Having a routine is crucial to your progress in the iron temple. It’s important to develop a sound base and structure your workouts in a way that will allow you to build strong habits.
Never workout on an empty stomach
I’ve heard plenty of advice on why you should do cardio in the morning before breakfast or why you shouldn’t lift until hours after you eat. But the bottom line is that in order for you to kill your workout, your body needs to be able to readily metabolize glycogen. Going on a light-headed five mile jog in the wee hours of the morning may seem like a good idea, but there is no way to push your limits if you don’t have the fuel to do so.
If you’re on a cycle where you’re doing both weight training and cardio daily, I suggest lifting in the morning and running at night. Personally I don’t like sacrificing anything in the gym. I would rather have a lighter run than a weaker lift.
Always start with compound exercises
This means exercises that target more than one isolated muscle group. If you’re doing chest, start with bench. If you’re doing legs, start with squats. A lot of lifting is mental, and you’re never going to feel like you’re getting stronger if you’re sacrificing weight on your main lifts because you decided to knock out 10 sets of incline flys beforehand.
Warm up, then stretch
Lots of people think it’s important to stretch before weight training. For most of us stretching first thing in the morning is like trying to jump rope with uncooked pasta. The key is to warm up with an exercise that will get blood flowing throughout your entire body so you’re ready to attack your workout from the very first rep. Try doing dumbbell step ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or burpees for two to three minutes before hitting the weights.
90 minute rule
Another good rule of thumb that will lock you into a routine and force you to hold yourself accountable is the 90-minute rule. If you spend more than an hour and a half in the gym, you’re wasting time and your body is most likely going catabolic (essentially breaking down muscle for energy). It’s good to rest between sets, but focus on keeping your heart rate up. I have an unorthodox habit of walking to my water bottle or water fountain and taking a few sips after each exercise. This keeps my body moving and my breaks short and sweet. Limiting your time in the gym will keep you from losing focus and intensity.
And when you’re waiting in line for a rack or platform to open up, get in the habit of asking how many sets the person in front of you has left so you don’t end up standing there awkwardly with your hands in your pockets for thirty minutes. Ultimate workout buzzkill.
A good workout always leaves you feeling some type of way, but don’t forget to finish it off with some type of whey. Get some protein into your system immediately so you can begin recovering and follow it up with a balanced meal such as chicken breast, vegetables, and a complex carb like sweet potato.
Don’t let your routine become static
Staying consistent and organized within a routine is essential for your success, but there comes a time when your best friend will become your greatest adversary. Letting your routine become static is the number one reason you will stop seeing improvements, which is depressing and aesthetically demoralizing. Be opportunistic at the gym and know the overall scheme of your workout so if it’s crowded you can do your exercises in any order. This is also helpful because it keeps your body guessing. Whether you realize it or not, your muscles remember whether you always follow up leg press with leg extensions. When you feel yourself losing motivation and plateauing in strength, switch your program.
The most important part of any workout plan is staying dynamic within your routine. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.