Everyone wants something out of their workouts, whether it’s feeling more energized or increasing strength and muscle mass. In order to get the results you’re after sooner rather than later, it’s not enough to just show up at the gym. You need to take some extra steps during your workout to meet your goals.
Success in any field is largely dependant on one’s planning. If you don’t know where you’re going it’s hardly likely you’ll ever get there. Building lean muscle and aerobic endurance is no different. If you want to get stronger, faster, leaner, or any number of other -ers—you need a plan to get there. Fitness goals are usually centered about losing weight or building muscle. These are two noble goals, but there is much more to the puzzle. These simple tips can help you formulate a plan of action before setting foot in the gym which will help you make the most of each workout.
Warm Up Variations
Thirty-percent of all sports-related injuries occur to skeletal muscle tissue (R). These injuries are some of the most commonly seen among professionals and amateurs alike. When it comes to warming up and stretching there are several different approaches. That is, your body will respond differently depending on which kind of warmup exercises you do. The three primary types of warm-up exercise are as follows:
- Ballistic: Uses fast and quick counter movements to provide stress to the body similar to that which will be seen during actual exercise. Counterstretching methods such as these should only be done when muscles have been already warmed (R).
- Static: Stretching warm-ups such as leg extensions, toe-touches, and arm stretches. Helps improve flexibility whereas more dynamic warm-ups did not (R).
- Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): Designed to help improve passive and active range of motion. NOTE: Has been observed to decrease performance on maximal weight exercises (R).
These are only brief summaries of what is regarded as several expansive topics. It’s important to realize each of these different types of warm-ups and stretching techniques has pros and cons. For example, PNF warm-ups have been shown (countless times) to significantly improve the range of motion. However, such warm-ups have also been shown to have a negative impact on maximal strength exercise, such as maxing out. Knowing the differences between the types of warm-ups you do can help make your trip to the gym more productive and beneficial in pursuit of your personal goals. Research also suggests that warming up can reduce the length of muscle soreness as well (R).
Warming up can help loosen things up but doesn’t always prepare one’s muscles properly for the work ahead. Adding a lower weight to exercises similar to those you will be doing is a hallmark of ballistic warmups. These methods should be done carefully as they do increase the risk of injury for those that exercise infrequently. Simply put, don’t overdo it while warming up or you’ll defeat the purpose of warming up!
Resistance bands offer a great way to add resistance during warmups without encroaching on the limit of having too much weight. They are lightweight and feature a variety of tension options, so you can upgrade to a more difficult option when one gets too easy. It’s also easy to double them (use two or more at the same time) when you need even more of a challenge. Progressive resistance such as this offers much of the same benefits of ballistic warmups without the added risk of such forceful counter-resistance (R).
An anabolic state is when the body is making muscle, contrasted by a catabolic state when it is destroying muscle. Physical workouts cause the body to enter into an anabolic state during which new muscle tissue is built. This can be thought of as an anabolic window of opportunity, meaning during this time its essential to have proper nutrition available.
Traditional advice has been to consume protein immediately after workouts to fully utilize the anabolic state elicited by a workout. Recent research suggests that this window may actually extend to 5 hours post-workout. That means that states of aminoacidemia (high levels of amino acids in the bloodstream) are effective at building new muscle in windows of time much farther from workouts than many regard them to be (R).
Research also suggests that nutrition closer to one’s workout extends the window of post-workout anabolism. The takeaway here is that by eating/drinking protein closer to one’s workout there is a much longer post-workout window in which nutritional maximization of muscular anabolism can occur.
Another import consideration of workout nutrition is bioavailability. Just because you eat something doesn’t mean that your body can use it all. Whole proteins, such as those found in Whey protein powder, require digestive processes before they can be used. Not only is this an energy burden but there’s also a concern for lack of efficiency. Research suggests that hydrolyzed proteins in combination with enzymatic supplementation offer a superior form of protein supplementation (R).
There are several factors at play that can lower the overall bioavailability of protein powders. Small intestine transit time (SIT) is a measure of how long certain foods take to pass through the part of our digestive tracts most responsible for nutrient absorption. The longer the stay, the better the absorption. Research suggests that liquified protein supplements pass through so quickly that a serving of 50grams may only see 15grams digested (R). Not only is that a waste of money but it’s not giving you the nutritional support you expect.
Protein powders are often processed to the extreme during manufacturing. This can denature the proteins and also removes many of the natural co-factors that assist with the digestive process. Adding in digestive enzymes such as proteases has shown a remarkable effect in overall measured amino acid blood levels. One study found that when proteolytic enzymes were consumed with protein powder, amino acid blood levels were as much as 350% higher (R). The takeaway is that liquid protein supplements are inherently difficult to absorb but that by consuming hydrolized forms of protein or co-supplementing with amino acids one can greatly improve their overall effectiveness.
From working out to nutritional timing, exercising can get pretty complicated. You don’t need a Ph.D. to succeed in the gym but it does help to have a plan. Taking time to consider which types of warmups might be best for your workout, your nutritional timing, the bioavailability of your protein, and initial resistance can all help. These are by no means a comprehensive guide to working out. Consider them the minimal considerations for maximal impact. These tips are based on research which, in many cases, have smaller or underpopulated control groups. Individual results are likely to vary and the end goal should always be to understand your own body and its needs during workouts. Check out our list of quality protein powder brands for further insight. Just remember, it might benefit you to take them with some digestive enzymes!
How’d We Do?
This article is one of several in our Quick Tips series that offers actionable information without an overburdening of explanation. We feel that the basic tips outlined here can help nearly everyone maximize their workouts. Let us know how we’re doing by rating this article.