In a perfect fitness world, you’d warm-up, you’d cool-down, you’d cross-train, you’d do intervals, and, oh, yeah, a laundry fairy would come wash your gear so you never had to wear a sweaty sports bra two workouts in a row. ;
But alas, if you’re like most women, you live in a fitness world where managing to cram in a few minutes at the gym is about as good as it gets. And when you do manage to make it to the gym—and log your usual 20 minutes on the treadmill—you wonder if you’re sacrificing results or risking injury by always doing the same old thing.
We took a look at seven common fitness habits to see which ones are forgivable—and which ones you should definitely change.
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Habit: You never warm-up.
Unless you’re about to compete in an intense activity, skipping a warm-up—a preliminary, easy workout—won’t likely hurt you. And in some cases, a too long warm-up can actually decrease workout performance, finds research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. According to the study, cyclists who warmed up extensively ended up sacrificing their performance. The athletes faired better with a shorter, more leisurely warm-up.
“It depends on what you’re doing,” Dr. Robert G. Marx, an orthopedic surgeon with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, said. “You want to warm-up if you’re playing a sport that involves sprinting, such as soccer.” ;
In that case, start with a few minutes of low-intensity dynamic (movement-based) exercise, such as 10 yards of skipping, backwards running, or lunges, said Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of “The 12-Week Triathlete.” ;
For walking or weight training, it’s OK to skip the warm-up but start out easy.
Habit: You skip workouts if your muscles ache.
Muscle aches occurring a day or two after a strength workout is a sign of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can also happen if you’ve tried a new exercise move or worked out more intensely. And it’s totally normal, as in no need to ride the couch for days of recovery. ;
“DOMS is believed to be caused by microscopic tears within the affected muscle fibers,” Dr. C. David Geier, Jr., an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, said.
And there’s no need to skip your workout entirely, Geier said. ;
“Simply choose lighter cardio workouts that increase blood flow or practice gentle stretching of the sore muscles.” ;
Just avoid aggravating the sore muscles with the same exercises, Geier said, as it could cause muscles to remain sore for a longer period of time. The caveat: if you’re in pain, not just sore, don’t power through. ;
Habit: You work through pain.
The muscle aches and soreness of DOMS is one thing, but a sharp or persistent pain that worsens over time may be a sign of something more serious. If you continue to push through pain it can worsen over time and be harder to heal, Marx said. ;
“Generally, you don’t want to work out when something just ‘doesn’t feel right,’ which most people can tell.” ;
Listen to your body. The amount of time off that you lose recovering from an injury is far longer than heeding your body’s warning and going easy in the first place, Marx said. For example, an ACL tear can take three to four months to heal after surgery, Marx said. See a doctor if the pain lasts longer than reasonably expected (this varies depending on the injury) or worsens over time. (What to do about calf pain)
Habit: You don’t cool down.
The verdict: Forgivable
When you barely have time to work out, cooling down for another 10 minutes seems like time better spent elsewhere. And in most cases it is. Failure to cool down won’t negatively impact you, Geier said. ;
“However, cooling down for a few minutes allows the heart rate and blood pressure to gradually return to normal and may also keep lactic acid from building up in the fatigued muscles.” ;
A cool-down help flush out the metabolic byproducts that cause that uncomfortable burning sensation in your muscles after a hard workout. And while cooling down isn’t crucial, if flexibility is a goal, you may want to take five minutes at the end of your workout to lightly stretch after a gradual cool down period. ;
“Muscles stretch easier when they’re warm,” Geier said. ;
Habit: You don’t stretch before a workout.
The verdict: Forgivable
Skipping stretching before exercise is not only forgivable but may even be recommended, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The study shows that stretching prior to weight lifting may make you feel weaker and more off-balance during your workout—two things you could do without when you’ve got dumbbells teetering over your face. ;
Another analysis of data published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine Science and Sport finds that stretching before exercise is generally unnecessary. ;
“Studies also show that stretching does not prevent injury,” Marx said. “If strength is your goal, you’re better off using the time for strengthening and core exercises.”
That said, it’s important to maintain flexibility overall—you just don’t have to do it before exercise. Stretch in the morning or before bed (it feels great!) or take a weekly yoga class to limber up. ;
Habit: You machine hop without a plan.
