If you're honest, when someone asks how your workout went, you can't always say, "Awesome!" Sometimes it's just "Meh." Why is that? Why aren't all your workouts incredibly productive—maybe even exciting? What can you do to make sure your workouts are not only "awesome," but moving you closer to the physique you crave?
Here are seven things you can start doing right now to make excellent and productive workouts a inevitable conclusion every time you walk into the gym.
1. Be Well-Fed, Hydrated, and Rested
Everything you've done since your last workout sets the tone for the next one. The foods you ate, the rest you received, the liquids you drank—they all impact how well you'll recover and perform next time. Newborn babies at home, illness, missing meals, not getting enough fluids (or getting too much of the wrong kinds of fluids), and other stress factors can all make your workouts flat as roadkill.
Get these three things consistently right—nutrition, rest, and hydration—and you've positioned yourself for success in the gym. Skimp on any of them and it's going to be an uphill slog the whole way.
2. Set Specific Goals
Wandering into the gym without specific goals is not a preamble to a successful workout. How can you train hard if you don't know why you're training? Success requires more thought than just telling yourself to get to the gym and do some reps.
Next time, before you head to the gym, sit down in a quiet place and think about exactly what you want out of your workouts. You want to increase your body weight? Okay, cool! How much do you want to weigh, and by when? Or maybe you're not satisfied with the size of your arms or legs. Exactly how much bigger would you like them to be? If you want your 16-inch arms to be 20s one day, set a short-term goal of adding an inch in 12 weeks.
The point is to have a very clear goal of what it is you're training toward, and when you're going to reach that goal. Having a strong sense of purpose will drive you when you hit the weights—or hit the wall. With a specific goal, you can attack your workouts with passion.
3. Slug Down a Pre-workout
If you're dragging ass throughout your workouts, you could benefit from a little pick-me-up. Past generations relied on coffee for an energy boost. These days, a vast array of potent pre-workout products are available to not only increase energy levels, but also enhance mental focus and muscle pumps. If you've never tried them, you don't know what you're missing.
Most products are designed to give you sustained energy for 60-90 minutes. I personally like to start sipping mine about 30 minutes before I start warming up for my first exercise. I drink most of it while I'm driving to the gym, and finish it right before I step through the door. This way, my pre-workout is at peak strength until I'm finished training.
4. Have a Rival/Training Partner
It's not always easy to stay motivated and give every workout 100 percent. We all know how easy it is to slack off, cut corners, and make excuses as to why we didn't go as heavy as we should have or why we stopped the set when we had another couple reps left in us.
Finding a training partner—or better yet, finding a partner who can also serve as a friendly rival—gets you on your game a lot more often. Your pride and ego probably won't let that other person show you up and make you look weak or lazy. If you know you can bench press 315 for 10 reps by pushing yourself, you're less likely to stop at 5-6 reps when your partner is watching you. When you're by yourself, who's watching? Who cares?
5. Change Your Workout Gear (Seriously)
When you look good, you feel good. Think about how you feel when you look in the mirror wearing a raggedy old T-shirt and pajama pants. Now look at yourself in a nice suit and tie, ready for a big night out. You feel more confident, right? The same principle applies to how you dress for the gym.
Treat yourself to some new tank tops, shorts, leggings, T-shirts, and sneakers. It sounds ridiculous to some people, but study after study has concluded that what you wear affects how you perform.[1, 2, 3] There's just something about buying brand-new training gear that gets you pumped to put it on and train your ass off.
6. Train to the Right Music
Music is a powerful and effective way to set your mood. It can make you happy, sad, angry, or want to get up and dance. It can also make you want to train.
Most gyms play top-40 tunes, which don't even motivate those 14-year-olds busy taking selfies in the mirror. Create your own playlist of songs that flip that switch in your brain to beast mode.
It could be rap, speed metal, classic rock, or whatever does it for you. If you're bobbing and banging your head, singing along and not caring who's looking at you, you found the right music to help you murder your workouts.
7. Attend a Physique Contest
It's one thing to see photos of excellent physiques on your phone or in a magazine; seeing them live and in person, flexing and moving in front of you in real life, is an entirely different animal. Whatever stage of bodybuilding you're at, you can't help but get psyched up seeing so many men and women who've trained and dieted hard to present the biggest, most shredded physiques they can.
I've been to more contests than I can count, and I've competed in plenty, too, but I still get that electric charge every time I go. It makes me want to run out and tear up the gym! There is simply no way you can have anything but killer workouts for at least a week after watching these displays of flexing muscles. Google "bodybuilding contests near me," head to the next local contest, and set your training motivation on fire!
- Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(4), 918-925.
- Slepian, M. L., Ferber, S. N., Gold, J. M., & Rutchick, A. M. (2015). The cognitive consequences of formal clothing. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(6), 661-668.
- Dreiskaemper, D., Strauss, B., Hagemann, N., & Büsch, D. (2013). Influence of red jersey color on physical parameters in combat sports. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 35(1), 44-49.