How many of you keep a log of your training so you know exactly what you are doing and what progress you are making?? If you aren't writing routines, results, weights, sets, reps and rest breaks down on a piece of paper, how do you know if you are meeting your targets? If you don't do this then you are going to want to read on to find out how you can maximise your workouts.
There are three variables you need to include into your workouts so that you work the muscles harder than you have done in your previous workouts. Before I go into these three essential training variables, lets touch on how the muscles work within your body and how they adapt and grow. Your muscles do not understand what exercises you are going to perform, they only react to how hard you work them. With that said I do think it is important to mix the exercises and adapt them slightly so you can work the muscle a slightly different way. So the muscles respond to the amount of tension they are put under at any given time and this is important if you want to maximise your workouts.
The first variable I want you to include and think about with your workouts is the INTENSITY you are putting your muscles through. It doesn't matter what muscle group you are working, there has to be a set level of intensity for it to adapt. Intensity means how hard you are working out and there is a requirement for working out hard and keeping your heart rate high in order to change your body. Without a high level of intensity in your workouts you aren't going to be working hard enough and if you aren't working hard enough what is the point? It's blunt but I have to be so that you can achieve your goals and not waste your time. I see it regularly when people get into the gym and before they start their workout they feel they need to speak to everyone. This is not the type of intensity that is going to get you through your workouts. Granted, speak to your friends, I'm not saying you can't, but just remember why you are there and what your main goal is.
So the intensity is important and equally as important is the overload variable to training. What does overload mean? It means progressively increasing the exercise with weight to make it harder. Let me give you an example of how you can overload your chest muscles through a bench press. Let's also imagine for this example you are working out at a rep range of 8-12 and that for your first working set you reach 12 repetitions. At this point right here, this is where I see most of you going wrong. This is when you will come to me and say you aren't changing, why aren't I making the right gains?! At this point you should be increasing your weight on the bar by 10% so that you OVERLOAD your chest muscles. There needs to be a constant intensity and progression for your muscles so that they grow. Remember what I said at the start about the muscles only understand the stress you are putting them through and for them to grow they need to be broken down. If you stick at 12 repetitions on the same weight, the chest muscles aren't being put through enough stress and they simply won't adapt. Overloading the muscles is essential in order for you to maximise your workouts and get the results you are looking for.
The final key point is what I touched on at the start, keeping a log of everything. Ok, so you might think it is a bit old school to write everything down but how do you know if you are making progress properly. Sure, each time you work out you might notice you are getting stronger and more muscular, but you need the log so that you can track everything properly. If you don't write it down you will forget key things that you can learn from for the future. For instance, keeping the log on you during your training session will allow you to write down key things that are happening at the time you workout. Certain exercises may not work you whilst others may work really well. You can make notes on how you feel and what weights you lift. You can track your rest times which is another important aspect of training but isn't something I am going to touch on now. In essence grab yourself a notebook and start writing your workouts onto the paper.
In summary the key points here are making sure you keep a good level of intensity as soon as you enter your workout. You must make sure you overload your muscles accordingly and put the necessary stress on them so that they grow and adapt. Finally, make sure you invest a little bit of money and time into getting a notebook so that you can track your progress. Don't forget these principles can be applied to all types of training, this is not just related to gym users. If you are a runner, cyclist, rower, swimmer then this is also for you.
Don't forget if you are going to start implementing these types of training variables into your routine you are going to need to replenish your muscles so that they recover properly. By making sure you use a whey protein shake and sip BCAAs you are going to recover and give the muscles the right fuel so they grow stronger and bigger. Your muscles will become more lean and toned. You can also include supplements like glutamine which aids in recovery and helps with muscle breakdown. If you need further advice then please don't hesitate to get in touch :)