The verdict: Forgivable
Hopping from machine to machine without a real plan has its pros and cons, Holland said. ;
“On the upside you have built-in ‘muscle confusion,’ which means your muscles won’t adapt easily to your routine,” Holland said. “On the downside, unless you’re an advanced exerciser, you need to develop a sound strength base before you can build on it. Jumping around doesn’t allow for that.” ;
Holland says you need a certain amount of consistency before you make changes if you want to develop lean muscle tone. He recommends sticking with one routine for four to six weeks to develop that benchmark of strength and to learn proper lifting techniques.
Habit: You stay within your comfort zone.
The verdict: Regrettable
Staying within your comfort zone means you’re not challenging yourself enough to create results, says Holland. ;
“We tend to do what we like. But if you only do the exercises you like (which are usually the ones you do well) you’re not going to burn as many calories and you’ll just reach a plateau.”
;Comfortable exercises such as gentle walking or using light resistance may offer low-level heart benefits but little else. ;
“The truth is, exercise isn’t always fun,” Holland said. “If you want results, a sense of accomplishment is fun.” ;
Holland recommends exercising at about a seven intensity on a scale of one to 10 (for cardio as well as resistance training). “You should be uncomfortable, but it’s not unbearable. For cardio this means you can talk, but it’s difficult,” he says.
In the world of iron, there are no achievements that comes without great sacrifice and exertion. It takes the deepest kind of commitment, self-knowledge, and hard work to wholeheartedly pursue peak fitness, supreme athletic performance, and to transform the human physique into an arresting sculpture hewn in adamantine muscle. Pursuing your iron goals can be the most gratifying experience you have, but it can also be a lonely business.
“You’re born alone, you often train alone, you go onstage to compete alone, and you die alone,” says Twinlab Fuel Team Militia member Ronnie Milo, an accomplished bodybuilding competitor.
But Milo and his thousands of peers in the Militia around the globe also believe to their rock-hard cores that “alone time” is no excuse to become isolated. They know they can achieve more together, as long as they are united by the right ideals. Strong principles, they know, transcend any specific goals or geography and can make anyone, anywhere better and more capable to move any weight.
These are the five principles making up the Fuel Team Militia Manifesto. They’re not for the flighty or smug. They’re for strong men and women who want to be as strong as they look, and live as strong as they lift.
Meet the Militia
Sales rep, Twinlab
“I want to be proportionate, work on my weak spots, and make sure I give 100 percent in the gym.”
Powerlifter, coming back from pec injury
“My goal is to compete in powerlifting again.”
1 Together, Stronger
The Militia is dedicated to bringing together competitive athletes, powerlifters, meatheads, newbies, and physique junkies of all ages from all backgrounds and walks of life. No matter where or how you train, they believe that you can benefit from being in a supportive, inclusive community dedicated to training at the highest level.
“The Fuel Team Militia is for everyone who is dedicated to getting stronger, being better at what they do, or is interested in the fit lifestyle,” says powerlifter and Militia Field General Jason Wheat. “We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”
“We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”
When Militia members hold a gym invasion, it’s about strong lifters joining together to push each other to their limits. That could mean helping a teenager new to training hit his or her first 135-pound squat, or cheering on beasts like Milo and Wheat as they squat so many plates that you need a calculator to do the math.
The only thing that matters: Each guy gives his everything to push himself and his brothers, every rep, every set, every time they step into the gym.
2 No Ego
Every lifter was once a beginner. To get better, faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years. But when you don’t even know what you don’t know about training, it can be intimidating as hell to work up the nerve to ask someone bigger and stronger than you to take time out of their training routine to help you out. The Militia firmly believes in breaking down these walls.
“There’s a stereotype that guys who like to train are just big, dumb, and egotistical,” says Militia member Chris Thompson. “We want to change the way the world looks at guys like us and create a paradigm shift so that the biggest, baddest guys in the gym will also be the coolest, most helpful, and encouraging guys in the gym.”
To get better and faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years.
To do that, Militia members like Thompson, Milo, and Wheat go out of the way to be a resource for other people in the gym, whatever experience level, size, or shape they might be.
“It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of deal,” says Milo. “I had older, more experienced guys help me out when I was younger, and in the Militia we feel it’s really important that we be there for other guys, too. I make a point of saying hello to everybody at the gym and making people feel comfortable asking questions.”
3 Sacrifice Is Mandatory
“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs.”
While the Militia welcomes people training toward any goal from anywhere on the spectrum of strength and fitness, sacrifice is mandatory. Without it, Militia members know, nothing great can be achieved at any level of training.
