What most people, and especially women, think of when they think of a quality workout comes down to how much they sweat and how tired they are after the workout. Most women believe that, in order for a workout to be adequate, there should not be any breaks between the sets and the trainee’s heart rate should be sky-high all the time – otherwise they think they are not burning enough calories and the workout is not producing results. The heart rate and calories issue needs to be discussed in a separate blog post. Women often underestimate the role of basic exercises. These are the very exercises that are a part of the workout plans of most athletes. In fact, I would go as far as saying that there are two types of trainees:
1.Those that expect the workout and the exercises in it to be fun and varied.
2.Those that have realized that not a single person who has achieved a certain level of physical fitness got to where they are now, because they had fun all the time.
The second type of trainees realize that exercises have a certain rate of return. For some it is short-lived, while for others the results are more lasting.
3.Basic exercises and their benefits for metabolism
To me a good workout can be compared to quality food. When it comes to diet, what yields long-term results is not to eat low-calorie foods and rely on protein only. Yes, this does work in the short term, but then we end up getting emotional eating and bingeing episodes that take us way back. What works in diet is to focus on the foods that have the highest amount of nutrients. They may be more calorically dense, but if consumed in smaller amounts, they provide the body with more energy and more nutrients.
The same goes for workouts. There are many exercises, but there are about 10 that the body draws the most benefit from. The rest are the complements and not the base.
The basic exercises are the ones that produce long-term results. These include exercises like squats, deadlifts, Bulgarian squats, lunges, hip thrusts, push-ups, military presses, dips, landmine presses, rowing and pull-up/chin-up variations and various core exercises (full contact twists, Paloff presses, plank variations, etc.). This way we don’t have to spend a lot of time at the gym, nor do we have to spend all day thinking about food. What matters is to choose the best, spend just enough time and draw as much benefit as possible.
The truth is we can cram a lot of work into a short period of time and achieve very good results.
The benefits from this kind of exercises are many:
1.They imitate the way the human body moves in our everyday lives, i.e. they make us stronger and healthier for our everyday activities. They teach us how to move our body and the workout is practically a controlled environment where we can consciously observe how our body responds to certain movements and loads. Then, when we are busy with our activities during the day, we subconsciously carry over this model to our movement pattern.
2.They send a certain stimulus to the body, in response to which, workout after workout, we sculpt our body the way we want. In fact, a sculpted body is the result of the accumulation of a certain amount of muscle mass. Quite often I receive messages from women who tell me they want to sculpt their bodies. At the same time the workouts they do are quite inadequate. You don’t have to work out a lot, but you do have to work out adequately. Most women want to sculpt their legs and butts, but the way they do the exercises rarely works their leg and butt muscles adequately. In order to make progress, there must always be some challenge. If you start doing bodyweight exercises, you may find it difficult at the beginning, but then the body gets used to them and this is when you need to change something – add some weight or make the bodyweight progressions more difficult. You don’t have to do hundreds of reps – try to do quality reps instead. Even as few as 5-6 reps of an exercise, when done with the right weight, can lead to better results than doing 20, but perfunctorily.
This is a very important benefit of working out with basic exercises. To me exercises are sort of like encoded information that we use in order to send messages to the body. Sometimes I see people do long workouts and a series of exercises that are time-consuming, but don’t send much information for change to the body. In other cases, a workout of 4-5 exercises can be the information the body needs in order to change in the direction you want it to. Basic exercises, when combined in the right way and done with the right degree of intensity, lead to a hormonal response from the body. This is one of their biggest benefits. The hormonal response is such that, with the right food, the body uses the energy taken in to build muscle mass. This muscle mass helps the body change the way it partitions the calories we consume. This way, when we eat, part of the calories is also used to feed the muscles. This kind of workouts is actually the healthier way of being fit, because they allow us to eat more healthy and consume sufficient amounts of food. This kind of workouts help form a mental attitude that we send a signal to the body at the gym, and we provide it with the building material through food. The stimulus + the building material lead to the result we want.
