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18 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Be Better At Working Out

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1. Don't stretch like this before a workout.

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Static stretching (stretching your muscles while at rest — like reaching or pulling) isn't something you should do before you exercise, NYC-based personal trainer Amy Roberts, NASM-CPT, tells BuzzFeed Life. Your goal here is to loosen up your muscles, not relax them. So save static stretches for after your workout.

Instead, do some dynamic stretching (stretching through movement), which actually helps warm up your muscles. This can be anything like jumping jacks, bringing your knees into your chest, swinging your arms back and forth or reaching them up and down — you get it.

2. Literally everyone should have a goal in mind when they exercise.

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And it's totally fine if that goal is just to work out a few times a week for general health benefits. That's still a goal! Or maybe you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve your endurance, train for a marathon, whatever. The important thing is to know why you're exercising, because that will dictate how and when you do it, certified strength and conditioning specialist Holly Perkins, author of Lift To Get Lean, tells BuzzFeed Life.

We'll get into some specifics later, but generally speaking, you'll need to spend more time and do more exercises if you're looking for major body transformation. But which exercises you do, how many you do, and how often you do them will all depend on why you're doing it. So take a second to figure that out.

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3. Don't crush yourself to the point of exhaustion every time you work out.

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It's surprisingly easy to work out too hard, especially if you're new to this or haven't been exercising regularly for a while. "Typically your body doesn't say 'stop, you're doing too much' until it's too late," says Roberts. Like, the next day, when you cry a little trying to sit on the toilet.

Instead of doing as much as you possibly can every workout, aim to leave the gym knowing you could do just a little bit more. Or if you want a time limit, Roberts suggests most beginners stick to about a 30-minute workout (including a 5-minute warm-up and cool down), which means about 20 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity strength training or cardio.

4. If you want to build muscle, do strength training before cardio.

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Back to those goals. If you want to see changes in your muscles (like gaining muscle volume or looking more toned), you should do strength training first, then cardio. "If you go into the gym and do strength first, you put more energy on it, and you're better able to inflict change on your muscles," says Perkins. Whereas when you do cardio first, you've already exhausted your system a little and have less oomph left for strength training.

FYI: This doesn't necessarily mean you'll "bulk up," says Perkins (since building serious muscles usually isn't something you can just do by accident). It just means you'll be quicker to see more changes in your musculature if you order your workout this way.

5. To figure out how much weight you should be lifting, try to do 10 reps with perfect form.

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The right amount of weight (whether that's a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, etc.) is one that you can move for 10 reps with perfect form — even if it gets pretty tough by the last two, says Roberts. If you could definitely go for a few more than 10 reps, it's too light. And if you could barely move it after the 6th or 7th rep, it's too heavy.

6. Doing two different exercises back-to-back will help you get more done in the same amount of time.

A superset is when you do two sets of different exercises in a row without resting. While supersetting two moves that target the same muscle group (like two upper body moves) is a good way to focus in on one area, supersetting opposing muscle groups speeds up your total-body workout, says Roberts.

For instance, alternating a set of pushups with a set of squats is more efficient than doing three sets of pushups (resting in between) and then three sets of squats (and resting in between). Since you're switching between upper body and lower body, you'll get the same workout without having to rest as much.

7. And try to pick exercises that are actually multitaskers.

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Aim for multi-joint exercises that target more than one muscle group — like squats, lunges, push-ups, or overhead presses, says Roberts. And if you're a little more advanced, try compound movements, like a squat press (pressing a dumbbell overhead as you stand up from a squat) or a lunge with bicep curl (dumbbell curls when you lower into a lunge). As long as you have the coordination and control to do these properly, they're a great way to multitask, says Roberts.

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8. To activate your core muscles, pretend you're about to get punched in the stomach.

Your core muscles (the ones in your stomach and back) should be activated during pretty much every exercise. That's why you'll often hear trainers say things like "tighten your core!" or "belly button to spine!" That's kind of vague though, so one way to make sure you're doing it properly is to pretend you're bracing yourself for someone to punch you in the stomach, says Perkins.

Try it: You would tighten those ab muscles and pull your stomach up and in. This should help you actually engage your core in the correct position, instead of just sucking in.