“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs,” says Wheat. “I don’t always want to get up at 6 in the morning to do fasted cardio, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get the results that you want.”
Wheat works on a search and rescue squad based out of a firehouse, and like everyone else, temptations abound at work for him in the form of sweets and treats. “When you have Girl Scout cookies in front of you, you have to think about not letting your Militia brothers down and eat chicken and broccoli instead,” he says.
All those cliches you’ve heard about how results taste better than any treat are popular for a reason: They’re true. Refuse to sacrifice and you sacrifice your chance to be great.
4 Commit to Consistency
Sacrifice goes hand-in-hand with another Militia guiding principle: consistency. “The key to success is consistency,” says Thompson. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes consistent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Being a Militia member means you strive to get closer to perfect practice through consistency, and you help your Militia brothers to be consistent, too. You see a kid squatting with poor form and help him do it right and help him get on the right path.”
Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life. Put another way, it means living how you lift, embodying consistency and dedication to greatness in how you carry yourself, how you interact with others at the gym, the training you do, and in your diet, too, no matter how tough it might be.
Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life.
Thompson’s job as a Twinlab executive means he frequently travels for meeting and business. But even on the road, he sticks to the same macros at every meal—45 grams of clean protein, 40 grams of carbs from fruits or vegetables, and 17 grams of healthy fats. When he’s hungry or has to do fasted cardio, he’ll reach for a packet of Pro Series MVP Fuel to stay sharp.
It’s a routine Milo knows well, too. “People think I just train and sleep all day,” he says, “but I have a job in sales, and I’m in planes, cars, or face-to-face with accounts. We do what we need to do.” For him, that often includes packing a day’s worth of meals in his car and eating in parking lots between appointments. It means booking hotels near grocery stores on the road so he has access to healthy, clean food.
“There have been times when I’ve made cream of rice using a hotel room coffee maker,” he admits. It’s a total commitment to consistency, but once you make it and accept it, it stops being a challenge and becomes a simple expression of your lifestyle.
5 Compete and Encourage
Milo and Wheat recently made a two-hour road trip from their home base in Orlando to Jacksonville for a gym invasion with other Militia members. “We had 18 guys there training together,” says Wheat. “We were mixing it up, pushing each other. One of the guys there was 140 pounds when he started training with the Militia—now he’s 160 pounds.”
At the end of the workout, Milo and Wheat and other members took turns deadlifting, and when 405 was loaded on the bar, their 160-pound friend stepped up and said he wanted a shot at it. “He’d never pulled 405 before,” says Milo. “But we told him to visualize lifting it, to picture himself doing it.”
He stepped to the bar, pulled—and locked it out. “We were giving him so much encouragement, the whole gym came over and started cheering for him,” says Wheat. “And then he picked it up again and pulled one more rep.”
Competition doesn’t have to happen on a stage, and it doesn’t need a medal to legitimize it. This slender lifter was competing with the iron, with the athletes around him, and most importantly, with every former version of himself who had ever set foot in that weight room. The competition never stops, because there are always bigger mountains of iron to move.
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Name: Abby Huot
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Education: St. Mary’s University of Minnesota (2004)
Occupation: Athlete, writer, fitness model, bikini/figure competitor
Everybody, including celebrity athletes, has secrets. No, I’m not referring to scandalous dirt or shocking rumors about people in the fitness industry! (Let’s leave that to reality TV, shall we?) I’m talking about a hidden cache of secrets which athletes keep hush-hush about how they look the way they do, where their strength comes from, or the secret sauce to their training.
Ever wonder about the close-kept training or eating methods of your favorite athletes and fitness models? Top athletes may hold these tips—which take years of crafting and honing—near and dear to their hearts, but Cellucor’s ripped warriors peel back the curtain a little to let you peek into their methods for top physical and mental performance. (Just promise that you won’t share a single word or a piano may mysteriously fall out of the sky.)
Heed the words of elite athletes Karina Baymiller, Colton Leonard, Jen Jewell, and Craig Capurso. Their secrets can make you stronger.
I secretly enjoy conditioning! If you know anything about me, you know that I love lifting heavy more than anything, but what you don’t know is that I love conditioning work just as much.
I talk a lot of crap about cardio, and it’s true, you wouldn’t catch me dead on an elliptical or doing low-intensity, steady-state. But when it comes to cardio work that gets my heart pumping like crazy, I’m obsessed. Maybe it’s the adrenaline junkie in me, but I can’t get enough of sprints, barbell complexes, jump rope, plyometrics, kettlebell work, and even some short distance (2-3 mile) running.
