What most people don’t understand about exercise is also the reason so many fail at fitness, this simple trick can change your results like night and day.
Essentially, what you put in is what you get out of your exercise time. Sure, a strong effort to push as much iron as possible can earn you some pats on the back or a sweet Facebook update for people to read, but your body knows better. I’m referring to precise execution, regardless of what exercise you are performing. On a basic level, there are four distinct practices that you should utilize during a workout. The first should be the speed of your movements.
Many movements, like those in a yoga session, should be executed slowly with careful attention. (Some exercises that rely on explosive and quick movements, like squats or dead lifts, are exceptions to this rule.)
A good example of an exercise that should have slow and controlled repetitions is a basic pushup.
Pushing up and down at a wild pace will get far more reps in, but they won’t be nearly as effective (and will warrant you a scolding if you use a personal trainer).
Slowing down both the up and down movements eliminates momentum and focuses the pressure solely on the muscles of your chest and triceps, as well as certain muscles in your back. Be sure to pause for a second at the bottom of the down movement, before you start returning up. During that pause, your chest should be about an inch off the ground. You probably won’t be able to perform nearly as many reps as you normally would, but the burn will reassure you that it is a good thing.
The second area to remember is an ideal muscle contraction. Most of the time, this is the result of a perfect movement.
A good exercise to demonstrate this is a sit up.
Once again, speeding up and down off the floor creates unnecessary momentum that will rob you of the necessary muscle contraction. On your way up, you should actively flex your abs throughout the entirety of the motion.
Keeping your core tight will ensure that your body isn’t cheating and will also let you know that the movement is being executed correctly. If you feel more of a burn in your thighs than in your core, you may be going too fast or not tightening your core muscles enough. Again, you may not be able to do as many in one set, but the quality outweighs the quantity.
My third recommendation for perfect execution is to not only feel the movement, but also to watch it as best you can. Most gyms have mirrors on the walls so this shouldn’t be a problem. When you see the movement, you can easily tell if you are pushing through the entire range of motion or not (like checking to see if you are down parallel during a squat).
Using a mirror is great for exercises that require you to sit or stand, but not for movements that require you to lay on your back, such as bench presses. For movements that you can’t observe on your own (or if your gym lacks mirrors), a friend can be a vital asset. He or she can see from an effective angle if you are performing the motion correctly. This will ensure you aren’t cheating yourself whether you are trying to or not.
The final component of perfect movements is the time you spend not performing. Rest intervals are critical to eliminate cheating. Late in your workout, your muscles will be far more tired than in the beginning. Some programs call for specific amounts of time to rest between sets, but the safest bet is to give yourself a few extra seconds if you are exhausted.
An exercise is pointless if you can’t do it correctly. So take as much time as you need to recover (but don’t abuse your rest periods and sit for too
Once you catch your breath and your heart rate slows a bit, get back to the exercise. If you still can’t perform the movement precisely, then you
may need a bit more time to rest or perhaps your gym time for that day has run its course. Your body will send you signals to stop and go as needed and you must listen to all of them to ensure your success through spot-on execution.
So remember, cheaters never prosper — and neither do their bodies.