"Well, I got my butt kicked, so I'd say the workout was great!"
I can't stand it when I hear this, even if it's immediately after one of my classes that I teach. I would say that I hear a statement similar to this AT LEAST once per day, and at this point it kinda just goes in one ear and out the other. But at first, oh at first it drove me crazy.
What's so wrong with a butt-kicking workout?
Nothing is wrong with a butt-kicking workout at all. It's not the workout that's the problem. It's the approach to the workout that's the problem.
Or lack thereof.
Most of the time, people appreciate a butt-kicking workout because they feel exhausted and their clothes are drenched in sweat. Which usually means they worked hard and they burned some 300 or so calories.
Whoopdie freaking doo.
Here's a thought. When you set out on your fitness journey, did you tell yourself, "ok, my goal for the next 6 months is to get my butt kicked three times per week"? Absolutely not. I really hope not. Your goal was most likely along the lines of, "I wan't to have a six pack", "I wan't to lose 10 lbs of body fat", or "I want to gain 1/4 inch of muscle on each of my arms." You had a "why" to your "what" that meant something significant to you.
It's easy to lose sight of a "why" (the why is your purpose) with a bunch of butt-kicking workouts that only serve one purpose: burning calories.
For the sake of this article, I want to keep things on one track, the track that I know most about, and it's building muscle.
If you're going to the gym each and every day, mindlessly lifting weights with no strategic approach, no prior research on how to properly train, etc., building rock-hard muscle can (most likely WILL) be extremely difficult.
I want to break this down into two different aspects of fitness since I'm both a functional fitness instructor as well as a bodybuilding style enthusiast.
When you sign up for a class at your local functional fitness gym, you most likely have no clue what body parts the instructor is going to have you train. THAT'S OK.
So the question is, how do you adjust and make sure that the workout assigned to you for the day lines up with the goals that you have?
Well, going frequently is going to be your first bet. The more often you attend, the higher the chance of working your entire body each week.
When you are in class, then what? How should you approach the workout?
That is the answer. Activating your muscle fibers with every single exercise is the key to lean muscle tissue growth.
I tell my students in class almost every single day. SQUEEZE. I want their focus to be on how they can best squeeze and stretch the designated muscle group in order to promote the best possible stimulation which can ultimately lead to growth. I would much rather have them grab slightly heaver weights, do slightly slower, more controlled reps rather than grab light weights and do 30 repetitions in the given amount of time. It's too easy for form to get sloppy and take attention off the primary muscle group if you're racing to get 30 reps in 20 seconds.
But it all depends on the workout. If your instructor has given you a workout full of supersets with chest, back, shoulder, arm, and leg exercises, then you've struck gold. If your instructor has given you a workout with box jumps, plyos, agility ladders, and other forms of interval cardio, no worries there either! You've just completed a cardio session for the week, and you didn't have to come up with the workout on your own!
Let's say you get one of those cardio workouts, and you've got another muscle group left to work that week, what to do now?
If your functional fitness gym has an open gym time, or you belong to a separate gym with weights, machines, etc., it's time to put some work in.
"You mean like, butt-kicking work?"
Well, no. Eh, yes, kind of. Butt-kicking in the sense of your muscles are absolutely screaming and full of blood by the end of it, rather than your lungs begging for air.
Let's say you've worked everything but your biceps and triceps for the week, so you're headed to the gym, pre-workout in hand, ready to blow up your arms.
"But Adam, what are you suggesting that I do different from my usual arm day?"
Solid question. Remember what I said earlier about squeezing? Yeah, that's all I need you to do. One of the biggest reasons people plateau with their muscle building is because they don't have any mind-muscle connection (they don't squeeze).
I'll put some real world application to this so it makes more sense. Let's take a staple exercise for bicep growth, the barbell bicep curl.
You find your hand placement, grab the bar, get your core and back in position, and begin curling. Rep 1,2,3,4... It begins to burn a little.
Just a little, though. We want that arm pumped and full of blood.
Let's address the common mindset when it comes to lifting weights. It usually goes like this: If I lift the weight, it will activate and work my muscle. So if I lift the bar, it will activate my biceps.
We need to flip that upside down.
From now on, think about it this way: I am going to flex my bicep, which will cause the weight to move in order to complete the curl. Always flex your muscle BEFORE you begin the movement. As you go through the motion, don't think about moving the bar up with your hands, think about moving the bar up by squeezing your biceps even harder. Your hands just happen to be holding the bar.
After using this tactic, you'll be able to command so many more muscle fibers to work and it will spark growth that you've never experienced before.
Regardless of where you're at, on a machine or in a class, always be thinking about the activation of your muscle rather than the movement itself. The movement will take care of itself as long as the muscle is doing the work.
Use this tip, and send me a message or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) letting me know how it worked out for you. Remember, muscle growth and maintenance is top priority for a lean, great looking physique.
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Thanks for reading!