I do conditioning work 2-3 times per week and give it major credit for helping me stay in shape all year long … Just don’t tell anyone! Winky face.
I secretly enjoy conditioning! I talk a lot of crap about cardio, but when it comes to cardio work that gets my heart pumping like crazy, I’m obsessed.
My secret? Use heavy weight and high reps to challenge your mental and physical strength, and take your training to the next level. One thing I have always incorporated as part of my strength program is repetition workouts. In strongman, not only do you need to possess the power to perform a lift at maximum intensity, but you often find that you need to do so repeatedly.
You don’t need to be a strongman competitor to use the lifts! These strongman moves and their variations can help you achieve your goals!
For instance, we don’t just load an Atlas stone; we have to load them either for maximum reps under time, or, at minimum, a five-stone series. You often find deadlift events in strongman, which also require you to perform a maximum number of reps under time. These events led me to start incorporating this type of lifting into my training.
Several times each month, I pick a lift or movement commonly found in competition. After warming up, I complete one all-out set with as many reps as possible. This type of training not only contributes to overall strength, size, and conditioning, but will test your mental fortitude as you approach failure and your body starts to scream for you to stop.
Here’s the real trick: 2-3 times each month, pick a major movement, set the weight at approximately 70-75 percent of your max and, after properly warming up, perform one set of as many repetitions as you safely can in 60-90 seconds. Choose from these exercises to test your guts: deadlift, squat, clean and press, or T-bar row.
Write down your max reps and test yourself again down the road to track your progress. If this set does not leave you crawling away in pain and agony, you weren’t trying hard enough!
Of all the fitness tips, diet tricks, and booty-sculpting workouts out there, my ultimate fitness secret is simple: Stop comparing yourself to others! Instead, constantly work on becoming your fittest and healthiest self. I always say that I’m a work in progress, en route to becoming my best self. Having adopted that mindset has been incredibly beneficial to my health, outlook, and self-confidence over the past couple of years.
Sure, at first glance, it’s easier said than done. With the onslaught of bikini-clad or underwear “selfies” that have seemingly taken over fitness social media, the physiques of others are right in your face when you log on to Facebook, Instagram, and so on. (It’s a bikini booty free-for-all on my Facebook newsfeed!) While some of these posts from fit individuals can be inspiring and motivating, these types of updates are not always that simple.
Seeing others’ progress, cellulite-free legs and buns, and solid six-pack abs can begin to take a toll on your own self-esteem. Inevitably, they compel you to constantly compare yourself to others and how your progress or fitness stacks up against theirs.
The moment I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on my own journey was pretty darn liberating. Charting your own progress from day one—whatever level of fitness your day one may be—and using that as your measuring stick can be extremely motivating. We are all in the gym working hard to set new personal records. Why not maintain that mindset when it comes to progress in your physique, as well?
Admire the physiques and hard work of your favorite “fitspos,” but always keep in mind that the reflection in the mirror is your real competition. Be in competition with yourself, striving to become better each and every day. That is the true secret!
When I’m trying to manipulate water for shoots, I take full advantage of infrared saunas. An infrared sauna is an effective tool for detoxifying the body and an aid for shedding excess subcutaneous water, yet few people utilize it. While traditional saunas help with water loss, the added benefit of infrared light penetrates the body tissue to help excrete toxins and bring out your musculature.
This has been a trick that I’ve used to come dialed into photo shoots and contests for years. It really makes a difference!
Infrared light penetrates the body tissue to help excrete toxins and bring out
The Secret Is Out
Embrace the valuable information that contributes to these athletes’ success and see how it could fit into your own life and goals. Have you got a secret method few people know about? Tell us in the comments below … unless you’d rather keep it secret.
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Sculpt your core with this five move core workout by January 2018 cover model Tiffiny Hall.GEAR: none!GO: 20 seconds’ work, 10 seconds’ rest, 4–6 rounds (push yourself!)1. V-snap to push-up with a sexy rollWhat a move! This exercise works your whole body, focusing on your core and adding a cardio twist. We all know we can’t spot-reduce fat, so it makes sense to combine a core-strengthening exercise with full-body function movements to burn calories, right?» First up, the V-snap.
Name: Dean Somerset
Occupation: Exercise physiologist; medical and rehabilitation coordinator for World Health Clubs.
