Workout tips to make your exercises more effective

5 Min Read

Working out at a health club can be a great way to build strength and endurance. But only a fraction of the estimated 19 million Americans who now belong to health clubs are getting their money’s worth. Here’s how to make sure your money as well as your time and sweat are well spent.

Ask for guidance

You may think you’re exercising under the watchful eyes of the fitness trainers who are on duty at your health club. But most trainers adopt a hands-off approach to interacting with club patrons.

To avoid seeming rude, they’ll correct your technique only if you’re about to injure yourself. Unless you take the initiative and ask for help, you may never know that you’re leaning too heavily on the handrails of the stair climber or that the short jerks you use to move the weight on the “lat pull-down” are less effective than slow, smooth movements.

Next time you work out at the gym; ask an instructor, “Am I using this piece of equipment correctly? Is there a way I could get more out of it?”

Do strength training first

If you’re just beginning an exercise program, don’t start with aerobics classes or another cardiovascular workout. If you do, you’ll probably find it hard to keep up. That’s because your muscles, ligaments and bones aren’t yet strong enough to take the punishment.

Instead, get a couple of weeks of strength training under your belt. Aerobic activity will then be more enjoyable.

Challenge yourself

It’s definitely not true that you must experience pain to make fitness gains. But if you want to see noticeable improvements in strength, you must be willing to push yourself a little.

How much weight should you lift? In general, you should be able to lift a given weight only eight to 10 times before your muscles become so fatigued that you must rest.

Sharp pain is a signal to stop exercising immediately, since it could indicate a joint problem. If you have any medical concerns, consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.

Build both sides of your body

Even if their bodies look perfectly symmetrical, most people are stronger on one side. They tend to favor that side when working out with leg-extension machines and other weight machines that involve use of both arms and legs at the same time. As a result, the stronger side always stays stronger.

When exercising both legs and arms at the same time, be conscious of challenging the weaker limb. Do not depend on the stronger one to lift the weight

Don’t hold your breath

Most people instinctively hold their breath while lifting heavy weights. But breath-holding during exertion is hazardous especially for individuals suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or glaucoma. It causes excessive pressure in the chest and abdomen.

Safer: Exhale as you lifts the weight and inhale as you lower the weight. If you have trouble getting the rhythm right, count out loud as you lift.

Prevent dehydration

You already know that it’s important to drink water while working out. But it’s just as important to down at least eight ounces of water after a workout even if you’re not thirsty. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are appropriate only for long-distance runners and other endurance athletes.

Make your workouts social

Exercise with a friend. Good conversation makes those minutes on the treadmill zip by and just being near someone you like can keep you going through a series of weight lifts.

Your workouts are also a good way to keep up with people you might otherwise be too busy to see. Finally, knowing that your workout buddy will be waiting for you at the gym makes it more likely that you’ll stick to your exercise schedule.

Record your progress

Motivate yourself by keeping an exercise log that charts your growing fitness. Such a log makes it easy to remember the proper seat adjustment, the resistance and the other settings for each machine.

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