20 tips for a better gym workout

As usual, when I speak of sports and nutrition, I feel I should point out that these things work for me but possibly not for you.

And obviously, do not start any sort of intense physical activity without the OK of your doctor. Don’t be silly.


  1. Get your gym bag ready well in advance.

    If you are late for work and you must choose between brushing your teeth and packing your gym gear, I won’t blame you for wanting to have fresh breath. So pack your gym bag before going to bed and all you have to do is remember to pick it up.

  2. Make your own sports drink.

    Mine is 200ml of orange juice (cheap supermarket own brand is fine, but try and avoid over-sweetened ones) diluted with water to make up 500ml, and a pinch of salt (optional) and/or creatine powder for those who believe in it. I drink it throughout my workout to ensure that I keep hydrated, and that my sugar levels do not drop. I also see carrying a half-litre bottle at the gym as a great way to save time by avoiding frequent trips to the water fountain.

  3. Only wear white, grey and/or black.

    You might not care less about the way you look. However, if you go to the gym chances are that appearances are important to you. I once read somewhere that you can save time by ensuring every single item you use to work out is white, grey and/or black, from your towel to your shoes (and gloves if you wear them). Those colours will always match, no matter in what combination. You might think the same would apply to wearing all-blue. Think again: do you really want to look like a postman or a factory worker who happens to find themselves on a gym floor?

  4. Make the most of your best asset.

    No matter how out of shape you are when you join a gym, find out what your best feature is and highlight it. I have chunky, pasty legs with completely hairless calves, and there’s no way you will see me wearing shorts while I exercise. Unless they’re the last clean item I have. Or I go for a run (it’s hard to spot defaults on fast-moving limbs).

    On the other hand, I quite like my shoulder and upper arms, so I usually work out in a sleeveless top, which incidentally is also more comfortable. Overweight with a narrow waist and a flat tummy? Cropped top by all means. Scrawny chest but legs that would put a rugby player to shame? Baggy t-shirt and the shortest shorts decency and modesty will let you get away with. Also, keep in mind the golden rule of optical illusion: objects look larger in lighter colours. If you are bottom-heavy, a light-coloured top on black trousers will make you look more proportioned.

  5. Warm up and stretch, before and after you work out.

    You don’t want to get hurt, so a few minutes on the treadmill (brisk walking is fine) and a few simple stretches of the body parts you intend to exercise are essential. Once you get used to it, you will find out that you can perform a standard routine of stretches and warm-up in as little as five minutes.

    Once you are finished, repeat the stretches to cool down and elongate those hard-worked muscles.

  6. Keep your cardio sessions well away from your weight training.

    If you go for a long run before you tackle the weights, you’ll have very little energy left. Inversely, if you hit the elliptical trainer after you’ve pumped iron, your muscles will not be in the best condition to recover. Your muscles develop when they recover. You do the maths.

    If you want to add some cardio training to control weight and build stamina, do it on different days, or in the morning if you work out in the evenings (or vice-versa).

  7. Have a coffee before you work out.

    Or a diet coke. This will give you a caffeine buzz that’s ideal for pushing yourself just a little bit further.

  8. Eat a little something before you work out.

    A small piece of fruit and/or some fat free yogurt with a couple of spoonful of cereals will do, especially if you work out first thing in the morning. In any case, try to go to the gym on a relatively (but not completely) empty stomach.

  9. Eat protein and carbohydrates after you work out.

    Eat plenty of protein and some carbohydrates during the forty-minutes window after your workout: that’s when your muscles need it most in order to grow. Protein shakes are handy for both (whey protein is the best), but if you have access to it, good old natural food is great too: cans of tuna, oily fish, cooked chicken, eggs, whole-wheat pasta and bread, low-fat dairy products, fruit.

  10. Make it a habit.

    It takes 6 weeks. Insist. Plan your week ahead, for instance if you know you’re going out on Wednesday night and will need to sleep a bit later on Thursday morning, make sure you have time to work out on Wednesday morning and sometime on Friday.

  11. Plan your workout.

    Decide in advance what you are going to do and go over it on your way there or while you warm up and stretch.

  12. …but be flexible.

    If there is a three-person queue for the piece of equipment you need, either alter the exercise order and go back to it later, or switch to a similar one that will work the same body part in a different way. Ask a trainer for advice if you are unsure. And if you have got the time, by all means join the queue.

  13. Do not work out for too long.

    Apparently, after about 45 minutes of intense exercise your body does not benefit any longer and all you do goes to waste. If you are having fun, you are free to continue. Most days though my idea of fun does not involve thrashing around heavy objects. Make it intense and short, that’s all you need.

  14. Write down everything you do.

    If, like me, you have absolutely no memory for figures, you will waste some time remembering how much you lifted last week or what settings are best for your height. I write everything down: the date, day of the week, exercises done, number of repetitions, weights used, seat-height etc. The added bonus is that this way you can track your progress, and nothing feels greater than looking back and seeing how far you’ve come.

