Sharpen your exercise routine with these tips

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, October 27, 2016

As a master personal trainer, I work with beginners, intermediates, advanced, and even teach other personal trainers to better their skills, and sharpen their own exercise routines. The tips I’m going to share with you today can benefit all exercisers at any skill level.

Stay hydrated: Remember muscle is 70-75 percent water, so if you’re dehydrated, it’s like running on flat tires. Muscles won’t work right or look good while dehydrated. Also, it takes time for your body to absorb the water you drink, so don’t drink right before exercising. Also, if you wait till you’re thirsty, your muscles will have down time. A caution though: drinking too much water at one time could be deadly (1½-2 gallons).

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 for that specific muscle group. This gets them in shape faster. By the way, of all my clients, I have no two on the same exercise routine.

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Always work abdominal muscles (abs) last: Whether you’ve never exercised, or you’re a professional bodybuilder, there is no exercise routine where abs should not be trained last…period! Abdominal muscles are stabilizer muscles, so if you work them early in your routine, it’ll weaken you for all other exercises, so you won’t make the progress you should.

Get enough sleep: Muscles don’t tone, tighten, and get stronger while you exercise. They do all that hours later while you sleep. I require all clients on time sensitive programs (athletes, models, etc.) get an 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 cycle of sleep.

Perform compound exercises: Doing “isolation” exercises like bicep curls and leg extensions are necessary, but get more bang for your buck by doing exercises that work several muscle groups at the same time. Great compound exercises include lunges, squats, often called “the king of exercises,” because they work most of the muscles in the body, pull-ups, dips, military (shoulder) presses, dead lifts, rows, and bench presses.

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 certain exercise movements. Here’s the thing though. With many exercises, just a half-inch change in correct directional movement can triple your rate of success from that same exercise. Get help from a professional though. Make sure the trainer you choose has much experience.

Perform exercises in the right order: Ideally, when working out, you should go from larger muscle groups to smaller ones. The order for those exercises could go from legs, back, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, and finally, abs. Remember, they’re always last.

Use more free weights than machines: Weight lifting machines have their place, but won’t get you in shape nearly as fast. There’s a trade off for each. Machines are safer to use than free weights, because they have parts called “cams.” Cams are points on machines that provide leverage − joints, if you will. This means you usually just have to push or pull the weight on machines, because these cams balance for you. You won’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.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Upstate baseball team, the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety instructor to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.