More often than not, us men have an ego about ourselves when it comes to working out at the gym. We don’t like to be told what to do and we definitely don’t want help from anybody. However, everybody could do with a little help every now and then. Your ego could be the one thing holding you back from getting the results you want and body you desire. If you don’t want – or can’t afford – a personal trainer, follow this guide to make your time in the gym as efficient as possible.
You're lifting too lightly
There is a big fear by most men, who think that if they lift heavy weights, they’re going to get far too big. Heard this one before? What you find are guys going through their workouts using light weights to ‘tone and sculpt’ their body, when in fact they won’t be getting the most of their workouts. If your goal is to look better naked (by ‘look better’, I mean more aesthetically pleasing) then you need to be lifting moderate to heavy weights.
Firstly, I can guarantee that you won’t get ‘too big’, unless you’re overloading on the calories, in which case it will most likely be stored body fat. Building muscle is hard work and it doesn’t come easy for most. Lifting heavy weights will help you build muscle but only to a marginal degree; enough to give you a more aesthetically pleasing physique at least.
Light weights do have their place but if you’re not noticing any changes to your body shape, then try upping the weights you’re lifting and pushing your workouts that little bit harder.
You're doing weights after cardio
One of the most common things most gym-goers do is smash out a 5-10km run as fast as possible, and then try to lift weights. Lifting weights after zapping your energy from an intense run is never a good idea. Your technique will suffer as a result of having less energy and you’ll then be at a higher risk of injury.
If your goal is to run a marathon or you have some sort of endurance event coming up, then it’s good to focus your energy here. However, if your goal is to look better naked (as it should be), weight training must come first. Rather than burning out on a treadmill, try a short 5 minute jog or a quick mobility warm up to get you warmed up and then hit weights. You’ll have a lot more energy to lift heavier weights and therefore sculpt your body. You can always do cardio at the end if you’ve got anything left in the tank.
You're not eating enough carbs
One of the first things guys do when it comes to diet is cut their carbs dramatically, usually in a bid to get a visible six pack. Yes, this will help you get lean quickly – but it does come at a cost. Carbohydrates are your bodies’ main fuel source; cutting them down dramatically is essentially like taking away stored energy. Ever tried driving your car with no fuel? The same principal applies to training. Don’t expect to get as much out of yourself if you’re low on energy. Your workouts will suffer and you could be doing yourself more harm than good.
The fix: if you want to have visible abs and still have energy to train hard in the gym, then try making a smaller reduction to your carb intake. There’s never any need for dramatic cuts in calories so take it easy; moderate the reduction and keep enough fuel in the tank to keep your workouts intense.
You're stuck in a workout rut
It’s pretty easy to get comfortable in the gym doing the same old routine. But remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it will not change you. Your workouts need to be challenging, and the only way you can do that is by getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things.
Experiment with different workouts, try new programmes and be open-minded about your training so you can get the best results possible.
Guys who go about their workout in the same fashion, week after week, without pushing themselves, end up looking the same year after year. If your goal is to make a dramatic difference to your body and what you’re doing just isn’t working for you, you need to find a new way. Experiment and find workouts that you’ll enjoy and look forward to – every time you step foot in the gym.
You're avoiding free-weights
Unless you’ve had a good gym induction or hired a highly experienced personal trainer, it can be pretty tough trying to guess how to use free weights in the gym. Knowing what to do with a barbell or dumbbells can be overwhelming the first time you pick them up, but sticking with the machines isn’t the answer. Machines have their place in a workout but they shouldn’t be where you spend most of your time in the gym.
Ever seen the guy who jumps on every machine, going around in a circuit fashion, taking a browse on Facebook in between set? There’s just not enough intensity there for your body to adapt and change. Clearly the workout is boring and ineffective – don’t be that guy.
Free weights are challenging, usually involving multiple muscle groups. They expend a lot more calories than machines and add intensity to your workouts; which is needed if you want to burn fat and build lean muscle. The internet is full of exercise videos and free workouts, so you can see exactly how to execute an exercise you want to try. It’s better to try and fail then to not try at all.
My advice would be to start very light at first and slowly progress the weights, but only after your technique is safe and effective. The last thing you want to do is cause yourself injuries. If you’re still unsure about your exercise technique, seek professional advice from a qualified personal trainer who can review your form and provide you with pointers and feedback for your next workout.
Lee Constantinou is a Body Transformation Coach & Pro Fitness Model. Lee became passionate about transforming the lives of others through his personal journey into fitness, losing body fat, building muscle, overcoming adversities and becoming a UK Fitness Physique Champion. As a certified Personal Trainer and Online Coach Lee’s goal is to inspire, educate and transform 100,000 people from around the world and achieve their health and fitness goals.