Get better results from your workout

betterresults

In a fitness rut? See more benefits from your gym sessions with these top tips.

On the treadmill

Don’t…do the same thing
‘It’s imperative you mix up your pace and distance during treadmill runs to increase running ability,’ says celebrity personal trainer and Asics running ambassador, Nicki Waterman(www.asics.com). ‘Mix interval training sessions with long runs and sprint work on different days – just because you’re not running outside, doesn’t mean you can’t follow a running plan to provide training goals.’

Do…adjust the gradient
‘Always adjust the treadmill gradient up to at least one per cent, even for a warm up,’ says Waterman. ‘This will help simulate the energy used when running outside on uneven terrain or into the wind, which you don’t get on a flat treadmill surface indoors. Raise the gradient further to recreate running up hills outside.’

Don’t…forget technique
‘Watching TV and listening to music can distract you from thinking about correct posture,’ says Waterman. ‘Stand tall, tilt your hips forward and keep your bottom tucked under to help propel you forwards through the glutes and hamstrings. Avoid lifting your feet too far from the treadmill’s surface to avoid ‘bouncing’ and wasting energy.’

Do… train with a friend
‘Having a friend running on the treadmill next to you will provide the extra encouragement you need to keep you going when you’re flagging,’ says Waterman. ‘Create yourselves a little competition, such as seeing how fast you can both run 1km. Just make sure the challenges are within your limits.’

On the cross trainer

Do… have good posture
‘Stand tall and maintain good posture throughout,’ says Neil Odell, personal trainer and owner of bridal shape-up service Fit 4 My Day (www.fit4myday.com). ‘Keep your head forwards, chest out and stomach in to improve your performance. It might seem like more effort, but you will be able to go faster more easily, and get a more effective workout.’

Don’t… use the wrong muscles
‘People tend to hunch up their shoulders on a cross trainer, putting unnecessary strain on commonly tight neck muscles,’ explains Odell. ‘Instead, relax the shoulders, let the arms assist the leg movements and focus on using your larger back muscles rather than aggressively pushing and pulling on the handles. Also, think about squeezing your glutes as each leg goes backwards.’

Do… try high intensity work
‘If you’re fit, try some high-intensity interval training to boost your fitness and shorten your workouts,’ says Odell. ‘Aim for 30 seconds of a very fast pace followed by 90 seconds working at an easy pace. You only need to complete 10–15 minutes working this way to get the cardiovascular and weight-loss benefits.’

Don’t… let your hips drop
‘Many people are guilty of slouching and sinking in the hips when using a cross-trainer, which is inefficient and makes the workout much harder than it needs to be,’ says Odell. ‘Try to keep your hips forward and upright, and avoid leaning back and pulling on the arms to facilitate easier movement.’

Weight training 

Do… be honest with yourself
‘If you’ve hit a plateau, stop and assess what you’re doing’ says celebrity personal trainer Steve Barrett (www.stevebarrett.tv). ‘Skip a gym session and use the time to examine your workouts. Do you find lunges easy but struggle with your core or upper-body work? Do you only perform the moves you’re good at and avoid the tough exercises? If you answer yes, it’s time to shake things up.’

Don’t… forget the basics
‘Try to master the four fundamental moves of squats, lunges, presses and dead-lifts before moving on to more complicated exercises involving balancing or twisting, otherwise you might not perform them properly and could be wasting your time,’ says Barrett. ‘Together, these four exercises provide optimum muscle recruitment. Ensure you perform them with correct technique and a full range of motion. Take your time and make every repetition count.’

Do…think less is more.
‘Increase the intensity of your resistance workouts by lifting weights that are around 25 per cent heavier than you normally use,’ advises Barrett. ‘This will train your muscles harder and to exhaustion more quickly and shave valuable minutes off your training sessions. You’ll also have a completely different workout.’

Don’t… rest too much
‘Unless you’re a body builder, rest days are an indulgence as the average person doesn’t train hard enough to need them,’ says Barrett. ‘Don’t use the idea of rest days as an excuse not to train. Try cross-training where you do weights one day and some form of cardio exercise the next to keep your daily activity levels up and boost results.’

On the exercise bike

Don’t…be lazy
‘Don’t lean on your elbows or forearms,’ says spinning instructor and Fitness First’s PT of the year, Kevin Hubble(www.kevinhubblefitness.co.uk) ‘Sit up straight to engage your core muscles and keep a slight bend in the arms to promote good technique. Also, peddle in a circular motion rather than just pushing down and letting the momentum of the bike do the rest of the work.’

Do…adjust your saddle
‘If you don’t adjust the saddle to the right height for you, you’ll put pressure on your knees and won’t peddle effectively,’ says Hubble. ‘Raise the saddle to your hip height, and ensure you have a slight bend in your leg on the down phase of peddling. Your leg should never lock out fully. Also, exercise bikes aren’t set at the same angle as spinning bikes so don’t try peddling out of the seat.’

Don’t…do ‘fat burning’
‘If you train in the ‘fat burning zones’ advised by your bike, you’ll have to peddle at one speed and one intensity for at least 30-minutes to get a decent workout,’ advises Hubble. ‘Aim to work at 70-80 per cent of your maximum heart-rate instead, and introduce interval training. Play with increasing the resistance and gradient, and speeding up your pace.’

Do…create play lists
‘Music can make a massive difference to your motivation during cycling workouts’ says Hubble. ‘It can guide you through the peaks and troughs of hill, endurance and sprint work, so look for songs with distinctive verses, breaks and choruses and adjust your pace, effort and recovery periods to them accordingly.’

Pilates

Don’t… rush
‘If you rush your movements during a Pilates session, you’ll lack the control needed to execute moves properly,’ says Lynne Robinson, Pilates guru and co-founder of Body Control Pilates (www.bodycontrol.co.uk). ‘I’m not suggesting you slow every movement down, as some movements need to be done quickly, but I do recommend you do everything with precision.’

Do… use the breath
‘If you don’t take in enough oxygen when you inhale, you’ll run out of energy fast’, explains Robinson. ‘Make sure that your ribcage fully expands when you breathe in. Correct breathing will also help lengthen the spine to work muscles more deeply, help quieten and focus your mind and facilitate correct movement.’

Don’t… over-engage your core
‘Many people think Pilates is all about the core, which leads them to fix and grip their abdominal muscles too much,’ says Robinson. ‘This can make you become rigid and inflexible, and you’ll never achieve the suppleness you want. Instead, try to let your core react to your movements to support your spine and pelvis, rather than engaging your core first and then trying a move.’

Do… sweat the small stuff
‘Small details count because they affect the rest of your body,’ says Robinson. ‘It really does matter how you place your feet or where your fingertips are. Pay attention to the small things as they can make a big impact on your results. It will take time and concentration to master them, but they’re there for a reason.’