  15. Alternate and change exercises.

    There is a sign on the wall in one of the branches of the gym I go to: ‘If you are doing the same exercises you were doing yesterday, with the same weights, how do you expect to see any results?’ – or something along those lines.

    Do not exercise the same body part two days in a row. Lift heavier weight, or the same weight more times, than last time you did.

    Every six weeks or so, change your whole routines. Pick slightly different exercises for each of the body parts, or do the same on a machine if you used to do it with free weights. That way the muscles get pushed to work in a different way and avoid to stop reacting. Added bonus: boredom does not get a chance to set.

  16. Eat properly.

    Diet and exercise go well together. Extreme dieting and intense exercise are a recipe for disaster. Eat well, eat varied, treat yourself every now and then and your body will have the necessary fuel to go the extra mile. A fitter body burns more calories and will allow you to eat more.

  17. Get plenty of sleep.

    I feel a bit of a fraud writing this as my average is about six hours per night, but it has been proven that muscles grow when you sleep. They need plenty of time and rest to recover and build themselves up for further challenges.

  18. Weave your session into your normal routine.

    You planned to go home from work, have a light snack, get your gear together and cycle the three miles to your gym. Then you found out that [insert favourite celebrity] was a guest on [insert favourite talk show]. And it started raining.

    You left in the morning ready to go to the gym at lunchtime. There is one at work and your employer not only subsidises it, they also encourage staff to join and be healtier and more productive. You probably went in a bit earlier and had a turkey sandwich you brought from home at your desk to allow for the longer lunch break. And you might still be home in time for [insert favourite celebrity] on [insert favourite talk show].

  19. Pick a gym with a convenient location.

    It’s great if it’s near home, it’s good if it’s near work. It’s fantastic if it has several branches and you can pick the most convenient one for your need of that day. Funnily enough, the branch I go to most often now is halfway between home and work, where I would have to change underground lines anyway. I can assure you that the extra time it takes me to reach it is negligible.

  20. Do not follow these tips religiously.

    Your workout must be fun for you, whether you enjoy lifting three times your body weight in iron or having a brisk march round a shopping centre. I hope these ideas inspire you, I know they worked for me. Please feel free to try them out and retain whatever works for you too.

    Now, if only I could follow these tips myself and get back into the more regular gym attendance I observed until a few months ago…

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56 comments on “20 tips for a better gym workout
  1. justin says:

    Excellent advice, especially about the stretching exercises and what to eat and drink.

    What to I get up to? Well, walking into the City Centre and back a few times a week (and sometimes carrying back wiht me some heavy food shopping). Otherwise the words “potato” and “couch” spring to mind. 🙂

  2. zac says:

    Not too keen on the coffee idea. Getting enough rest, having some fruit which is high in sugar content, and warming up/stretching properly are better ways to boos your energy for a work out. As for pushing yourself, you’d better learn to do that w/o chemicals, and until then bring someone else to push you who’s a die hard and not always nice. Caffeine dehydrates you and constricts blood vessels which you will need to flow well for your aerobic (and as much flow as possible for anaerobic) exercise.

  3. Danielle says:

    Hi! Great ideas. Common sence really- but we have to read it here from someone else for it to sink and say ” hey, great advice!” I personally find that just reading a few tips (like these) throughout the week keeps me motivated and my goals in focus. Thanks for yours!

  4. kaser says:

    hi i think these tips are really good for the beginner like myself i don’t know how to start thank you

  5. prudhvi says:

    hi..
    nice advice…
    i am thin fellow.. i do gym for about 2hrs and i dnt no what to eat after the gym.. please give me better ideas so that i can improve my physique…..

  6. KHANJAN says:

    Hi

    Awesum advice…

    Practical & very much implementable

    Thanks!!

  7. steddi says:

    thanks man i read all that thats quite gd son
    that helps a lil more. every lil advice helps, that gave me a boost now thanks bro

  8. Catharina says:

    My daughter and myself have recently joined a gym. So we found your tips really interesting.

    Thanks
    Catharina

  9. hugo says:

    if you are going to use creatine in your work out use labrada crealine which is roughly £20 but lasts a life time and there are notcable changes also if you want to build muscle use high weights and lowrepetitions

    thanx
    Hugo

  10. pravin says:

    Hey, liked your tips. I have been going to the gym from Oct 2006. I have listed 5 tips which help me get till there, which is the hard part. Once you are in, then it’s fun

  11. Gustav says:

    recently started out 2 a gym thx 4 tips helps alot…

  12. Yunis SL-ice says:

    Men, thanx for da tips.
    Am a beginner at first i tought if i start i cant just skip but da Play-today-rest-tomorow routine gave me the ability to do other things esp. Sleep and rest, other dan gym gym gym all the time. Just 45 mins of workout (intensely), dats awsome!! Once again Thanx 4 da tips.

  13. tursunjian says:

    hey yo.

    that is great idea man, im beginner and i ready all of the greater idea. it looks may help me alot.

    like there is someone said after hard work out have no idea about eat what is good for people like me wanna great body.

    i hope you can can give me more good ideas, i like this page man, keep working it i will truly support you.

    be happy man.

