Most advanced trainees take their routines very seriously. Others, not so much. Novice and intermediate gym rats also tend to not fully understand the proper planning, intensity, commitment, passion and other concepts associated with an effective workout.
Almost all of them tend to focus on getting results from their workout but they fail to take the element of safety into consideration. How can you expect to make progress if you are always injured? Don’t forget that one wrong move in the gym can get you injured or even disabled.
Working out is a process that involves preparation, execution and reflection. It has, like most processes, an introduction, the main phase and an exit session. The first 2 tips are the introduction that apply before even getting to the gym, the other 10 while working out and the last one is your exit session.
In this article, you will learn 13 tips for safe and effective workouts for both novice and advanced trainees.
Table of Contents
- 1 Establish a routine for going to the gym
- 2 Plan everything ahead of time
- 3 Do a proper warm up
- 4 Kill it!
- 5 Don’t get depleted!
- 6 Stay focused!
- 7 Don’t ignore the mind-body connection
- 8 Enjoy your workout and have fun
- 9 Make sure you have enough fuel for the workout
- 10 Stay hydrated
- 11 Wear appropriate clothing and use proper gear
- 12 Always mind your surroundings
- 13 Include a cooling down session
- 14 Closing thoughts
Establish a routine for going to the gym
Having a routine will enable you to maximize your time and make you worry less about things other than your workout.
In this way, you will be able to get ready faster without stress or worry.
For instance, before I go to bed I always prepare my workout bag, my pre/during and post workout shakes and supplements, clothes and food. All I want to do is grab ‘em and go without thinking. A routine allows you to do that.
Become a creature of habit and be freed from worries and time delays.
Plan everything ahead of time
How many times were you trying to find where you put your shake or pills while you should have been killing it in the gym already?
Time waits for no man/woman so being prepared is very important.
If you are a very busy person, you need to allocate time for your workout and everything else after that (including but not limited to: getting post-workout supps and/or shake, post workout lunch, shower).
Avoid planning anything serious after your workout so that you can have the time to unwind. If that is not possible, try to have everything in place so that you do not have to stress about the next activities at the expense of your workout.
Let me give you a simple example:
John gets up early in the morning to train.
After his workout, he needs to catch the train for another busy day at work and has exactly 1,5 hours to be done with everything.
He has prepared ahead of time so he starts with his workout.
At the end of his workout, he tries a new exercise which cost him extra time and now has only 10 minutes to finish another 10 sets. So he either rushes through them risking an injury or he does half of them and finishes his workout without a cooling session.
He then rushes to take his post-workout, skips his shower and goes to work fully stressed.
Here’s another example:
Eva has planned a night out with her friends.
She starts working out and wants to make some serious progress in her cardio today, run for 25 minutes and then hit the weights for at least 40 minutes and finish it off with 10 minutes of stretching.
But unfortunately, while she should have been working out at 18:00, her girlfriend (or her boss) called her up with some juicy news (or an update on a project) at 17:30 which had her talking until 17:50!
Now she only has 1 hour to get to the gym and back, so she cuts her workout in half to take some extra time to get ready. So much for her productive workout plans!
Do a proper warm up
Once you actually make it to the weights room, warming up should be the one thing you should always do religiously before anything else. It will help your whole body get ready for the workout, protect your joints, muscles and limbs and allow you to get the best out of your workout and continue doing so.
IKFF Steve Cotter demonstrates a simple joint mobility flow. You can use this as the basic warm up and/or a cool down session. After this, you will need to activate your Central Nervous System (CNS) by skipping rope for 1-2 minutes or doing high jumps.
This is common sense. When you work out, you have to give it everything you got. You must make some kind of progress in almost every workout, whether it’s extra poundage or just one new rep in order to make it count and build new muscle.
Of course there are plenty of factors that come into play when it comes to intra-workout intensity like age, stress levels, the overall workload of your day etc. but the basic premise of having an effective workout is to just give it all you got!
Don’t get depleted!
Still, not every workout should result in getting you wasted or depleted. A workout should leave you energized and content, otherwise you will be facing a huge burnout which means plateau and zero progress.
This is once again subject to your energy and stress levels as well as your physical and training age (novice, intermediate, advanced trainee).
Your workout should have your undivided attention at all times!
You should be in war-mode and any mental disconnect or disruption of any sort will not only result in a less productive or bad workout but may even cause you minor or major injury!
Stay in the moment, focus on your exercise and nothing else. The world does not matter in the moment, all that matters is you doing your exercise.
Switch off your phones, laptop, lock up your kids or pets, do not allow any interruptions of any kind.
Once your workout is over, you can attend to everything else.
Don’t ignore the mind-body connection
This is something a lot of athletes forget. When we workout, we must become and remain a whole. This is also connected to rule no3 on the importance of focus.
Your body is a finely tuned machine. Just like the race driver is connected to his car, so you must be connected to your body when you work out.
- If you are working for hypertrophy, visualize your muscle performing the action, micro-tears happening inside of it and the blood rushing nutrients in to repair.
