Do you fail to see results even though you seem to work out like a beast? Why is that last ounce of fat still clinging to your belly even after hours on the treadmill? Do you often get injured while lifting weights?
If you have answered ‘Yes’ to some or all of the questions above, then you are working hard. Yes you heard that right!
But wait, if so then why are the results not showing? Well, while you may be huffing and puffing, it does not mean you are working out in the correct manner. And this is hampering your gains.
The concept of Smart V/s Hard Training
Some of the best athletes in the world (read Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps) train extremely hard. However, the phenomenal results they have achieved in their respective sporting disciplines is a result of smart work. To sum it up, they train very hard by designing their workouts smartly.
The key phrase here is “designing their workouts smartly”. Most amateur athletes tend to always fall in the grey area of reaching a plateau – a phase where doing the same thing over and over gives diminished gains. The human body is a master of adaptation (why do you think humans survived so long!), and if you are doing the same workout, over time, the body will adapt and get better at it. This means you will no longer get the expected results.
This is where the concept of smart workouts comes in. To avoid the dreaded plateau phase, incorporate multiple types of workouts in your regimen. Create a workout schedule that rotates between multiple training styles.
Knowing the most common training methods can help you understand this better. Here are the methods –
Weight training circuits
It is a method where you use weights to perform a series of movements one after the other. You perform a movement for a certain period of time and then move on to the next. An example – performing 10 lunges followed by 10 pushups and then 10 sit ups.
VO2 Max workouts
Workouts that are structured, high intensity and short bursts of cardio are called VO2 Max. The principle of these workouts is improving the efficiency of the body while utilizing oxygen. Example – Starting with high knees at full throttle for 30 seconds followed by 15 seconds of rest. Repeat this 5 times.
Repetitive aerobic activity
Jogging, swimming and cycling are examples of this type; the movements here require a constant supply of oxygen.
Intense strength movements that are low in frequency help put on lean muscle while improving strength. Example – 3 sets of bench presses, 10 reps each with a 120 seconds rest between sets.
The idea is to incorporate all of these methods into your regimen, also known as cross training. This will decrease the likelihood of injuries as same parts of the body are not repeatedly overloaded.
Here are some valuable suggestions on how you can train hard yet smart –
- Change your workout routine every 2-3 months. It is good to keep your body guessing.
- Avoid doing resistance training every day. Try alternating between less intensive workouts like yoga or Pilates.
- You can also opt for sports based activities like kickboxing, soccer or volleyball on the alternate days.
- Don’t push your limits on a daily basis as it can lead to overexertion and injury. Instead try pushing yourself every 4-5 weeks with a specific goal in mind.
- Include rest days in your regimen. Not allowing the body to recover before your next workout will hamper your gains in a big way. Keep the last day of the week as your recovery day when you can take part in leisure activities like going on a short drive or indulging in a sport that you love.
- Never ignore stretching. On the completion of a workout, make sure to stretch the muscle to allow it to recover faster. It also helps in reducing post workout soreness.
- While we talk about workouts, let’s not forget diet. It is a key component in working out smartly. Without proper nutrition, getting desired results will be very difficult. So tailor your diet according to your workout regimen.
It is thus evident that you train with purpose and awareness. Identifying your weak and strong spots will help in this regard. Keep in mind that as your fitness levels improve, your workouts should turn more specific in nature. This will allow you to keep the rate of improvement steady and avoid plateauing.