As we’ve pointed out quite a few times by now, there is no magical shortcut to the fittest, healthiest you possible. Hard work, planning, dedication, healthy diet – you name it. Overall, once you’ve committed to an appropriate workout regime designed by your personal trainer and implemented healthy dietary habits, this is it – fundamentals do not change, and no “instant fixes” will actually make much difference.

But what if you’ve reached a plateau? Or just got tired of certain components of your health and fitness routine? So, if the fundamentals are not flexible, are you doomed now?

Never fear – you aren’t!

There are quite a few adjustments you can try to optimise your regime and speed up the progress, and we are going to discuss these handy tweaks today.

Even though the core of your workouts and diet will stay the same, with appropriate finishing touches here and there you’ll start noticing the difference shortly. Interested? Stay with us!

Step 1 : Using Compound Exercises

Our first tip is incorporating more compound exercises in your routines. If you’re not sure what they are, here’s the deal: all exercises can be classified as either compound – that is, those that involve more than a single muscle group – or isolated (only one muscle group at a time is performing).

Some examples of compound exercises include squats, bench presses, deadlifts and dips. On the other side, exercises such as bicep curls or ab crunches in the machines.

There are obviously many more in each group, as every single exercise in the universe belongs to one or another – if you find the classification a little bit confusing, browse reputable resources such as bodybuilding.com, or better still, ask a professional personal trainer for help.

There are several benefits to incorporating more compound exercises in your routine. First, these are time efficient, as working multiple muscle groups at the same time allows stimulation of all major muscle groups by performing 8-10 compound movements [1].

As a bonus, multiple joints get involved as well, promoting improved mobility and helping develop functional strength [1].

Moreover, compound exercises are also very energy-demanding, especially compared to isolated ones, which helps you burn more calories and melt fat quicker [1].

Step 2 : Heavier weights and shorter rest periods

This one is for those who have been doing resistance training for a while – if you are a complete beginner, your personal trainer will likely recommend sticking to lighter weights for now, working on form and technique. Don’t rush it and come back to this chapter in a couple of months.

A search for optimal loading strategies to improve the adaptive response to resistance exercise is permanently on [2], but looks like some questions are finally getting solid answers.

For instance, a recent meta-analysis [2] revealed that strength and muscle hypertrophy outcomes are greater with heavier weights compared to lighter loads. Moreover, the heavier weights you use – the more energy you need to perform exercises, meaning you’ll burn more calories in the process.

So can it get better than this? Turns out, you can further enhance the beneficial effects of exercising with heavier weights by committing to shorter rest periods.

The optimal rest time highly depends on your exercise goals – for instance, powerlifters rest for as much as 3-5 minutes between sets, as shorter breaks sabotage strength gains due to impairing several metabolic pathways [3].

If your goal is endurance training or fat loss, however, the optimal rest intervals must not exceed 2 minutes, promoting burning you own fats and carbs in the presence of oxygen to obtain energy for training [4].

Therefore, by combining heavier weights with relatively short breaks between sets you are setting yourself up for an ultimate fat burning session.

Step 3 : Optimise each set performed

To get the most out of your training, it’s important to understand why exactly you’re performing every single set in a certain way – chaotic workouts are much less efficient and carry higher injury risks.

Below is a handy guide to various types of sets – talk to your personal trainer to determine what’s likely to work best for you.

Supersets. A superset is basically two sets of exercises performed back to back with no rest in between. There are endless exercise combinations – feel free to work different muscle groups of the same body part or switch between entirely opposite exercises (e.g. upper and lower body within a superset). Supersets make you work harder and use up more energy [5].

Dropsets. Discovered in 1947 by Henry Atkins, who was the editor of Body Culture magazine, dropsets involve performing and exercise and then reducing (or dropping – hence the name) the weight; you then continue until fatigue. Exercising to exhaustion is a very effective way to burn extra calories and drop some fat – as a bonus, dropsets promote muscle growth very effectively [6].

