5 Ground Rules for an Efficient Workout: How I Write Workouts for My clients

When it comes to working out, I’m definitely of the work smarter, not harder variety.

On any given day, I only have about 45 minutes to workout—and I know I’m not alone here. From my 1:1 clients to my squad within the TL Method, one of the more cautionary tales I hear is, “Tara, I hardly have any time to workout, so when you make my workouts, make them count.”

Challenge accepted.

You do not need to spend two hours plus in the gym to get a heavy sweat going. In fact, I will argue that those who spend half their afternoon in the gym probably aren’t making the best use of their time. By pairing the “right” movements together and striking the correct balance, you can see better results from workouts that take less time.

And while not everyone is a personal trainer (or can afford to hire one—although might I add $29 a month for personal training is a helluva steal), there are a few ground rules you can follow to get the most from your time spent at the gym.

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The 5 Ground Rules for an Efficient Workout

Efficient workouts aren’t just about saving time—that just seems to be the biggest selling point to all you badasses I coach! Following the guidelines laid out below will help you prevent injuries, strengthen your core, and allow your muscles to rebuild post workout.

#1) Warm-up and cool down: Preparing your body for your workout

Yes, the warm-up and cool down count as part of your workout. And yes, it can seem aggravating to spend time preparing your body when you just want to get to the bulk of your workout. But warming-up your body is kinda like preheating an oven—you can’t start out cold and expect to get good results.

Warm-ups help raise your hormone levels (which give you energy when you start to go ham), raise your body temperature (allowing your muscles to move more freely), and elongates your muscles. When all is said and done, cooling down helps reverse the process, slowly lowering your body temperature and returning your muscles to their starting position.

I wrote a FREE eBook on how to properly warm-up and cool down your body. Download it here.

#2) KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid): Modify according to your fitness level

Want to know how I workout? I do push-ups. And squats. And deadlifts. And other very basic, yet efficient movements. Think about it: If a movement is included in millions of workout programs (like squats), chances are it’s an effective one.

Want to know what I don’t include in my workouts? Walking handstands, jumping skater pistol squats, and superman push-ups. Those fancy moves are for the ‘gram and your viewing pleasure only. Yes, they’re creative and challenging, but I would never base a workout on them—not even my own.

#3) Push and pull: Front side and back side of body

I rarely get all science-y on you guys, but I want to give you two workout terms to add to your ever-growing workout glossary. When you hear the phrase “push and pull,” the personal trainer synonyms is adduction and abduction. Here’s what that means in layman’s terms:

  • Abduction: Abduction is a “push” movement, or moving away from your body.

  • Adduction: Adduction is a “pull” movement, or moving toward your body.

When you create a workout, it’s important to pair a push (abduction) and pull (adduction) exercises together. For example, if you’re doing an upper body workout, you would pair a chest press, where you’re pushing two dumbbells away from your body; with a lat pulldown, where you pull the bar back toward your chest. Make sense?

With push-and-pull movements, it’s important to pair complimentary muscle groups together. For example, alternate between chest and back, biceps and triceps, or quads and hamstrings.

#4) Move across every plane: Don’t forget side-to-side and rotational movements

Moving across every plane—frontal, lateral, and sagittal—is a fancy way of saying you need to move your body in every direction. Beyond anything else, this is where I see most workouts fall short.

Let me explain: For most of my life, I was a runner. For twenty-plus years, I moved my body in one direction—forward. Only moving forward meant I taxed the same muscles on repeat, completely ignoring the rest of my body.

Many of the most common forms of exercise—like running, biking, and walking—only move your body in one direction. But as humans, we are meant to move side-to-side (like a lateral lunge), forward and back, and rotate (like a Russian twist or curtsy lunges). When we move across every plane, we hit the smaller muscle groups often forgotten in other workouts.

#5) Use your stabilizer muscles: Work on your balance

Often we work our large muscle groups—our glutes, back, quads, for example—and forget about the smaller, stabilizer muscles supporting them. To put these small muscles to work, start incorporating balance moves into your workout routine.

Balance movements, like Bosu ball push-ups, Bulgarian split squats, and virtually all single-leg exercises, are some of my go-to balance exercises. Balance work allows you to get more from your workout because it forces you to to “recruit” more muscles to do the movement. And the number one muscle group required? Your core! If you constantly topple over doing single leg deadlifts, squeeze the life out of your core and you’ll stay upright.

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Final Thoughts: This is How to Write an Efficient Workout, Not an Efficient Program

These are the guidelines I follow to write a workout, but it’s only half of the equation.

The guidelines written here explain what goes into one, isolated workout—not a complete program. While a workout pairs certain workouts together for maximum results, a program pairs certain workouts together throughout the week. In other words, even the most efficient workout in the world won’t get you the results you need if you perform it four days a week. Instead, you should incorporate upper body, lower body, and total body workouts into your week, plus yoga flows, cardio, and mobility workout.

I could write an entire blog post on how I build workout programs, or I could just show you! Join me June 3rd–9th for a FREE week of workouts. Not only will you get a good sweat in throughout the week, but you’ll see how I combine various kinds of movements into one seamless program.

So what do you say—are you in? Click here to sign up for the TL Free Week of Workouts—starting June 3rd!