It’s easy to look at complex movements like dribbling a soccer ball, throwing a baseball, or handling a hockey puck and see how that took years to perfect. Athletes rehearse these movements endlessly, stick to the fundamentals, and trust that practice will improve execution in game situations. One day it finally does, but this happens over time, not overnight.
The same theory should apply to weight training. In a perfect world, we would all practice and progress safely, building the type of strength that allows us to handle heavy loads without injuries or negative compensation patterns.
Nevertheless, there’s almost always a look of befuddlement on a trainee’s face when I explain that they must first build a foundation with basic exercises. They simply don’t believe the basics will increase their arm size, build chiseled abs, or sculpt jean-busting legs. They want quick results from extreme plans like they see on television.
It sounds simple, I’ll admit, but my formula for success is this: commit to long-term training goals, and get the most out of the staple lifts like the push-up, dumbbell row, squat, and deadlift. These four are probably the most common exercises within weight training circles, and they’re included in nearly all of the programs you’ll see on this site.
Believe it or not, these exercises are enough to put you on the road to physique of your dreams, if you do them right. However, despite their popularity, they’re very technical movements that can be easy to butcher.
It’s easy to attribute technique flaws to a lack of mobility, but here’s what that excuse overlooks: Most exercises are corrective in nature and relatively easy to master, provided you take the time to progress through them and learn them properly.
Let’s go upstream and solve these problems before they start! Here’s what I see going wrong with the way most people perform the four fundamental lifts, and how you can perform them to get the most bang for your buck in the gym.
Many push-up issues start when people focus on what muscle groups the push-up “works.” If you’re thinking all about chest, arms, and shoulders, you’ll forget to keep the rest of the body tense and stable. This should be a full-body lift!
Make sure your hips and shoulders are lined up your arms and are in the best position to develop true pressing strength. This will help you build the most force at the bottom push-up position.
Watch The Video – 02:06
Push-up coaching points
- Squeeze your glutes and abs to lock your hips to your core.
- Keep your arm tight to the armpits.
- Hit the ground with your chest before your head.
Most issues dumbbell rows happen when the spine is held in a flexed and rounded-back position, rather than a neutral position. Improper spine positioning causes the shoulder blade to move up instead of down when the upper back is rounded, which forces the upper traps to work instead of the lats.
Focus on keeping a long, tight spine during the movement, and you should feel the burn directly below your shoulder blade, into to your tailbone, and through the lats.
Breaking Down The Dumbbell Row
Watch The Video – 02:17
Dumbbell row coaching points
- Take a wider stance than you think you need.
- Keep the spine long and straight with the chest up.
- Let the shoulder blade do the work. The wrist and elbow follow the shoulder.
Problematic squatters generally fall into two camps: those who are stiff and tight, and those who are mobile but have trouble controlling the movement. I discussed squatting issues before in a power panel with my fellow strength training coaches, but this never-ending battle is always worth discussing.
Squatting is very technical and involves many moving parts. The best plan: Don’t jump into heavy weight too quickly. Start by doing bodyweight reps within your scope of control. Once you add weight, focus on getting comfortable at hitting depth and building a more effective range of motion.
Before you even think of going heavy, ensure that you can control the movement with your heels on the floor, hamstrings resting on your calves, and your torso positioned long and tall.
Squat Fix: Low Mobility
Watch The Video – 05:12
Squat coaching points
- Keep your feet flat on the floor and press evenly throughout.
- Create force through the hips to drive the movement.
- Lean the torso forward as your hips move into the rep.
- Keep the core tense without restricting airflow.
- Keep the shoulders vertical over the middle of the foot.
The deadlift is a skill-based movement that takes reps and consistent practice to improve. Most common deadlifting issues derive from the spine doing too much work instead of the hips, which are supposed to drive the movement. The spine should be a rigid lever that transfers force from the legs and hips up through the arms, thereby moving the weight.
Get your core and shoulders tight and keep the spine stiff to assist the movement. The deadlift isn’t easy, but once you perfect your technique, you’d better believe it can be fun to lift a heavy weight off the ground.
Watch The Video – 05:23
Deadlift coaching points
- Keep the spine straight and drive the movement from your hips.
- Set the bar close to your shins at the start of the movement and keep the shin vertical, without positioning the knee ahead of the bar.
- Brace your abs, squeeze your arms down tight to your ribs, and stand tall without over-extending at lockout.
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