I have now been working out for just under 8 years and in this time I have learnt quite a lot about training techniques and nutrition, and I am still learning something new everyday, so some of my daily blog posts will focus on keeping fit. With this post, I would like to share some lifting tips and techniques that have aided me in my training:
- Warming Up
The importance of warming up cannot be understated. Just doing 10 reps of a light weight before you do your sets is not really a warmup. A proper warm-up should increase your heart rate, blood circulation, range of motion, and neural drive to the working muscles.
- Avoid excessive cardio before performing lifts
I have found that doing a long cardio session (anything more than 5 – 10 minutes) as a warmup before I perform lifts is counter-productive as my body no longer has the energy to perform efficient lifts. Cardio only warms up the core body temperature it doesn’t prime your nervous system which is essential for having a safe and effective workout. Cardio should be done at the end of your workout to assist in fat-loss.
- Glove it
Wearing gloves or using grips ensure that the weights are secure in your hands. Weights are often slippery with oils from other people’s hands and losing grip of the weight is the last thing you want. You should also ensure that you have a weight belt handy when performing heavy lifts as it will help to avoid back injuries and hernias.
- Get in to the “Zone”
Bodybuilders and Powerlifters tend to go into a zone, where everything around them in the gym becomes blurry. Their focus and concentration is purely on the next lift and nothing else.
- Start light
Your first set should always be with a weight you can easily handle at least 10-12 repetitions. Get your body ready to do the exercise, before moving up to higher weights. If you start off heavy, you could end up with mucle tears.
- Visualising the lift
Just like you train your body, you need to train your mind. Before you perform a lift, close your eyes and go through the motions of the lift in your mind. Practise your breathing at the same time. If you intend to do 10 reps, visualise those 10 reps. Now both your physical and mental self are primed to perform the lift.
- Breathing technique
Your breathing technique can either make or break the lift. Incorrect breathing technique inhibits you from getting the best out of your sets.” Always exhale on exertion”. For example, when you are pushing a bench press off your chest, you exhale on the push and inhale as you bring it slowly to your chest. When you are doing a pullup, you exhale on the pulling up motion and inhale on the way down. Breathing correctly also helps to prevent internal injury such as hernia, blood vessel strain, and high blood pressure.
- Use correct technique
Proper exercise technique is crucial to ensure that you are getting the best out of your workouts and helps prevent unnecessary injuries. I have seen plenty of experienced bodybuilders trying to lift weights that are heavier than what they should be lifting with extremely bad form as an ego boost or to show off to the pretty girl on the cardio machine. The best way to learn the right technique is to invest in a personal trainer and use light weights. Once you have mastered the technique, stick to it religiously, trust me it will pay dividends!
- Get a spot
Spotting, is when someone supports you while you perform a particular exercise, this will allow you to lift or push more than what you would normally do safely. A good spotter knows when to intervene and assist with a lift, and will encourage you to push beyond your comfort zone.
- Cool down and stretch
After your last exercise, you need to do cool down. You could cool down by doing cardio for a few minutes. This helps in bringing your heart rate down at a slow and steady pace, which will help you avoid feeling sick after a workout.
Once you have cooled down, you should stretch. After a workout, muscles naturally contract. Stretching helps to prevent them from shrinking. This will aid in your muscles rebuilding, growing bigger and stronger.