Too many times I’ve come across clients that are stuck in the same scenario; they’re training multiple times a week, putting in that work, but they are seeing zero physical change. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up early every day to train (or training late at night) and not seeing any reward for your effort. Here are a couple of reasons why this may be and what you can do to rectify the situation.
MIND MUSCLE CONNECTION
The mind-muscle connection is one of the most important factors when it comes to the quality of your workout. Are you really activating the muscle mentally before you perform your specific move? The premise of this connection is that if you think about a muscle while you’re training, it’s easier to recruit that muscle and make it grow. Take the seated row for example; it’s very easy to just go through the motions and usually what happens, as a result, is you feel the move more in your forearms and biceps than your back. To help activate your lats before pulling the cable towards you, try keeping your arms straight (locked out) and retracting your shoulder blades first. Once your shoulder blades have been fully retracted, then pull the cable towards you. This can be applied to every single lifting, pulling or pressing movement. Keeping tension throughout the negative portion of each move will also help train your mind-muscle connection.
FULL RANGE ON REPS
For those looking to add size to their frame or just looking to better develop their muscles, this one's for you. To build muscle you need to contract the muscle AND also stretch the muscle (to help breakdown the muscle fibers so they grow back stronger). Using the bicep curl as an example, everyone does pretty well contracting the bicep at the top of the curl but I see very few allowing their arm to fulling straightens out on the way back down. These are usually the guys at the gym ego-lifting and trying to impress the chick next to them. If you can’t straighten your arm out fully on the eccentric part of the movement (and flex your triceps to ensure full lockout) then the weight is too heavy for you. Your muscles have no idea what weight is being used; they only know if you can contract and stretch them. Here’s a good tip: look for the guy at the gym slowly bicep curling with 5-10kg dumbbells. He’s the one to watch, not the guy swinging his dumbbells around making intercourse sounds.
CONCENTRIC VS ECCENTRIC
Concentric contractions are those which cause the muscle to shorten as it contracts. An example is during a bicep curl when bending the elbow from straight to fully flexed, causing a concentric contraction of the biceps brachii. Eccentric contractions are the opposite of concentric and occur when the muscle lengthens as it contracts. This occurs when the dumbbell is lowered back down after a bicep curl. The greatest muscle growth or change in structure occurs during the eccentric part of each movement. This is the part you need to be focusing on. A simple way to think of it during your chosen exercise (machine of free weights) is, whenever the weight or load is being lowered, that’s the part you want to really slow down and focus on. On a seated chest press machine, the weight plates will go up as you press your arms straight out in front of you. It is when you bring your arms back to you that the weight plates move back down and this is where you want to take your time.
Have you ever noticed that the last 10 mins of your training session are usually where your intensity is highest? There can be a number of reasons for this but I find the main one is that you know the workout is nearly done and so you’re trying to finish strong. Your sessions will be so much more effective when you can apply that same intensity right at the start of your session. Don’t take 20-30 mins to get into it. Instead, try to hit the ground running after that first set. Again, it’s so easy to just go through the motions and just coast through the workout. The most successful clients I work with give me 100% straight off the bat, even at 7 am. If you are training at 7 am in the morning, don’t be waking up at 6:30 am with just enough time to get to the gym. Set your alarm for 6:15 am latest and take time to warm up mentally so you are ready and focused by the time you walk through the gym doors.
REST BETWEEN SETS
This one is pretty self-explanatory; get off your damn phone when you’re at the gym. You want to be resting for a maximum of 60 seconds between regular sets and 90 seconds between supersets. If you’re checking your phone every time you have a break, I guarantee you are taking way more than the appropriate rest between sets. If you can’t put your phone down for 45-60 mins during your training session, you ain’t gonna make it in the long run. No one cares that you’re working out and no one needs to see you posting every exercise you are performing. Successful clients move in silence, without the need to announce every rep they perform to the world.