Have you ever stopped to consider what makes a training program genuinely effective? For example, do you use the right combination of exercises? What if none of these things matter as much as we believe, and other factors determine the effectiveness of our training program?
Effective training has been the subject of much debate over the years. Go to any forum today, and you are bound to come across countless arguments between people. Everyone has their unique take on the subject, and people defend their preferred style of training with great fury. But what is the essence of practical training? What makes one program good and another program useless?
We have put together this guide to help you understand the principles behind effective training. By knowing and recognizing them, you can have effective workouts anywhere you go. Of course, this is not the only working guide - you should pick (and stick) to the one which resonates most with you. Let us dive in.
It begins with a fundamental shift…
Many people focus on a single thing and consider it to be most important for success. I believe that the problem often comes from market saturation and an ever-growing population of gurus. Allow me to elaborate.
You see, many people today aspire to build a presence in the fitness industry. But the competition is fierce, and doing that can be difficult. For example, one person bases their presence around intensity, another focuses on a single exercise, and a third promotes a specific type of equipment. Unfortunately, people who follow such individuals often believe that their singular focus on fitness makes it effective.
In reality, no single factor outshines the rest. Sound fitness is about the successful integration of several important factors, which we will look at below. The moment you internalize this, you will be able to put together effective workouts, no matter your circumstances.
Do what you can with what you have.
How many times have you heard that you need to do a specific exercise, train in a particular way, or use a special kind of gym equipment to make the most of your workouts?
Many people today preach the importance of something specific - an exercise, style, or piece of equipment. Granted, most of these claims hold validity. But, in truth, fitness is amazing precisely because it is fluid. There are dozens of ways to train, thousands of exercises to pick from, and you do not have to marry a single approach. So, when training in less than optimal circumstances (perhaps you are on the road), remember this:
You can have effective workouts, so long as you do what you can with what you have.
For example, if you have no equipment, do bodyweight exercises: squats, push-ups, and similar. If you have nothing but dumbbells, do rows, presses, curls, extensions, and similar. On this topic, you might want to check out our recent blog post with the option to use the Fitbod app.
No question, the more equipment you have, the greater your options. But none of this is to say that you can not have great workouts with no equipment.
Perform each exercise with proper technique
No matter where you are training and what your goals are, the most important thing you need to keep in mind is proper exercise technique. We tend to feel unmotivated when training in less than ideal circumstances. As a result, we pay less attention to the critical details that determine our training quality: exercise selection, training volume, intensity, effort, and form. In other words, we rush to finish, so we do not have to endure the disappointment any longer than we should.
The good news is, once you change the mindset you carry toward training, you will not see workouts as ideal and bad. Instead, you will gain an appreciation for every workout. In addition, you will see each bout as an opportunity to improve yourself in some capacity - strength, endurance, explosiveness, or something else.
But to reap benefits from your training – whether you are in one of the best gyms on the planet or in a hotel room – you need to respect each exercise. You need to be conscious of what you are doing, and you need to take the time to do each repetition with a purpose - to better yourself.
In doing so, you will be able to get more from each repetition. But, more importantly, you will learn to train effectively, regardless of your circumstances.
Begin each workout with a proper warm-up
While many people frown at warming up, taking the time to prepare your body for physical work is vital. A good warm-up prepares your body, puts you in the mindset for training, boosts your performance, and decreases your risk of getting injured. The goal is to raise your core body temperature, warm up your muscles and joints, and prevent undue friction or stress.
To achieve these effects, you should go about warming up in two phases:
1. Do a general warm-up.
The goal of the general warm-up is to get you going and raise your core body temperature. This activates your muscles, warms up the enzymes responsible for energy production, and gets you in the mindset of training.
Some light cardio and a full-body dynamic warm-up routine will be enough to get you going.
2. Follow up with specific mobilization.
The goal of specific warm-ups is to practice the activities you are about to do with less intensity. For example, if you plan on bench pressing as a first exercise, start with low weight for more repetitions. This helps get you in the groove and allows you to detect any potential pain points or discomforts with light enough weight.
Do not overthink this point. What matters most is that you start with an incredibly lightweight and make reasonable jumps until you reach your working weight. Avoid pushing yourself too hard - you do not want to be tired by the time you start your workout.
There is a third less popular benefit of warming up well: it can become a ritual and make the act of initiating workouts easier.
Contrary to what many believe, once you get started, finishing a workout is not that challenging. Starting is often the biggest hurdle. You can overcome this challenge with ease by establishing a simple ritual like warming up.
As time goes on, you will begin to associate the unique warm-up moves with the act of working out.