10 Expert Fitness Tips and Strategies Every Lifter Should Know
Are you tired of putting in the effort at the gym and not seeing results Opens a New Window. ?
You’re not alone—many people show the drive, determination, and consistent effort Opens a New Window. , but don’t reach their goals. If this sounds familiar, the next logical step is usually to find an educated personal trainer with proven experience Opens a New Window. .
But if you’re not ready to take that step—or if you’d prefer to go it alone—then you can do that, too.
To help you out, we spoke to some of the nation’s finest personal trainers. Check out their 10 insightful tips and strategies specifically designed to help you build strength, gain muscle mass, lose fat, enhance your endurance Opens a New Window. , and maintain healthy eating habits.
- Make sure you’re eating healthy
Ask almost any personal trainer and they’ll tell you that regardless of your training goals, healthy eating is the backbone. Food is what fuels your body to reach your goals, and without proper nutrition through quality foods, you’re likely to stall. Maintain a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, and healthy fats like fish oils and flaxseeds.
- Eat with purpose
Everything you consume should have substantial nutritional value. “You want the most nutritional bang for your buck,” says Dan Trink, C.S.C.S., a strength coach and trainer. “Everything you eat should serve some sort of nutritional purpose in your body, fuel your workouts, and (be) geared toward optimizing your body.”
- Understand the basics of building muscle
Talk to any personal trainer and they’ll tell you there are certain muscle-building basics. First, increase your caloric and complete protein intake, so your body has enough building blocks to get bigger. Then, when you enter the gym, focus on your form. Perform compound movements and train with weights on average around four times a week. Never underestimate the importance of rest. Remember, muscle tissue grows outside of the gym when you’re giving your body time to relax and recover following your workouts.
- Work your full range of motion
Don’t take any shortcuts. “Aim for the largest range of motion you can achieve in your exercises,” says Lee Boyce, C.P.T. “Your muscles will do more work per rep, and it will result in your breaking down more tissue by the end of the workout.”
- Carefully consider cardio
If getting huge is your goal, then throttle back on your cardio workouts, says LaCerte—chances are, you’ll be burning far too many calories. So what should you do if you still want to get in some cardio? LaCerte says “a light jog a few days per week for 20 minutes is adequate.” If you’re aiming to burn fat, of course, then focus on getting enough protein every day (usually one gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight), while still keeping your overall caloric intake low.
- Learn how to fight fatigue
Fatigue may be your biggest enemy when endurance training, but there are some ways to combat it. First, drink beet juice, which is packed with healthy nitrates that can improve your cardiovascular functioning. “Beets can actually increase stamina by up to 16%, and it helps your muscles produce more energy, more efficiently, making exercise less exhausting,” Boyce says. Another way to boost your performance is by carefully selecting your music. “When people listen to favorable music their blood vessels expanded 26%,” according to a study, Boyce says.
- Find your motivation
Motivation is key. Some good ways to stay motivated while you’re working out: Count down, not up, when performing reps. Another trick: “Look at your dominant hand while you’re pushing up,” Cardiello explains—it “automatically includes a positive reinforcement” because the dominant hand more easily and quickly moves the weight.
- Be mindful of the little things
Ever notice how a bunch of seemingly insignificant things can make all the difference? Strength training is no different. When you’re strength training, you have to “pay attention to the little things, because you’re only as strong as your weakest link,” Boyce says. “If you notice a deficiency, address it in conjunction with your program.”
- Understand how to use carbs
Say it with us: Carbs are not the enemy. Unless you’re on an extreme nutrition plan like the keto diet, carbs are an essential source of your body’s energy. That said, you need to be mindful about how you consume those carbs, because eating too many carbs—or eating carbs at the wrong times—can cause your body to store the excess energy as fat. Here’s how to eat carbs for more muscle and less fat.
- Hydrate properly
An often-overlooked factor, and one stressed by Trink, is to make “sure that your GI tract is healthy, because that’s how you absorb all your nutrients.” Do so by consuming vitamins, fiber, minerals, a probiotic, and water. Cardiello suggests you drink “ice cold water first thing in the morning” adding “you’ll naturally boost your metabolism by up to 24% for 90 minutes.” LaCerte recommends you “drink at least one gallon of water per day.”