You’re screwing up your training. But that’s all right – you’re not alone. If you aren’t an elite athlete, there’s a good chance your physical conditioning is suffering from a few basic mistakes.
In the quest to make the most of our workouts, we sat down with elite climber and fitness coach Brad Jackson of Summit Strength Training. for a no-nonsense talk about what we’re doing wrong and how to fix it.
1. Focus on food
Working out doesn’t give you license to eat whatever you want. Quite the opposite, in fact – what you put in your mouth before and after a workout is just as important as what you do in the gym.
“Stop thinking of food as fun, and start thinking of food as fuel,” says Brad. “You wouldn’t put cheap gas in a Ferrari.”
Brad recommends his athletes follow the Paleo diet, which cuts out grains and sugars, among other things. Within an hour of a workout, he suggest a meal that is high in carbs and protien, but low in fat (egg whites and mashed sweet potatoes are a perfect option).
2. Learn the movement first
Learning any new skill presents some challenges. But those challenges are dwarfed by the effort required to unlearn existing patterns and habits.
When learning a new technique in the gym, take the time to understand the mechanics of the movement before incorporating it into your routine. Learning the wrong methods at the outset will not only set you back, it will set you up for injury.
Brad recommends practicing weightlifting techniques with an unloaded bar several times before adding weight any weight. Then add weight gradually, only lifting as much as you can with perfect technique. Joint tissue is weaker than muscle tissue, so pay attention to knees and shoulders while lifting.
3. Get some rest
Weightlifters have a saying: “Lifting weights doesn’t make you stronger, recovering from lifting weights makes you stronger.” That’s a lesson many fitness enthusiasts forget, says Brad, placing them at risk for serious injuries.
Strength-building hormones like Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone are at their peak levels during sleep, and can be diminished by fatigue. Not taking time to sleep between workouts will not only leave your body open to injury, but can actually slow your progress.
Brad recommends eight hours of sleep a night, and 24-72 hours of recovery time between workouts. If you don’t feel amped for your workout when you go into the gym, don’t force it – a hesitant attitude is often a sign that your body hasn’t fully recovered from your last session.
4. Train with intention
On your average trip to the gym, do you come through the door with specific movements and exercises in mind? Or is your workout determined by what equipment isn’t occupied by sweaty homunculi?
Training without a clear set of goals isn’t exactly a waste of time, says Brad, but is a very far cry from ideal. Having a plan with clear goals and time frames will give structure to your training, and will keep you accountable.
Brad recommends a serious self-examination before you plan a conditioning routine. Take some time to identify your weaknesses, and build challenging but attainable goals around them.
5. Get a coach
No self-made exercise regimen can compete with the knowledge of an experienced personal trainer or fitness coach. An expert coach will provide insight on your strengths and weaknesses, and will be able to teach exercise movements to perfection.
Brad recommends approaching a coaching relationship as a lifelong journey. “You can never perfect your training,” he says. “You can just always work on it. It’s an educational process that never ends.”
To read more about Brad’s techniques, or to contact him directly with questions, visit summitstrengthtraining.com
Photo courtesy senderfilms.com