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Minor Things, Bigger Impact

Is It Minor?

              As I am warming up or resting between sets I often study my surroundings. Even as intense as I train, I still find it difficult to turn off my coaching senses. I watch people perform exercises and judge their technique. This is helpful because it is always possible to find people doing things differently, whether it be a technique, exercise selection, or something else. So often I want to pull people aside and educate them on proper form or technique. I have been doing this for so long now sometimes I must remind myself that there are things that come as second nature to me, but some people may have never thought of before. This article will cover both, things that people haven’t thought of before, and things they might have undervalued or overlooked. The title, “Minor Things” speaks to how people may know some of these tips , but do not realize the importance of them. I, and any experienced lifter, knows the benefit of taking the minor things seriously.

Warming Up

            Warming up is something that everyone knows should be done but almost no one does it or does it properly. I’m not talking about the stretches that probably entered your mind when you saw the heading. You certainly won’t find me in the gym stretching for fifteen or twenty minutes. I never stretch in the conventional static stretching sense. I think most of the general population is starting to realize that static stretching (i.e. toe touches, hamstring stretches, etc.) is not the best option when warming up. Foam rolling is one of the best choices you can make both before and after a workout. Besides foam rolling to relieve some soreness and/or tightness, when I talk about warming up in this section I am talking about warming up an exercise, particularly a strength exercise.

            It drives me nuts when people walk into the gym, rack weight on a bench, and begin their sets. I understand people have limited time and they want to get their workout complete. But my opinion is, you pay for a membership and drive to the gym, why you can’t take the three to five minutes to warm up properly? Exercises that take some technique to perform, talking about barbell exercises, should be warmed up properly to see the greatest results. I always stress to my clients to start the exercise by performing a warm up set with the empty bar. This is not only to warm up your body but also to review technique and feel it out on that day. The empty bar set and about two to three warm up sets with gradually increasing weight is usually sufficient. I guarantee that if you don’t normally warm up in this manner but go and try it after reading this article, you will feel stronger throughout your sets.

Rest Periods

            Rest periods is something that is enormously underrated. Paying attention to your rest in-between sets takes discipline. Use the stopwatch on your phone or pay attention to the clock in the gym. I guarantee that if you have never timed your rest periods then you really have no clue how long you are taking between sets. It happens to the best of us. You start daydreaming, or talking to your lifting buddy and five minutes pass without you performing a single rep. When you finally do finish a set, you walk over to the water fountain, see another friend, and talk for another five minutes. Next thing you know, twenty minutes has passed and you’ve only completed three or four sets. It is less likely, but it can happen the other way also. Your lifting by yourself, dying to get the workout over with and you rush every set. At the end you wonder why you weren’t as strong as you were the other day. Paying attention to your rest between sets will dramatically change the type of workout you do and how you feel during it.

            When your goal is strength and you are lifting heavy weight, you need to make sure you are as rested as possible. Resting for two to three minutes between sets will ensure that your strength has returned before trying the next set. When you are trying to build endurance, you want the rest to be shorter; no more than a minute and half. If you are performing exercises that isolate a muscle or muscle group, bodybuilding type exercises, the goal should to keep the “pump” in that specific area. Shorter rest ensures that the blood, which gives that “pump” feeling, will stay in that muscle, and give you the feeling you are looking for. Rest periods of no longer than a minute and half is sufficient with closer to a minute being ideal.  

Exercise Order

            The third and final tip this article will cover is exercise order. Exercise order is something that most people don’t understand the importance of. The order of your exercises is important because it can affect the value you get from each exercise. Exercises in which the focus is on strength or explosiveness should be at the beginning of your routine. You want to be as fresh as possible for these exercises. This is also true for exercises that are a bit more technical. This shouldn’t be a problem, as most exercises that are technical in nature are strength or explosive movements. Combine this with the correct rest periods and you should be as strong as possible for each set.

Following the strength exercises, you want to next perform exercises that are still compound exercises, or exercises that challenge stability. These could be dumbbell exercises, exercises that involve you standing, etc. From there you want to perform exercises that focus more on a single muscle or muscle group and where stability is not an issue. These are your typical bodybuilding style exercises. This can be easier, seated dumbbell exercises, machine exercises, etc. The main takeaway is to go from heavier, more challenging exercises to exercises that are less challenging.  

Just Takes Some Effort

          Now that you have some ammo on how to attack an efficient training routine the next step is the easiest. Putting this new-found knowledge to use isn’t hard to do but it does take effort and discipline. Warming up can get boring, counting your rest periods can seem like a hassle and thinking about the order of your exercises does take time before you begin your workout. However, these techniques are a small cost for a much larger increase in workout efficiency. Take the time to put them to use and I guarantee it changes the entire dynamic of your workout for the better. If you liked this article be sure to take the couple of seconds it takes to subscribe to this site. Also, comment on what types of articles you would like to see in the future. As always, thanks for reading!

Bill Marnich

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