- If you are working for fat loss, imagine your fat melting off as you struggle rep after rep.
- If you are stretching, listen to the antagonists (muscles) tighten up and later on relax as you go deeper into the stretch.
Whatever kind of workout, just listen. Listening to your body will keep you safe and allow you to get the best results possible.
- If you feel good and can do more, then do more!
- When you feel slight pain or discomfort, STOP!
This is a very important message you must always take heed of.
Enjoy your workout and have fun
This should make sense. Have fun!
Working out should be a fun activity and you should be enjoying yourself as much as possible.
You are releasing negative energy and giving your body much needed exercise.
Leave your problems behind, do not focus on the end goal and just be in the moment.
Make sure you have enough fuel for the workout
Another factor that most people tend to forget is getting the right kind of fuel for their workout.
Eating a huge meal before your workout is a very bad idea as your blood supply will be in your stomach trying to digest your food, rather than targeting the muscles.
Others do the mistake of not eating enough before a workout and over-rely on the use of stimulants. How do you expect to make progress when your body is depleted of nutrients and cannot properly fuel your muscles?
Not eating right before a workout is a great way to deplete your body, reach a state of adrenal fatigue or injure yourself.
For some people, a banana and some whey are all they need. For more experienced athletes and lifters, a more carefully balanced meal with protein and carbs is required.
Note: I need to mention that training fasted is also an option but it is only for advanced trainees and requires a specific process which I will reveal in a later article.
Water is fuel for your body just as much as food is. While you can work out without food (even though it is not for everyone), working out without water is a recipe for disaster.
Dehydration can lead to cramps, injuries and even death.
Always have enough water with you when you work out, and always drink enough water after working out as well. The golden rule of hydration is to drink a minimum of 2 liters of water per day for a 160-180lb person. If you are heavier, drink more water.
Wear appropriate clothing and use proper gear
Use proper clothing and gear when you work out.
If you do squats and deadlifts, don’t forget your lifting belt.
Some choose to use gloves too. If you use other training aids such as straps, make sure they are of high quality as this will ensure your safety. I had an interesting experience when I was using metal hooks to deadlift 2 55kilo dumbbells (120lbs). One of the hooks bent and I had 55kilos land next to my toe!
Shoes are also important. Avoid running and basketball shoes when you lift if you value your knees and lower back. Switch to those without big soles like Chuck Taylors as they give you more contact with the floor.
In the above videos, Steve Maxwell demonstrates how to modify your shoes for best feet health and less joint pain.
In the above video, Paul Chek explains the necessity of good sports shoes for optimal spine health and what to look for when buying them.
When it comes to clothing, make sure you are properly dressed for the type of environment you are working out in, not just for optimal performance but in order to keep a proper body temperature and avoid getting injured.
- If it is cold or you work out outside, make sure you are wearing enough layers.
- If it’s warm, make sure your clothes are light and do not absorb your sweat.
- Also make sure your clothing is not restricting your blood flow or movement!
Last but least, while you should keep your own personal style, do not go overboard with it. You are at the gym to workout, not show off or walk a catwalk.
Always mind your surroundings
Always be mindful of who and what you have around you.
- Mind the person behind you or next to you.
- Do not walk in front of others in the mirror.
- Do not perform actions that might cause people to lose focus.
- If you work out outside, be aware of your personal
- Getting lost in the woods, ending up in the wrong part of town or going to the desert on your own are things that people died over while working out.
Include a cooling down session
Once you are done working out, it is time for your exit session. At the end of your workout, plan for 5-10 minutes (or more if you can) for a proper cooling down, stretching and reflection or relaxation and visualization.
Cooling off is important, as your body has been working hard and if you stop all of a sudden (especially after intense cardio), there is a huge load of blood going to your heart and your heart is left alone to handle it. By cooling down properly (doing some slight jumps, or shadow boxing or just walking around and breathing), you enable your body to properly handle all this blood supply and protect your heart.
After that, stretching will help you reduce the amount of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and therefore avoid the upcoming intense soreness of your muscles. Stretching helps the body get rid of all the waste products by using the circulation system as it enhances blood flow and also improves posture and mobility.
Last but not least, relaxation and visualization will help you wrap up your workout session in the most effective way.
To do this just lay down on the floor, close your eyes and focus on your breathing and how your body feels. Relax by feeling the weight of your body on the floor and think of nothing.
If you cannot empty your mind, you can:
- Either just reflect on the workout you just had and congratulate yourself,
- Or visualize your body being repaired as you lay there.
This process will lower your cortisol levels, allowing for faster muscle recovery and making your workout more productive.
That’s it. Follow these 13 simple rules and you will be able to have a safe workout and get amazing results at the same time. Did you ever have an accident while working out? What happened? Share your story by adding a comment below.
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by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
- Paul Chek Youtube Channel
- Steve Maxwell Youtube Channel
- IKFF Steve Cotter Youtube Channel