The industries of weight loss and exercise in modern America are fascinating. We're more obese now than we've ever been - but we're also exercising more now than ever as well! At the same time, we're bombarded by our screens with images that make us seethe with envy: flat stomachs, washboard abs, bulging backs and biceps. What are we doing wrong? What are we missing that these perfectly sculpted specimens know and aren't telling us? Perhaps the secrets to success lies in the manner in which exercise is performed.
We live in a sedentary world, and many people have trouble figuring out how to benefit the most from what physical activity they do manage to accomplish. That shouldn't have to be an impediment to those working to improve themselves. That's why we're going to solve the mystery right now - here are some excellent tips on how to get the most out of your workout.
Technique Is Key
One thing you might hear from a personal trainer is that ten push-ups with good form are worth more than a hundred push-ups with bad form. Your muscles have wide and specific ranges of motion to consider. It's important not to overextend yourself, because the wear and tear from that kind of strain can be harmful. You also need to make sure you're not under-extending yourself, as this can limit or impede muscle growth.
Monitor your breathing during every repetition. Inhale when contracting your muscles, exhale upon the extension. It's important to inhale prior to the exertion so that your body has enough oxygen. Otherwise, you'll be subject to a buildup of lactic acid - no good.
Make sure you're thoroughly stretching your body out before and after each session. Don't be lazy; you'll be doing yourself a favor. Stretching beforehand does a few good things for you: it lengthens muscles, as they tend to shrink or contract slightly over time, preventing them from remaining in optimal condition to do work. Also, stretching promotes blood flow throughout the body, which increases the amount of oxygen being made available for muscles to function properly. Believe it or not, it's important to make sure you're not doing static, or stationary stretches before working out. Those can actually tire or weaken muscles before the actual work is done. Instead, perform dynamic stretches, constantly staying in motion to properly extend your musculature. In addition, stretching afterwards is paramount in preventing muscle soreness from building up. This in turn can result in chronic injury further down the line.
Timing Is Everything
What you do during your workout is important, but when you do it matters too. It's okay if you feel like you got ran over by a semi truck the morning after you hit the gym (that's actually a good sign, keep it up!) Our muscles are capable of handling an impressive amount of strain, and this is exactly what they need to get the message that they need to keep growing bigger. Try to consistently exercise four or five times a week.
Your best bet is to focus on larger muscle groups, but don't be afraid to start incorporating smaller groups once you've established a solid routine. Our bodies are constantly adapting to the stimuli to which we introduce it. If we subject ourselves to the same exercise week after week, the gains we make will begin to diminish over time - it's a matter of muscle memory. Try not to focus on one section of the body more than once every day or two.
What You Put In Your Body Matters
No matter what type of regimen you're sticking to, there's one universal rule we all need to follow: you gotta eat. Specific nutrients are important (we'll get back to that in a moment), but building muscle requires energy, which we get from calories. The trick is to make sure you're stimulating your metabolism properly. We've all heard something along the lines of, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a tradesman, and dinner like a peasant". That being said, it turns out that if you consume a larger quantity of small-portion meals, it will encourage a greater degree of metabolic activity, as well as the creation of additional protein and muscle, than the typical three meals per day schedule.
Now, as far as nutrients are concerned, a higher level of selectivity is called for. Vitamins are needed to help enzymes engage in important reactions, such as the building of muscle tissue. We generally don't synthesize these ourselves naturally, so we obtain them from diet. In particular, leafy green vegetables are a great source of vitamins A, E, and K. If you don't want to have to chew through what feels like half a garden, you can always try liquefying this part of your diet. Try going online and digging up a kale smoothie recipe - you might be surprised at how palatable it is! Finding concoctions like these is a great way to ensure that you are doing everything you can to make the most out of your workouts.