Fitness is a journey with starts, stops, detours and experiences along the way

Published 5:34 pm Thursday, April 10, 2014

As a master personal trainer, I train beginners, intermediates, advanced and even other personal trainers to better their skills, so the tips I’m going to share with you today can benefit all exercisers.
No matter your level, health and fitness routines are much like taking a journey. You have a destination in mind, but it’s much like traveling down a winding road with some starts, stops, detours and experiences along the way.
Here are a few tips to make your journey much more successful one.
1. Stay Hydrated. Remember muscle tissue is composed of 70 – 75 percent water, so if you’re dehydrated, it’s like running on flat tires. Muscles won’t work properly or look as toned when dehydrated.
Also, it takes time for your body to absorb water you drink, so don’t just drink right before exercising. A caution though: drinking too much water (1 ½-2 gallons) at one time could be deadly, because that could make your brain swell.
2. Mix Up Your Routine. No matter your fitness level, there’s no such thing as the perfect exercise routine forever. Your body will adapt to it and stop making progress. Every exercise I have clients perform is to get them ready for yet a different exercise. This gets them in shape much faster
3. Always Work Abdominal Muscles Last; always. Whether you’ve never exercised, or you’re a professional bodybuilder, there is no exercise routine for which abs shouldn’t be done last. Period. Abdominal muscles are stabilizer muscles, so if you work them early on in your routine, it’ll weaken other muscles (even if don’t feel it) for all other exercises.
4. Get Enough Sleep. Muscles don’t tone, tighten or get stronger while exercising. They accomplish all that hours later while you sleep. I require clients on all time sensitive exercise programs (athletes, models, etc.) to get at least one extra hour of sleep each night, whether they have to go to bed an hour earlier, or get up an hour later. A nap won’t do it, because there must be a certain cycle of sleep to be successful.
5. Perform more “Compound” Movement Exercises. Doing “isolation” exercises like bicep curls are necessary, but you get more bang for your buck by adding exercises that work several muscle groups at the same time. Great compound exercises could include lunges, squats (often called the “king of exercises”), pull-ups, dips, military presses, good mornings, pushups, dead lifts, rows and bench presses.
6. Use Good Exercise Form. Performing exercises, (particularly strength training) correctly, is crucial for both safety and progress. You’d be amazed at the complexity of exercise movements. Here’s the thing, though; With many exercises, just a ½ inch change in correct directional movement can triple your rate of success from that exercise. Get help from a professional though.
7. Perform Exercises In The Right Order. Ideally, when working out, you should go from larger muscle groups to smaller ones. That order would be  legs, back, chest, shoulders, triceps, bicep and abs. Remember, they’re always last.
8. Use More Free Weights Than Machines. Weight lifting machines have their place, but don’t get you in shape nearly as fast. There’s a trade off for each. Machines are safer than free weights, because they have parts called “cams”. These cams are points on machines that provide leverage. This means you usually just have to push or pull the weight, because these cams balance for you. You don’t work nearly as many muscle fibers using machines.
Free weights are more dangerous to use, but because you have to provide balance, many more muscle fibers are recruited, thereby getting you in shape much faster.
Make no mistake though, you can still get hurt using weight lifting machines, so get professional help with both, and make sure anyone who teaches you about free weights has much experience.
Hopefully, using these tips will produce better results while keeping you safe.
Diet or exercise question? Email me at or visit
David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 27 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, and Converse college equestrian team.
He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps., lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

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