9. Never skip a workout just because you don't have enough time.

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"Anything is better than nothing," says Perkins. "If you can't fit in your trip to the gym, get on the internet and find a workout you can do on the floor for 5, 10, or 20 minutes." Like this 15-minute abs workout, this 20-minute bodyweight workout, or do this 3-minute arm workout a few times.

10. Take a few minutes to learn how to do an exercise the right way.

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So you're not entirely sure what a burpee is and you don't have cash for a personal trainer. That's fine — you can still figure it out. "If you're going to invest your time by going to the gym, take five extra minutes to say 'OK, I'm going to do these few moves, and here's how to do them.'"

"Find a person you think is the most experienced and credientialed to help you," says Perkins. "That could be someone at your gym or your best friend or coworker or the internet." We've explained how to do tons of bodyweight moves here and here, and Perkins has tons of short video tutorials, too.

11. Always master the bodyweight version of a move before adding weight.

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Don't add dumbbells or barbells until you've nailed the original move with proper form, otherwise you might hurt yourself or waste your time doing something that isn't actually targeting your muscles, says Roberts.

12. Learn how to do a proper deadlift.

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"I am obsessed with the deadlift," says Perkins. "If you commit to doing it properly and learning all of the body positioning, it's literally the only thing you need. It hits every single muscle group in your body." So how do you do this magic move? Here's a quick video tutorial from Perkins. Once you've got that down, you can add some weight to the bar.

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13. Try to do twice as many pulling exercises as pushing ones.

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Most of us tend to do more pushing moves when we exercise — like pushups, squats, presses, etc., says Roberts. But we also tend to do more pushing movements throughout our day-to-day — like standing up out of a chair, moving a heavy object, lifting something up, etc.

To balance your strength and your posture, you need to incorporate pulling moves, too. And to correct this balance, most experts suggest doing more pulling moves than pushing ones. For instance, if you do two sets of dumbbell presses, you might also do four sets of dumbbell rows. Pulling moves are a little harder to do without a gym, but a few examples include chin-ups, lat pulldowns, rows, deadlifts, and leg curls.

14. Don't forget to work your body side-to-side.

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Any side-to-side movements or change-of-direction moves can help with balance, strength, and knee stability. Things like side lunges and wood chops are great, says Roberts.

15. To get an afterburn effect, do some high-intensity intervals.

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When you work out at a high intensity (whether that's lifting heavy or doing high-intensity cardio), your body doesn't have the reserve of oxygen it needs to replenish your muscles, explains Roberts. So when you stop, your muscles scramble to replace that oxygen, which is what keeps you burning calories long after your workout. Experts call this the afterburn effect. To get it, you have to be working at about 70-85% of your max capacity, which for many people is only sustainable in super short bursts. That's where intervals come in.

Switching up your speed, weight, or intensity through intervals means you can work out at a super-high intensity without burning out. Plus, you'll continue burning calories even after you're done, which doesn't happen when you just go for 30 minutes on a treadmill at a steady pace.

16. If your workout calls for rest, take it. Take all of it. Seriously.

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Rest is actually what allows you to keep working hard — whether that means running as fast as you can or lifting heavier weight — which means better results. So as tempting as it is to rush through a workout, your muscles need time to reset, says Roberts.

If you’re doing a few sets of the same exercise, take about a minute of rest after each one. Or if you’re doing a superset or a circuit (where you do several sets of different exercises back-to-back), take a rest at the end. And if you’re doing high-intensity cardio intervals, make sure to work some lower-intensity intervals into it (even if that’s walking).

17. Stop holding on to the treadmill and stairmill.

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"I've seen people who will get on and cling to the machine like its actually going to run away from them," says Roberts. "If you feel like you need to hold on to it that hard, you're probably setting the machine too fast." It's fine to lightly touch the stairmill for balance (because, obviously), but holding on with a death grip puts your body in a weird position and takes some of the load off your legs, which means you won't be working as hard. Just slow it down a little and let go.

18. Never be afraid to ask for help.

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There's zero shame in asking someone if your squat jump looks legit or if you're sitting on this machine in the right direction. Really. Even if you're not paying for a training session, most trainers will still give you a hand if you ask, says Roberts. And if you still need help, revisit those online tutorials or ask your doctor if that random muscle is actually supposed to be that sore. Working out is hard work! So don't hesitate to get some help when you need it.

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