to have a neutral effect on performance. Static stretching for over a minute can reduce your power output for the rest of your session. Do some warm-up sets of your main lift, and you may also benefit from some targeted mobility or core stability work.
Prioritise rest and recovery
Though we put in the work at the weights room, your muscles are rebuilt outside of the gym. The endorphin boost that comes from training can be addictive, but overtraining can have a reverse effect, leading to mental and physical exhaustion. ‘Active’ rest days involve less strenuous exercise: a walk, yoga or a relaxing swim, but if your body could benefit from a complete day of rest, honour this! Getting enough sleep is also essential for recovery. Experts recommend 7-9 hours per night. The optimal number can differ for everyone, so it is worth tracking your sleep to figure out your ideal length of sleep for your wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to skip that day’s workout if you had a poor night’s sleep. If you only managed around 5 hours of rest, you may feel energised by some gentle exercise, but it’s probably not the time to aim for any PBs.
Skip the ‘glute activations’
I, like many other women, fell hard for the glute activation trend, which I now feel was solely encouraged so influencers could sell you their resistance bands. Of course, resistance bands (particularly the longer ones) have their place in some programmes. But your glutes are always activated otherwise you’d fall down. Doing a hundred fire hydrants and frog pumps will fatigue you before your big lifts. If you really need some assistance in getting that mind-muscle connection, step-ups are a great exercise where you can apply progressive overload.
Use organisational tools
You’re probably doing this already, but using an app to log your sets and time your rest periods can streamline your workouts. Previously, I would time my rests rather inaccurately off the clock and input my lifting stats into my notes. Apps allow you to condense this information into one place, and many provide form cues. They have a motivational effect, too, as you can compare stats and see how much progress you’ve actually made.
One step at a time
Every now and then, you may get to the gym in a bad mood and feel completely disheartened about your workout. As long as you’re physically prepared, tell yourself to do one or two exercises and then you can leave. By this point, you’re usually willing to go through with the whole thing!