Rest-pause. There can be slight variations to this relatively new technique, but the fundamentals stay the same: rest-pause training requires breaking down one set into several mini sets with short rest between them. It’s a surprisingly draining technique, so you’ll definitely burn extra energy while rest-pausing [7].

Cluster sets. The term sounds a little bit fancy, but basically, cluster sets are just normal sets with a twist: intraset rest periods are planned ahead strategically, allowing for more weight and reps [8]. Extra reps with heavier weights – more fat melted. Profit! Instead of doing 4 sets of 12 repetitions, you would perform 4 sets of 4+4+4 repetitions with 20 second intraset rest.

 

Step 4 : High Intensity Interval Training

Weight training is by all means, amazing, but we can’t emphasise the following enough: don’t forget your cardio! Unless you have any underlying conditions that may be stopping you from engaging in vigorous physical activity, we highly recommend high intensity interval training, or simply – HIIT.

HIIT involves involving exercising at your maximum capacity and alternating exercises every 10-60 seconds, depending on a particular workout design.

Turns out these workouts are your best friends if you’re looking to shed some fat [9], especially compared to steady state cardio [10].

The aim of the latter is to improve overall fitness and increase endurance, but it won’t help you as much to melt the kilos.  So HIIT it is – and don’t forget your towel and some water, these sessions are called high intensity for a reason.

Step 5: Make the most of your rest periods

Paraphrasing a popular life motto, do your best – and don’t forget your rest! To maximise your workouts, use the rest periods wisely.

There are two polarities of the spectrum, both unhealthy: no rest days at all vs spending a day on the sofa eating chocolate when you have an exercise-free day scheduled.

You want to be somewhere in the middle – and the answer is active recovery. Long walks, recreational sports, cruisy bike rides or hiking are some of the perfect activities for your rest days. If you’re feeling especially sore, spend some extra time doing some light, relaxing yoga or simply perform a stretching sequence, followed by a nice warm bath.

By embracing the concept of active resting, you will start noticing amazing results very shortly.

The Result

Using the tips above and taking something from each of them will inevitably improve your results and help you achieve fat loss goals much quicker.

Trying new things can get overwhelming, however. After all, even though now you know all the different types of sets and some tricks of the trade, how are you supposed to determine what’s the best for you, and what can wait?

This is where a personal trainer can help step up the game. By hiring one and getting some individualised, comprehensive, evidence-based advice, you will start getting amazing results without walking in the dark in frustration! Did you know we offer everyone a completely Free Taster Session to experience the amazing benefits for yourself. Book a Free Taster Session here.

References

1.      Rini, D., Compound Vs. Isolation Exercises. Bodybuilding.com, 2014.

2.      Schoenfeld, B.J., et al., Muscular adaptations in low- versus high-load resistance training: A meta-analysis. Eur J Sport Sci, 2016. 16(1): p. 1-10.

3.      Robinson, J.M., et al., Effects of Different Weight Training Exercise/Rest Intervals on Strength, Power, and High Intensity Exercise Endurance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 1995. 9(4): p. 216-221.

4.      Donovan, C.M. and G.A. Brooks, Endurance training affects lactate clearance, not lactate production. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, 1983. 244(1): p. E83-E92.

5.      Brentano, M.A., et al., Muscle Damage And Muscle Activity Induced By Strength Training Super-Sets In Physically Active Men. J Strength Cond Res, 2016.

6.      Edip, M., Gain Greater Mass with Drop Sets. Muscle & Fitness, 2014.

7.      Charles, S.C., Rest-Pause Training Methods Explained: Creating Intensity For New Muscle! Bodybuilding.com, 2015.

8.      Bryant, N., Cluster Set Training for Strength and Size. Muscle & Fitness.

9.      Trapp, E., et al., The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International journal of obesity, 2008. 32(4): p. 684-691.

10.   Boutcher, S.H., High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of obesity, 2010. 2011.