When working out in the gym, we naturally observe other people’s workouts. I noticed one young woman who lifted five times the amount of weight I did on the leg press. I saw one guy who was considerably bigger than me, but curling much less than I usually do.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, one common occurrence (a weakness) I’ve noticed is what I call “random lifting.” This is where someone may do a biceps curl and then go over to the leg press machine and then head over to the lat pull. Basically, they went from their biceps to their quads (thighs) and then to their lats (back). They just seemed to be randomly choosing exercises. They were, in essence, “all over the map”.
They appeared to have no direction. One advantage, I guess, is that if you don’t know where you’re going, you can never get lost!
I strongly recommend using a “road map.” For those of you younger in years, a road map is like Google Maps, but on paper — a very large piece of paper that folds a dozen times, in a specific way like a Rubik’s Cube, into a handy, semi-pocket-sized pamphlet. Your road map would be a definitive goal and choice of exercises… in proper order.
When I say “proper order” please know there are multiple directions and choices one can make. You can go from large muscles to small. You can go from shoulders to triceps to biceps and keep your blood flowing in one general area.
The idea is “exercise with intention” and knowledge (and know where you’re going next — a la the road map).
I felt bad for the guy jumping from one muscle (group) to another without intention. After all, he did make the effort to get to the gym. He did make the effort to hit the weights. But unfortunately, once he arrived, he immediately got lost.
So, what’s my point? In the case of going to a gym and hitting the weights; do your homework or talk to the gym’s resident trainer. If you’re going three days a week and you’re doing a full-body workout, start with your larger muscles first (quadriceps/thighs, hamstrings and glutes/back of your thighs/butt, chest, back, etc.) then work your way to the smaller muscles (triceps, biceps, calves).
If you have the time, you can divide your workouts into upper body and lower body workouts on different days. That way you have the same amount of time to work out, but you have less muscles to work, so each muscle gets more attention.
There is a whole science behind days, muscles, time under tension, reps, sets, etc. That’s where a personal trainer (yours or the gym’s) comes in handy. Your workouts also will differ depending on your goals.
This is true for runners/joggers as well. If your goal is to improve your cardio performance, then slower, steady-state cardio comes into play. If you wish to lose weight (fat), then jogging wouldn’t be a great choice. Instead, you’d do high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts (jog/run interspersed with bouts of sprints). HIIT workouts can be used with running, rowing, swimming, biking, and more.
Knowing your goals in the gym also helps when developing your road map. Going for strength? Try heavy weights with lower reps. Going for size (hypertrophy)? Try lighter weights (not light) with higher reps. Limited on time? Hit your major muscles and get the biggest bang for your buck.
Whatever your choice of exercise and whatever your goals, having the right road map is critical. Also, an exercise road map is more esoteric — a goal — as opposed to an actual large sheet of paper that, in my childhood, if I folded it incorrectly and put it away would have driven my father insane!
If you enjoyed reading this, then please visit my website daybreakpersonalwellness.com where you can find more fitness information, download my workout e-book, listen to my latest podcast on Spotify, and check out a number of remote/online personal wellness programs.
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