If you’re starting to get a little frustrated with your workouts, remember this – you haven’t tried everything yet! If you’re a newbie and aren’t sure you’re “doing it right,” there are plenty of tips here for you, too. Often it’s the smallest tweaks that make the biggest difference to challenge yourself, break through a plateau and have fun with your workouts (again).

Here are my top 20 ways to make your workouts more effective –

  1. Write out your workouts – have a plan, track your progress, record your weights and sets, etc. It’s easier to make improvements when you have it all written down.
  2. Stay upright when using cardio equipment to burn more calories and recruit more muscles with each stride (no slouching over the handles of the stairmill!). Only use the handles when they move in stride with the machine.
  3. Do crunches using a stability ball or BOSU to target your entire core – avoid pressing your spine into the hard ground with traditional crunches and sit-ups.
  4. Do compound/hybrid exercises because they recruit more muscles (burning more calories) and save time – ex. do a squat and stand into a shoulder press vs. doing the squats and shoulder presses separate.
  5. Try interval training (HIIT) – for cardio you can walk, jog, sprint and repeat for 20 minutes. Intensity, not duration, is most important for fat loss and muscle growth. Plus, intervals are a time-saver because you can only push so hard for so long – 20-25 minutes tops!
  6. Track your resting heart rate – how long does it take your rate rate to return to your normal range after an intense workout? Recovery is the true test of fitness.
  7. Do cardio after you lift – save your strength for lifting and burn more fat (because your body is more depleted) by doing cardio after you lift. If cardio is part of your warmup, keep it light and under 15 minutes.
  8. Try side planks and Russian twists for a slimmer waistline – dumbbell side bends do not reduce fat on the sides of your stomach, they thicken your waistline.
  9. If your knees cave in or out when you squat, try spreading the carpet with your feet as you bend your knees to help keep them steady.
  10. Face forward on the lat pull down machine – pull the bar right under your collar bone to prevent shoulder and neck injuries.
  11. Shift your hips back first before bending forward at the waist to target your hamstrings on the stiff-legged deadlift exercise.
  12. Stay active outside your workouts – one workout won’t undo hours of sitting. Stand and stretch, take a walk, take the stairs…it all adds up! You’ll make more progress with your health and fitness long-term by building activity into your daily routine.
  13. When lifting – focus on proper form first, tempo second and the amount of weight last.
  14. Change up your workout every 4 to 6 weeks to keep your body guessing and avoid a plateau.
  15. Perform dynamic (movement) stretches before you lift weights and static (stationary) stretches after. Your dynamic stretches should warm up the muscles you plan to use in that session – ex. arm circles for shoulder exercises. Warming up and cooling down is key to maintaining proper form and avoiding injury.
  16. When training 2 or more muscles in one session, train the larger muscles first for two reasons – the larger muscles require more energy and the smaller ones, especially of the upper body, play a key role in training the larger muscles.
  17. Try resistance walking – in the water, in sand or by wearing a weighted vest – to burn up to 50% more calories per hour than non-resisted walking.
  18. Try different foot positions on the leg press machine to target different muscles in your legs – wide stance (quads and hamstrings), close stance (quads) and high foot placement (hamstrings).
  19. Focus on your breathing – deep breathing recruits more muscles and helps avoid tummy bloating while you exercise.
  20. Training your core involves more than just sit-ups – your core muscles have three-dimensional depth and functional movement in all three planes of motion. Try plank variations and torso rotations on the cable machine.

Try a tip or 2 and tweet me your progress @trinperkins!

Happy training!