There are plenty of ways to waste time or improperly train at the gym, from incorrectly building your core to creating imbalances in the lower body. However, this is easy to avoid by making simple changes in technique and becoming more aware of your body. Follow these guidelines to fix basic mistakes people make at the gym and you’ll be on your way to the most productive workout yet.
[media-credit name=”Coutesy of MJ Lamie” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]
Building Your Core:
Weighted side bends are a big waste of time. This exercise, thought to target and tone the oblique muscles, will actually thicken your waistline and widen your hips. To properly train oblique muscles, you should use the torso rotation machine or incorporate rotation into crunches. A great exercise is the decline crunch with a twist at the top. However, for men doing heavy compound lifts, such as deadlifts and squats, your oblique muscles will naturally thicken with time.
Correct Cardio for your Goals:
Low intensity, steady state cardio, or L.I.S.S., is the most popular because it requires the least amount of effort. Unfortunately, cruising at even a moderate intensity will give you little to no fat burning results. L.I.S.S is only useful if you want to maintain your current physique and burn excess calories. If you’re looking to build muscle, avoid L.I.S.S.
If you want to achieve dramatic fat burning results, you have to do high-intensity interval training, or H.I.I.T. I recommend using the gym on Mount Carmel campus when doing H.I.I.T. cardio because it has a track. Try sprinting the straightaway, then walking the curve. High-intensity sprints increase your metabolic rate for a long time after exercising, as well as tighten up your lower body and yield fast results.
A more moderate form of H.I.T.T involves 30-second rotations of low and high intensity levels for 20 minutes. For example, run at level five on the treadmill then turn in up to level 10.
One of the most effective forms of cardio is what I call “cardio shots,” or skipping from one form of cardio to another for brief durations. For example, do the stairmaster or the elliptical for three minutes, then hop in the stationary row for two minutes, and finally jump rope for one minute. Maintaining a moderately high intensity during each rotation is tolerable since you’re using different muscle groups each time, allowing them to recover in between.
Avoid Imbalances in your Lower Body:
Because the sedentary lifestyle is popular, a majority of people are already quadriceps dominant. Therefore, there is no day-to-day strain on our hamstrings. Also, when doing squats and lunges, you rely heavily on quads, and therefore don’t utilize the ample strength and power that comes from your hamstrings.
Hamstrings are like the biceps of the leg. They pull you forward and out of the bottom position of a squat. The smartest thing to do is lie face down and perform hamstring curls, whether on a machine or with a dumbbell between your feet.
Training your hamstrings will correct your muscular imbalances and actually improve the overall appearance and function of your leg muscles. In other words, squatting and sprinting will be easier, and your legs will be more toned.
MJ Lamie is a certified personal trainer, a former employee of General Nutrition Centers, a men’s physique competitor and a longtime fitness enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter @Mjlamie for daily fitness motivation, tips and tricks.