When it comes to making progress in the gym, we’re always looking for how we can perform better, train harder, lift heavier, etc. Realistically, there aren’t many things you can do to instantly improve your performance, however, there are many small, often-ignored steps that can significantly increase the quality effort you are able to put in during your workouts. By paying attention to every aspect of your training, including the less-obvious ones, such as always getting an adequate amount of sleep and going into your workouts with the right attitude, you will find that you become significantly stronger and you will make much more progress.
Trump Your Workout
✓ Sleep is crucial to achieving maximum performance
This one applies to life both in and out of the gym. Getting the right amount of sleep is fundamental for cognitive performance as well as physical performance. Whether you’re looking to be more efficient at work, start your days more easily, or be able to feel more energized during your workouts, sleep should always be the first place you look to for improvements. Sleep requirements vary by individual, but a good rule of thumb is that adults generally need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep, and teenagers even more. By readjusting your schedule to allow more time for sleep, you can easily achieve heightened efficiency and better performance in day-to-day life.
✓ Nutrition will dictate the quality of your workout
Like sleep, nutrition is crucial to how you feel every day, not just while you’re in the gym. By consistently getting the correct amount of the nutrients you need, you will improve daily functioning and your strength will skyrocket. Personally, I have found this increase to be astronomical as I tend to struggle with weights much lighter than I usually lift on days when I’ve compromised on my diet.
Although the negative effects will vary by the person, cleaning up your diet and making sure you meet all of your vitamin and nutrient requirements will improve how you regularly feel. When you get smart about nutrition, your body will take notice and you will start to feel so great on a daily basis that you’ll never understand how you could have gone without proper nutrition before.
✓ Don’t skimp on the warm-up
When it comes to building muscle, your performance in the gym will determine how much progress you make. And to get the best performance, it’s necessary to have a good warm-up routine before you head into your working sets. Contrary to what you may have been taught in gym class, stretching has been shown to hinder muscular strength so you should save that for after your workout or dedicate a day to mobility work, if that is something you really want to improve on.
The best way to warm-up for a heavy lift is with lighter sets of the same lift; so if you plan on squatting 315 pounds for 3 sets of 5, it would be wise to warm up with lighter weights like 135, 205, 285, etc. rather than jumping into 5 heavy sets with 300+ pounds, as that could easily lead to injury. Some people also like to throw in some light cardio before starting their lifts as a means of getting their blood flowing and to mentally prepare. While the amount of warm-up needed for maximum performance varies per person, warming up is imperative to one’s success in the gym. By taking the time to do it properly, one can greatly improve their performance and in turn, reach their goal faster.
✓ Use a foam roller
Like warming up, foam rolling is another easy way to increase your performance in the gym immediately. The reason a foam roller is so helpful is because it causes self-myofascial release (SMR), which allows the body to have increased mobility, as well as increased blood flow to its muscles. Foam rolling can be done either pre or post-workout, but when done beforehand, it will allow you to reach greater ROMs and feel less muscle tension during intense exercise because of the increased blood flow to your muscles caused by SMR. Many gyms are already equipped, but if yours is not, MyProtein offers an affordable foam roller that serves as a great tool for easing up tension in your muscles and improving your workouts.
✓ Having the right attitude is the key to succeeding in anything
Above all else, having a winner’s attitude is easily the most important factor in determining whether or not you will reach your goal. In life, you can do one of two things when you encounter an obstacle. You either say “I can” or you say “I can’t” and the choice you make will always indicate the result you see. To do anything difficult, you have to believe you can do it.
If you want to hit a new PR, but don’t go into the lift believing that you will successfully lift the weight, how do you expect to hit the PR? On the other hand, those that face problems with a positive attitude are those who conquer their difficulties. When you face your obstacles with the mentality that you will get through them, your brain will open itself up to finding solutions and testing them, rather than shutting itself down and automatically giving up.
By improving upon your attitude, you will not only be able to reach new levels in the gym, but you will also increase confidence, problem-solving efficiency, and critical thinking skills. This trait, however, is not something you can suddenly incorporate, and must be learned over time through positive habit reinforcement. The more you say “I can,” the better you will get at believing in yourself, but the more you say “I can’t,” the more inclined you will be to default to that. Of all factors that can improve your workout, this is the most significant, and by simply keeping a positive attitude, you can bring your workouts to a new level of greatness.
Take Home Message
All of these tips, when followed, will significantly improve your workouts in every aspect, from strength in the gym to recovery and results. As they are incredibly easy to apply to your daily routine, these tips should not be ignored. By paying attention to the small things, you will garner an edge over those who are only going through the motions, hoping to see results, and your progress will skyrocket.