Many of us are becoming serious gym lovers and whether it be to get ready for upcoming shows or just to stay healthy for your friends and family, looking down the road is something most aren’t thinking about. To make fitness more of a lifetime movement rather than a mid-20’s fad, follow these 5 tips to help take care of your body and stretch out your fitness career (to some degree) for the rest of your life.
#1: Perfect Form First
Many dudes walk in to the gym, completely cold, throw 225 on the bar and get about 3 reps on bench press and repeat about 5 or 6 times. This is never the way to begin a chest workout. Zero warming up, zero stretching and using zero % of your brain! To work the muscle properly, the mind-muscle connection has to be the most important thing to focus on.
Building strength does have a time and place, but to really get results and keep getting them for years to come, your form has to be perfect and the mind-muscle connection must be there as well.
Following a strength-gaining program like 3×5 or 5×5 type setups will help you improve strength. What people fail to realize is what kind of havoc this is wreaking on your joints, tendons and bones when not lifting the weight properly and without properly warming up.
The best advice is for the strength-gaining portion should only last a couple weeks out of the year and make sure your caloric intake is high enough to support these heavy compound lifts. Then focus on varying rep ranges to help ensure you never becomes stagnant and hit plateaus.
#2: Finding the Right Volume
A lot of workout programs call for different amounts of volume whether it be training every body part once or twice a week or even three or four full-body workouts. But what works best for you? This is all depending on trial and error on your part.
Some people just naturally recover more quickly than others and that’s fine. There isn’t one way to do it that is better than another. If you’re one that can really only handle one workout per body part per week, just make sure you’re pushing it to the limit knowing that’s the only chance at making that chest grow this week or the only chance you get at squatting this week.
#3: Listen When You’re Tired
Injuries occur when your body is tired and you refuse to listen to it. Whether you’re an intense CrossFitter or even just an every day gym goer, taking time to recover is something that you must always listen to and follow. Things like getting enough rest and altering your workout by being wise enough to listen and respond to your body is what will separate your young and dumb gym time from you being able to lift and run when you’re retired.
We’ve all heard that getting enough rest is crucial to helping your body grow and recover but how many actually get the full 8 hours we really do require? Since it’s physically not possible with those that hold full-time jobs and have families, making sure to get into a routine then becomes the most important thing.
So if you can only get 6 hours of sleep, be sure to get that much every night then so your CNS can also get into a routine. Same thing applies when actually hitting the gym – when your regimen calls for a high volume type of workout listen and respond to do a little less when serious fatigue starts to set in.
#4: Varying Exercises
There’s the bench press, the squat and the deadlift: those three exercises are great compound movement that will help you build mass but can also wreak havoc on your joints, bones and posture if not alternated with other auxiliary lifts. If you’re following a plan to increase your strength on any of these core lifts or other compound lifts, be sure to provide movement in your routine that counter-act these types of movement as well as those that encourage it.
For example, when focusing heavily on the bench press, the shoulders can roll forward and kill your form and posture. Do your set of bench press for whatever the reps may be and then maybe throw in some supersets of banded reverse flyes to ensure range of motion is full and promote lack of injury from the back/rear delt muscles becoming not worked enough.
#5: Stretch and SMR
Mastering your stretching and foam rolling sessions is really beneficial to increasing the longevity of your gym career. By ensuring that you’re able to use a full range of motion in a safe matter will ultimately lead to greater muscle gains and greater contractions because of the elasticity of the muscles. Work out knots through foam rolling or SMR to keep movements correct and form tight.
Like Newton’s First Law of Motion states, “An object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion”. Keep moving and keep making the gym part of your regular routine for many years to come.