The beginning of a new year is a time when many of us try to get fitter, and whilst a new workout regime will certainly get you feeling healthier, you may find that after a while you reach a plateau and seem to be simply not progressing any further. It can be tricky to push through and achieve the final results you had in mind, but follow these tips to take your workout to the next level and you’ll be well on your way to being the strongest and fittest you’ve ever been.
No, we’re not talking about your best instagram pout. You can intensify your usual workout simply by holding a strengthening position, such as a squat, which will engage the thighs, glutes and core. By holding the muscles in contraction, your body will gain strength and endurance that can’t be achieved through constant movement – studies have shown that we can typically recruit over 5% more muscle fibres whilst holding strengthening positions than while lifting or lowering a weight (resulting in a stronger and leaner physique). Start with holding for 30 seconds, and aim to increase the time with practice.
- Test Your Balance
Adding some instability into your routine will work wonders for your core. Exercises requiring balance ensure more of your muscles are engaged at once, helping to improve strength, balance and even your mental function as your mind has to adapt to moving on the unstable surface. Begin by adding a wobble board or BOSU to static exercises such as the plank, before progressing to performing more dynamic movements such as lunges and pushups.
- Try Interval Training
Popular with top athletes, and for good reason, just 2 weeks of interval training has been shown to improve your aerobic fitness by as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training. Involving a period of very high intensity followed by a short period of low intensity or even rest (think sprinting for 2 minutes, followed by 3 minutes of walking), HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training – is fantastic if you’re trying to fit a workout in amongst a busy schedule. Even better, the sudden exertion performed puts your body into overdrive mode, meaning the positive effects of your workout will keep going for 24 hours after working out.
Often overlooked, the structure of your workout is huge in terms of getting the most out of your training. Perform cardio first to warm-up and set your desired intensity, before moving onto resistance work – this has been shown to maximize its effectiveness. Finally perform any flexibility and neuromuscular movements, in whichever order you prefer. Of course none of this is set in stone, and its crucial to listen to how your own body responds to exercise, but researchers have shown that following an order similar to this can help increase your cardiorespiratory performance (how efficiently your body is transporting oxygen around), as well as maximising your metabolism.
- Switch It Up
Our bodies are amazingly adaptable, which although incredibly useful at times, is definitely not so great when we’re trying to improve fitness. Chances are that simply changing from the routine and equipment you’ve been using week in week out will be enough to boost you straight through that plateau. Not only good for challenging strength and endurance, you may even find your enthusiasm for exercise increases when you can look ahead to new challenges and be sure that you’re moving in the right direction.
Words by Meryn Turner