Fitness Tips to Toughen Up Your Workouts
Falling into a fitness rut is pretty common when you're a gym rat. Prevent it by ramping up your workout intensity with these next-level training tips
You hit the gym every day, and you've got your routine down: Monday run day, Tuesday trainer, Wednesday weightlifting, etc.
But the problem with having a routine is that it's a routine. As any trainer will tell you, the key to keeping your body in top shape is mixing it up. The body adapts to workouts quickly, so if you're doing a five-mile run at the same pace five days a week, your body will eventually adapt, and the effectiveness will taper off. (This is also one of the ways You're Setting Yourself Up for Workout Burnout.)
Changing up your workout doesn't have to require a massive overhaul. Instead, try these 11 fitness tips from top trainers to maximize your calorie burn and ensure you're ending every workout with a pile of sweat at your feet.
Fire Up Your Competitive Drive
"Pretend you're competing against everyone at the gym," says trainer Abigail Bales. "On the treadmill, try to out-pace or out-run the person next to you. During an indoor cycling class, imagine you're racing the instructor. In Body Pump-type classes, aim to do the most burpees or set the bar by grabbing the heaviest weights." If you're someone who thrives on competition, you can almost always find a way to (positively!) pit yourself against someone else. Maybe just don't announce the imaginary competition to your fellow gym-goers.
Get a Little Off Balance
Make your strength training or body-weight exercises more challenging by adding a balance element. "Turn bilateral exercises unilateral," says Deborah Horton, an group fitness instructor at Crunch Gym in NYC. "Instead of a regular deadlift, try a single leg deadlift. Instead of doing standing bicep curls, balance on one leg instead of two." You can essentially make any exercise more difficult by standing on a BOSU or on top of a thick, squishy mat, "which will encourage similar muscles around the ankles and up the leg to fire while they work harder to maintain stability," says Horton.
"After your set is finished, add five static holds to complete each exercise," says three-time Ironman, coach, and personal trainer Chris Mosier. "Pause and hold at the peak of a muscle contraction to get an extra boost to any lift. The hold engages more of the muscle and helps develop muscle tone. For example, hold yourself at the bottom of a push-up for five seconds before pushing to the top. Or lower to a squat and hold at the bottom for 5–7 seconds, then return to start."
Dress for Success
"Everything's better in neon," says HIIT IT! creator and trainer Daphnie Yang. "Bright colors like orange, yellow and red energize the brain. You may find that you'll push yourself harder when your outfit screams energy. My clients and I have competitions for who can wear the craziest or most colorful leggings. Plus, if you're working out in front of a mirror, you'll have fun looking back at yourself!"
Make Your Workout the Grownup Version of a Drinking Game
Seriously. "Select a song with a recurring word or phrase, and instead of taking a shot or chugging a beer, complete a burpee-or your exercise of choice-each time it's repeated," says trainer and Spartan SGX coach Leanne Weiner. So if you're out for a run, stop for a burpee every time Andre 3000 says "Hey Ya," pause for a push-up whenever LMFAO shouts about "shots," or drop and hold a plank each time Icona Pop declares "I don't care-I love it!" The playlist possibilities are truly endless.
Pump Up the Jams
"Cue Britney," says Bales. "You want a hot body? You better work, bitch. I play that song and I'm like, 'Yeah I'm working!' I always work harder when my favorite songs are on." Whether you get extra adrenaline from Eminem or One Direction, have no shame blasting the tunes that will best fuel your calorie burn.
Put on Your Game Face
Card game face, that is. "Use a deck of cards for a fun memory challenge," says Weiner. "Prior to your regular workout, assign an exercise to each suit in the deck. Select 3–5 cards-the more cards, the more challenging the workout-and memorize them. Put the cards aside once you begin your workout. Upon completion, perform the exercises associated with the cards you've drawn, for the number of reps as indicated by card (Jacks are 11, Queens 12, Kings 13, Ace 14) as quickly as possible while maintaining proper form. The catch for making it a memory game: For every card you don't remember or get wrong, give yourself a 10 burpee penalty." (Ouch!)
Make a Run-Workout Sandwich
"Add a one-mile run to each side of your gym session," says Mosier. "It's a great way to boost your calorie burn and ensure you finish strong." (See? Not all fitness tips are overly complicated.)
Stare Into the Face of Inspiration
"Grab a magazine. Flip to a picture of an athlete you admire. Place it on the front of the treadmill. Leave it there for the duration of your workout," says Yang. "The picture will block the time and distance on the screen, which can be distracting-and mind-numbing-and you'll be more likely to run better when you're channeling your inner Maria Menounos, Kerry Washington, or Kara Goucher." (Or go on Instagram and check out these 7 Fit Fashion Models to Follow for Fitspiration.)
Go Up a Weight Class
As in, max yourself out. "I go up in weight on my last set, just to see how many reps I can do at the next weight up," says Bales. "It keeps me from slacking, and sometimes shows me I'm ready to up my game."
Descend the Imaginary Ladder
Instead of doing two or three sets of any exercise, start with a set of 10 reps and work your way down-with no rest in between-doing nine reps, then eight reps, and so on until you're down to one. "Mentally, you can trick yourself into thinking this is an easy workout," says Mosier. "But it takes endurance and grit to push through the final sets."