15 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Workouts
If you're ready to see the results you deserve, it's time to improve your workouts.
You see, great workouts accumulate. They build incredible momentum, motivation, and workout consistency.
These all add up to incredible results for you.
To get you started, we've created a list of 15 insanely helpful tips to help you take your workouts to the next level.
These tips are dedicated to helping you:
Structure your workouts
Improve your strength, fitness, and energy
Drive your motivation
Let's get into it!
1. Have a plan
The first and most important tip is to start your workouts with a plan. Most people enter the gym with no idea of what to do or how to do it. Then they either stick to the same old routine or they spend most of their time trying to decide what to do. Both scenarios aren't going to deliver the results you want and drastically reduce motivation and workout consistency.
Create the following plan before your next workout:
1. When is it going to take place
2. Where is it going to take place
3. What exercises are you going to complete and in what order.
2. Set a workout time limit
Most workouts don't deliver the results they should because they take too long and/or there isn't enough work being done. Often times people start their workout and find themselves spending more time talking or checking their phone than actually working out. This not only lowers motivation but makes it hard to exercise hard enough to see real results. Avoid this huge mistake by setting a time limit on your workout. This will keep you both motivated and moving efficiently. Keep your workouts between 35 and 50 minutes. Anything over that tends to be overkill and wasted time.
Another mistake people make is not warming up before their workout. They start their workout cold which has been shown to decrease workout performance, increase injury risk, and decrease motivation.
Instead, take just 5 minutes to complete a full-body warm-up before your next workout. This warm-up will help you loosen stiff muscles and joints, increase your body temperature, increase energy, improve workout performance (strength, cardio, intensity, etc), delay fatigue, and increase both motivation and focus.
Checkout our sample warm-up below ⬇️
4. Fuel Up
Never start a workout on an empty stomach. Research shows fasted workouts do not provide any fat-loss benefit and only decrease your workout energy, intensity, and performance. Eating the right foods and hydrating properly before your workout will drastically improve the energy you have. Think of it like gas in your car. Without fuel in the tank, you aren't going anywhere. In other words, without the fuel from food and water, you will. This is a recipe for not seeing the results you want.
Instead fuel up with a pre-workout snack that you should consume 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to your workout.
Make this snack a 50/50 blend of carbs (energy) and protein (muscle building/repair).
Here are some great options:
1 slice of toast with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
1 apple with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
1 small Greek yogurt with .5 cup of blueberries
Protein and fruit smoothie
High quality protein bar: Aim for 20-30 grams of carbohydrates, 10-20 grams of protein, and 5-10 grams of fat in your protein bar
Make sure your hydration starts first thing in the morning and continues throughout the day. You don't want to wait until you start working out to drink water as you'll already be dehydrated.
Have your water bottle with you at all times during the day and keep on drinking!
Eat your pre-workout snack with 12-20oz of water.
5. Be lightly caffeinated
Caffeine has been shown in countless studies to improve workouts. How? Caffeine works to improve mental focus and drive, total- body strength, power, intensity and delay fatigue. It can also increase rates of replenishment of our muscles post-workout. Talk about a performance booster and a great way to improve your results.
How much caffeine should you consume? This is going to be a bit different for everyone. You want to be careful here to make sure you don't consume too much which can make people feel dizzy or nauseous. You also do not want it to negatively impact your sleep. If taken ~5 hours before going to bed, high concentrations of caffeine may inhibit your ability to get a full night of restful sleep. Caffeine will be most effective when consumed 25-30 mins prior to the start of your workout.
A few great sources of caffeine to utilize before your next workout:
Green tea (28mg/cup)
Pre-workout supplements (vary)
You will want to avoid exceeding 350-400mg of caffeine per day, as this can lead to negative effects such as lack of restful sleep, increased anxiety, and decreased appetite. While that seems like a lot it can easily be reached when using pre-workout supplements inappropriately. When browsing pre-workout options, it is best to avoid products with caffeine levels over 300 mg. You will also want to avoid pre-bottled or canned products as oftentimes they contain extra additives. Powdered pre-workout products are best as you can also control how much you are consuming. Remember we want to be aiming for the minimum-effective dose, or the smallest amount required in order to get our desired results. Most people are able to perform well on less than or equal to 200mg of caffeine. Start with ½ or 1 full scoop, and tailor to your preference from there.
6. Log the details of your workout and focus on progressive overload
Now that you're structuring your workouts in advance, we are going to use this information to ensure you're making progress (big or small) every single workout. This progress is what adds up to incredible change.
Most people make the mistake of either changing their workout every session which makes it hard to make and see progress or they do the same exact routine at the same intensity every workout. This leads to a quick plateau.
Instead, we want to make sure we're making progress every week. We do this with what's known as progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the most important exercise principle for long term results. It simply means you gradually do more work during your workouts over time.
This can come in many forms like:
Increasing the amount of weight you use during an exercise
Adding sets or reps to your workouts
Increasing the duration of your workout
Increasing the pace or intensity of your workout
Increasing the range-of-motion you use during an exercises (ie: going lower in your squats)
Decreasing rest time between exercises
Increasing the difficulty of your exercise (ie: adding a 3 second pause in the bottom of your squats)
Progressive overload simply ensures you're making consistent improvements. And small, consistent improvements add up to incredible long term results!
Pro-tip: To ensure you're adding progressive overload to your workouts, start to record the exercises you complete during your sessions. Keep track of what exercises you do, the order of the exercises, how many sets and reps you completed, and the amount of weight you used. Then pick 1-2 of the 7 progressive overload examples above and apply it to your next workout.
7. Superset your exercises
Are your workouts feeling a bit boring?
Are they not delivering the results you want?
If so, we have just what your workouts need to get you motivated and see incredible progress!
Enter the SUPERSET.
