How do you get the most from your gym workout? Your time spent in the gym is precious. It’s valuable time that you have set aside in your busy schedule to get healthy and so you deserve to get the best results. Here are seven ways to get the most from your gym workouts:

You need a plan to get the most from your gym workout.

Bouncing around from machine to machine or doing a few curls while watching yourself in the mirror will not help you reach your weight loss or fitness goals. Decide what you want to accomplish and research the exercises that will help you burn fat and add lean muscle. There are hundreds of websites and magazines that can help you define your program, even down to the correct number of sets and reps. If you need help, you can always hire a personal trainer or coach for a few training sessions until you become familiar with what you need to do and which equipment will offer the best benefits.

Don’t skip your warm-up.

Always warm-up before your workout: it only takes 5-8 minutes to get your blood flowing and your muscles physically warmed and prepared for the workout about to take place. Warming up on the treadmill, exercise bike, or rowing machine followed by a few dynamic stretches will wake up your muscles for training and help to prevent injury. If you don’t have any equipment to hand, simply grab a jump rope and start jumping or grab a lightweight kettlebell for kettlebell swings.

Use the correct form during your gym workout.

There is a correct way to perform every exercise and the better your form, the better your results. You want to move through your entire range of motion when training with weights: if you can’t, then you are using too much weight. Using correct form also greatly reduces your risk of injury. There should be an employee at your gym who will demonstrate the proper form and the correct way to use a piece of equipment.

Add resistance training.

While cardio is great for burning calories, once you become fitter your metabolism will slow down, making weight loss more difficult. Adding resistance training will help build lean muscle which will increase your metabolic rate.

Use free weights whenever you can. 

Exercises using free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells activate (involve) many more muscles to lift, rotate and stabilize the weights, so choose these types of weights over machines and dumbbells over barbells if possible. According to the Journal of Strength & Conditioning, free weights also promote greater hormonal responses compared to the same exercises performed on machines.

Write down everything.

Use a simple training log to track your progress: start with your initial body weight, body measurements, and “before” and “after” photos. Record your sets and reps, how you felt during and after your workout, and anything you feel you should change. You can use your training log as a food journal as well to record your meals, snacks, and diet progress. Review your records weekly and identify your successes and ways to change if you think there are failures.

Stay hydrated during your gym workouts.

Drink more water before, during, and after your workout. Dehydration begins after losing as little as 2% of your body weight in fluids and if you are training hard, you may be losing as much as 6-10%. This lack of fluid reduces your blood volume and will make your workout feel harder and reduce your exercise performance. You should drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. Drink water before you train at the gym and during your workout to replace any fluids you lose.

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