We personal trainers focus on a number of different things when we work with our clients: Not only do we have to pick the right exercises for the individual(s) in front of us, we have to make sure you do them correctly. But that's obvious. What's not so obvious may be the fact that we're assessing your strength, your weight loss/gain (if that's an issue), and we're looking for any signs of physical distress. Because of this, we tend to be an open book of smart strength training tips.
A few that I seem to give quite frequently:
1) Forget about the weight, yours and the dumbbell's.
True advances are made when your body responds to the weight of whatever dumbbell you are lifting. But that response has to be an appropriate one, which means it's less about the actual weight and more about how you're moving it. So forget about how much you're lifting just for one session. Focus more on how your body is lifting it...what your muscles feel like from start to finish. You might find that the weight is actually too light for you, or if you can't maintain proper form, that it's actually too heavy for you. These things, these observances tend to get lost in the shuffle as we get lost in reps and sets and routines. Once you tune in to workout out in this way, your body will respond...at which point you can forget about the number on the scale because you'll feel a difference. Truly, you'll feel it. That number on the scale, after all, only tells part of your story. And a small part, at that.
2) Take the time to learn proper form.
A bench press is not a bench press if you have to lift your lower back off the bench itself. You might feel like you're pressing up all that weight with your chest muscles, but if you have to use your lower back, then you're cheating. And it's not as impressive. Learn these things....learn how to perform exercises the right way. And be open to assistance if someone wants to correct your form. It is, after all, for your own good.
3) Do some cardio, man. And make sure you stretch.
Seriously, if you're just lifting weights...wake up and smell the sweat! You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT call a fitness regime complete on strength training alone. You need to be doing some cardio, and you need to be stretching your muscles. There are no exceptions to this rule. None, zilch. You need all three components to really make advances. Designate certain days for heavy cardio. Stretch every muscle at the end of every workout. Do it.
4) Avoid the rut—experiment with new things!
If you've been doing the same exercises since, well...you don't even know...then it's time to switch, change and rearrange it. Like, today. At a certain point, your body hit a plateau. It got bored, so it stopped working hard. And stopped dropping the pounds. Or making strength gains.
5) Chug-a-lug the water.
Put the energy drinks down. Toss aside the goo. Just grab water. And keep it flowing. It isn't smart to rely on thirst alone. They say that once we get thirsty, our bodies are already mildly dehydrated. So stay one step ahead of your body and drink water regularly. Especially if you're working out. After all, a dehydrated body doesn't work as well as a hydrated body.
6) Safety first.
Whatever equipment you choose to use, whether you're at the gym or in your own home, always make sure it's up to par in terms of safety standards. And always, always double-check that you've set it up correctly. No exercise is worth an injury.
7) Integrate rest days, they truly make a difference.
You cannot expect your body to go, go and go without breaking down. Trust me when I say that rest days are extremely important. And if you develop an injury...take some time off! Your body will not completely change itself in a week's time. In fact, it might get worse if you attempt to work through an injury or excess fatigue. Seriously, just take some time off if you need to. There's no shame in it. And no one will think you are lazy. I promise.
Exhale on the exertion. It makes a huge difference and keeps the oxygen flowing through your working muscles. Do not hold your breath. It ups your heart rate and stops the flow of oxygen, which actually counteracts your efforts.
Question: What smart strength training tips do you live by?