A superset is when you alternate between two exercises that challenge different, non-competing parts of your body like your biceps and triceps.
Here's how they work:
Once you've completed the first exercise, move right into the next exercise with little to no rest. Once you've completed both exercises, rest for :30-1:00 before starting over. Complete this for 3-5 total rounds.
Supersets make your workouts more efficient by helping you get more done in less time. They keep you moving, sweating, and burning calories as well as adding fun and variety to your workouts. Enter RESULTS!
Click HERE for 8 awesome superset examples to get you started!
8. Have the right music
You've probably noticed a great song or playlist can boost your mood and energy. This is also true for boosting your workout performance and overall results.
Research shows listening to music you enjoy during your workout:
Decreases feelings of fatigue
Improves workout motor control and coordination
Increases strength and workout intensity
Increases workout enjoyment
The right playlist can be a game changer in improving your results. With the right tunes you will workout harder, longer, and with more intensity!
9. Prioritize compound movements
Compound movements are exercises that include multiple joints and muscle groups. These are exercises like push-ups, squats, rows, and deadlifts. These exercises deliver the best results because they allow you to use heavier weights and place more stress on your body and muscles. This stress is what allows you to burn more calories, shred more fat, and improve both your muscles' strength and shape.
Most exercise programs make the mistake of not including compound movements and focus solely on isolation exercises that only work one muscle group like bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, and leg extensions. While these exercises have their place, they should only make up 10-20% of your overall workouts.
10. Save your cardio for after your strength training
Have you ever wondered whether you should do your cardio or strength training first? Wonder no more!
Start your workouts with strength training. Why?
Resistance training requires a greater amount of both concentration and strength, both of which are most readily available when you aren't fatigued. If you do your cardio first, your strength training performance will suffer due to reduction in energy used up by your cardio.
On the other side, you will not see a big reduction in your cardio from doing your strength training first.
See the greatest results by prioritizing your strength exercises first, then your cardio.
11. Prioritize range-of-motion over weight
One common strength training mistake we see that is reducing your results is when the resistance (ie: kettlebell weight) of an exercise increases, the range-of-motion of that exercise decreases.
An example would be on the bench press where the goal is to bring the bar all the way down to touch your chest. As your workout continues, you continue to add weight to the bar. The weight gets so heavy that you can only complete reps where you go only half way down.
Full ranges-of-motion out performs partial motion in a variety of fitness categories like strength, flexibility, and posture.
For better results, first aim to complete a full range-of-motion and only increase the weight if that full range can continue.
12. Focus on your exhale
A key component to improving your workouts is to control your breathing.
The better you can control and be mindful of your breathing the longer and more intense your workouts will be.
You see, your breathing both produces energy for you to use during your workouts and controls your heart rate.
If you spend the majority of your workouts either holding your breath or breathing at too high of a frequency, you will quickly fatigue, taking away from your workouts.
It can be both confusing and overwhelming though to think about the exercise you're doing, your inhale, and your exhale.
Instead, just focus on your exhale. When you do that, the inhale will automatically happen.
When should you exhale?
During cardio exercises: focus on slow, controlled exhales through your mouth throughout your cardio workout.
During strength exercise: focus on exhaling through the effort portion of the movement. For example, exhale as you come up from a squat or as you press up during your push-up.
13. Add a finisher to the end of your workout
When it comes to workouts for fat-loss, high-intensity is the name of the game.
Intensity, or the pace at which you move during your workout, dictates how high your heart rate will get, how many calories you will burn, and how much fat you shred.
In other words, the higher your workout intensity is, the better your fat-loss results will be.
If you're ready to up your fitness intensity and take your workouts to the next level, then you're going to LOVE cardio finishers.
Finishers are short, fun, and challenging workouts we use at the end of our workouts. They are the best way to finish your workouts!
You can find 6 finisher ideas, HERE.
14. Cool down with proper breathing
A great workout will activate your sympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for releasing certain hormones that increase your heart rate, improve motivation, and get you ready to workout hard.
Once your workout is done though, we want these hormones to decrease and our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in. This system starts the recovery process from our workouts. It reduces our heart rate, improves muscle repair, and gets us ready for the next workout.
If it doesn't kick in well, we don't recover well and our energy and workouts start to suffer.
One way to improve workout recovery and get ready for your next session is to take 2-3 minutes after each workout to work on slow, diaphragmatic breathing.
Here's our favorite breathing drill to finish every workout with: The 90/90 Hip Lift.
One of our favorites (shown above) is called the 90/90 hip-lift. This exercise is specifically designed to relax your low back while improving the posture and position of your hips and spine. The combination of proper position and exaggerated exhales works like a massage to calm your stiff and overworked low back, neck, shoulders and hips.
Lay on back with thighs and shins at 90 degrees, feet on wall
Keep low back in contact with floor (think of melting into the floor)
Keeping shoulders and neck relaxed, inhale easily through nose
Exhale through pursed lips
Make exhale as long and drawn out as possible
Hold breath for 2 seconds and repeat for 10 breaths
Complete before and after workouts and before bed
15. Workout with others
There's extreme power in working out in a group setting.
We see it every day as people who have spent their entire life trying to get into shape, join DSC and transform their health by making exercise a regular part of their routine.
For the first time ever they become consistent, they see incredible progress, and actually enjoy their workouts!
So, what's different?
They stopped trying to do it alone and joined our group-based personal training workouts.
And the research agrees. Group workouts outperform solo exercise in just about every fitness category and deliver superior results.
Working out in a group setting:
Increases workout motivation (you have more drive)
Increases workout consistency and accountability (you stop skipping workouts)
Increases workout intensity (you push harder)
Increases workout duration (your workouts are longer)
Increases workout joy and social connection (you enjoy and actually look forward to your workouts)