Five Ways To Optimize Your Trip To The Gym

You want to burn some body fat, lose some weight, and so you got yourself a gym membership and off you go. You're motivated. You're committed. Damn it, it's going to happen this time! You walk in the door, look around, and then what? Where do you start?

All those machines and weights and circuits and whatever that thing is, they're all good for something. But are they good for you? Will they help you reach your very specific goals? 

#1. You do have a very specific goal, don't you?

Did you sign up for a race? Are you rehabbing an injury? Wanna try that par-core thing you saw on youtube? Or do you just want to burn some body fat.

If you don't enjoy exercise, if you want specific results for your specific goal, if you want to get out of here so you can go home and read a book, don't waste your time doing random stuff that won't help you achieve your specific goal. And your goal is to burn some body fat.

#2. Get off the stupid treadmill!

First! Cardio machines like the treadmill, elliptical, and the bike are great if they are fun for you. Or if you're running a race. Or if you're already in shape. Or if you're just looking to waste your time.

Cardio is not the best use of your time if your goal is to burn fat and get the Hell out of the gym. If you're reading a book or watching TV, just bopping along, you're wasting your time, damn it! Come on!

Exception: You can use the elliptical as a warm up. Give yourself three minutes at a hard setting. You need to feel it. Get your heart rate up and start to sweat. Then get off of the stupid thing.

#3. Work that body.

Your whole body. Let's say one of your goals is to get Michelle Obama arms and shoulders. That's cool. Good goal. Just remember that you still have legs and a butt and iliacus (you forgot about your iliacus, didn't you?) Spending all of your time on awesome arms won't help your butt.

Exception: If you're working out a couple times a week, it's perfectly fine to spend a single 30-45 minute session focusing on one muscle group. But until you've gotten closer to your body fat goal, don't do a single workout focused on the same muscle group more than once every two weeks. And if you're just getting started, keep the variety for a while.

#4. Work all of that body.

You don't want to spend all day in the gym. Short, effective, sweet. Get in and get out. So, it makes sense that we are looking for movements that will accomplish more than one thing at a time, right? So think about this.

Squats, bicep curls, and the shoulder press are all solid exercises (bicep curls are a little lame, but go with me). So, combine them. Holding dumbbells, go from the squat to the curl to the press and back down again. With a single exercise, with a fluid movement, you're working more muscles effectively, you have to concentrate, you feel like you're training to be a ninja, and you're saving some time.

For each separate movement (squat, curl, press), the upward movement should take one second or beat or count of one. At the top, with your arms over your head, pause for a count of two. On the way down, take a count of four. So, 1(squat up)1(curl up)1(press up)2(hold)4(lower press)4(lower curl)4(lower squat). For our purposes, increasing basic endurance, growing some strength, and burning some fat, you will not get a significant benefit from taking more time. 1-2-4.

The weight of the dumbbells should allow you to do 15 reps and at the end feel like you could do a few more, but not a lot more. If they are too heavy and you can only do 6-10 reps before total failure, you are doing a better job at building muscle then at burning fat. If you could keep going to 20 or 30, you're just kind of hanging out, looking cool, wasting your time. And making me mad! Come on!

When you're just getting started, the first 4-8 weeks, you won't see a significant advantage in adding another set (another 15 reps). Get the movements down, become comfortable with your form, and find the right amount of weight. As long as your goal is to burn body fat, even when you've built some strength and endurance, doing more than 3 sets will not speed up the fat burning. Your time will be better spent working on additional muscle groups. 

#5. What the hell are you eating?
The easiest way to erase all of the pain in the ass work you just did is to eat stupid. 

I don't need to remind you that exercise sucks. Let's pause for five days and think of everything we'd rather do than go to the gym. You just spent an hour doing something you don't enjoy because you want the awesome result of lower scale numbers, smaller shirt sizes, feeling better, and living longer. If you get some fast food or pizza on the way home, you've just wasted your time and made me mad!

Come on!