4.Breaks between sets matter
Every method of training has its area of application. But what is good at one point is not good all the time. One of the bad habits women have is not to rest between sets. Breaks between sets are not a waste of time. They allow the body to recover from the previous set and give you strength and ability to draw as much benefit as possible from the coming sets. How long can you keep up the quality of the movement, once you have reached a certain threshold of fatigue? Not too long. Depending on the level of intensity we train at, the break has a different duration and I would say it is inversely proportional – the more intense the workout, the longer the break, and the other way around. And before you start wondering, we need to clarify that intensity is not determined by how sweaty and out-of-breath we are, but at what percentage of our one-rep max we train. The one-rep max is a one-time effort and not a marathon. Also, tension, followed by rest, once again contributes to the desired hormonal response from the body. The longer we tense the muscles without resting, the sooner the levels of our stress hormones start rising. It is the same in workouts as in life – chronic stress does not lead to good results. No stress, on the other hand, means regression. Small amounts of stress, followed by time to recover, lead to progress. The body can’t increase its physical abilities or burn fat, when stressed. So do your best during the set and allow enough time to rest afterwards.
5.Tempo – the most underrated factor
This is one of the most underrated factors in a workout. Once again we can draw a parallel between diet and training – you know how important it is to eat slowly and mindfully in order to absorb food better. The same goes for workouts. For me this is a very important aspect and tempo is what changes the way the body feels the movement. Tempo is basically the time a person takes to perform the negative part of the movement, the break and the time it takes to do the positive part of the movement. Take squats for example: tempo means how long we take to descend, how long we stay in the down phase and how quickly we come back up. A mistake people often make is to do the exercises, assisted by external forces, called momentum and gravity. The people I coach know how strict I am, when it comes to the speed at which they do the movements. Movement control is everything. Control in the negative and in the positive phase. For example squats. Most trainees take one or at most two seconds to descend and the same amount of time to come back up. Try to do every rep with a tempo of 4-5 seconds going down and as many seconds coming back up. You will feel tension in your muscles that you don’t even feel at the end of your set, when you just move mechanically. The benefits of a controlled tempo are the following:
– it improves your mindfulness of the way your body moves
– it improves movement control
– it develops connective tissue strength
– it improves stability
– controlled movements provide a greater stimulus to the muscle, while fast movements are more stressful on the tendons and other soft tissues. So you can take it from me that this helps you avoid injuries and develop a better connection between your mind and your body.
6.Persistence goes hand in hand with results
Once again, when it comes to diet, many people believe that all they need to do to see results is eat a clean diet for 5 days. Stop fooling yourselves. Only what you persist in will produce results. Anything else only producea short-lived results – it allows you to taste success, but then takes you further away from it and leaves you with the bitter taste of your unfulfilled potential.
The same is true of workouts. You can’t expect that, just because you went to the gym three times, you will get the body that someone else trained for years to achieve. Physical abilities are like studying – it all accumulates layer by layer and the level you are at in your workouts today is the result of a long time of doing everything you tried and learned. The way the mind matures, so does the body mature for physical activity. Each workout unlocks in it more mindfulness of its movements, which in turn helps you feel and develop your body even better.
And here are two workouts you can try. Don’t forget: don’t rush it, do the exercises correctly and with the right weight, and I am sure you will accomplish more with less effort. If you like the workouts, we expect to see you at IFS. We now have a second gym that is located in Iztok housing estate.
BG squats 4 sets of 10 reps + 10 jumping squats right after each set (rest for 60 seconds after the jumping squats)
Floor presses 4×12 with 60 seconds of rest between the sets
Single leg hip thrusts 4×15 (you can add weight) + 1 set of 30 reps with both feet – add weight
*60 seconds of rest between the sets
Horizontal pull-ups 4х10
Band-resisted mountain climbers for the abs 3×30 (x15 per leg)
Deadlifts 1×10; 1×8; 3×6
*start with a lower weight and increase with every set
Landmine presses 3×12
Jumping lunges 5×20 (x10 per leg) with 45 seconds of rest between the sets + 2 sets of 30 reps each of static lunges
Barbell rows 4×8, holding every final rep of the set for 10 seconds
V-ups 4×15 + 1 plank, held for as long as possible