  14. sonu sebastian says:

    very awesome advice,works out perfectlyand good.

  15. sonu sebastian says:

    if there any advice pls reply to my mail,waiting for reply.

  16. Sharon says:

    Great tips! Esp packing ur bag the night before my biggest excuse for not going to the gym is oops didnt have time to get my gear ready . . . also just cant work out without the right music blasting outta my ipod, its essential for motivation and to beat boredom!! See u all down the gym!!! 🙂

  17. Bilal says:

    Great Advice!!!

    I really like the advice & tips. They are very specific, measurable and
    defiantly achievable.

    There’s defiantly something there for everyone……. ; )

    Tip: I’d say try not to take on too much at once.

    Pick 1 to 2 tips, set your goals and work with them until they become
    part of your daily routine or work out.

    Once you have achieved your goal and satisfied, only then move on to
    the next.

    By taking on too much it MAY only stress you, side track you or even worse demotivate you.

    thanks many

  18. christine says:

    Hi

    Really it is a nice advice, recently im joining for gym but spending only 1hr in gym is ok or i have to extend more in gym for excersice please give me an advice.

    Regards
    Christine

  19. naveen says:

    Hi

    Thanks a lot for the tips u have given ………. i work out in gym but not in the way u said …………

  20. Will.m says:

    Some of these tips are good but a few of them are actually quite bad for you, e.g before a work out you should start with a pulse raising exercise followed by some stretching the types of stretching differ for each exercise. dont just go to the gym and do a few stretches then bang out loads of weights! you will hurt a muscle group. Do not drink coffee before a work out eat a mal 2 hrs before or have a light energy snack half hour before, jaffa cakes is a good one ( a quick release energy ) combinde cardio exercises and weight lifting for a high intensity session ( this type of work out gets a person Very Very fit) other point are good but needed bit more research.

  21. Andy says:

    In response to Will.m’s reply to original post:

    You dont combine weight training with cardio to become fit?

    You also dont want any foods that give you a quick release of energy? Remember the workout will normally last a min of 30 mins.

  22. rahul says:

    great advice……………
    ………………Thanks a lot.

  23. Harshal shah says:

    Hi!
    These tips will be helpful 2 u 4 ur workout….
    Pls read from it….
    n do it….
    Thank u..

  24. venkata says:

    i wnt beginner tips

  25. sajith says:

    great tips for a beginner like me.So thank you. But….i think the idea of having coffee is not a fair one.

  26. Luca says:

    Fair point Sajith, and one on which people seem not to have reached a conclusion. More info on this article: Coffee: friend or foe?

    I have stopped all caffeine myself last June so I do not follow my own advice now!

  27. va. marcy says:

    more of a question then comment. i just joined a gym & have found that no one explains work out routines for me there, maybe because there are mostly younger people there & they dont want to be bothered w/ older people. i pretty much know how to use the equipment but not sure about routines. Im 50 ish & a first time gym virgin. i am doing this for my health & to be able to be around longer for my family. i have been going for 2 weeks now, my routine is, 30 min. on the treadmill, then 30 min. in the weight room starting at very small amounts of weights. i need to know if my routine is right. thanks

  28. joe says:

    also drinking plenty of water throughout the workout. I would like some more ideas on good foods to eat after the gym other than protein shakes and what meals to have??? Ive heard little but about 6 meals throughout the day ??? If anyone can help good tips by the way thanks

    :-)))

  29. Josh says:

    Hi.
    Im nearly 17 and have just got my membership at the gym
    I usually do around an hour of high intensity weights varying on my muscles each session and do about 30mins of cardio, i need to know the right things to do to build and tone muscle, and i was wondering, as i am slightly overweight, if fat can be turned into defined and toned muscle. thankyou and please reply 🙂

  30. joe says:

    easy josh, i would vary your cardio and weight lifting as your muscles need to rest so maybe one day lift weights the next do cardio, you need to do about 30mins each day cardio even when your lifting weights generally walking around dont forget your 10min warm up in that equation. stretch between sets and dont forget to cool down,drink plenty of water and your ment to have atleast 1gram of protein for every pound you way! also have plenty of sleep 8 hrs is good. you can turn fat into muscle thats generally how it works stick at it do alot of cardio when your not lifting weights alot of time swimming i would recommend and be patient results dont come fast! peace!!!!!!

  31. shivendra srivastava says:

    i have read your suggestion but i am not satisfied….

  32. Luca says:

    very good advice joe, thanks!

  33. vikash says:

    Hi i m having workout from 18 months but not having good results to my body pls give me tips on my email id.

  34. John says:

    Well done
    Coffee is actually beneficial for the end result of your work.

    “In two separate trials, Professor Louise Burke and her colleagues at the Australian Institute of Sport’s nutrition department confirmed that caffeine does boost performance. In one study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology three years ago, cyclists who drank flat cola or black coffee an hour before exercise kept going faster and for longer than those who drank plain water. In the second study, this year, it was found that drinking 1mg of caffeine, in the form of cola or coffee, per kilogram of an athlete’s body weight, during exercise enhanced performance in endurance activities such as running and cycling. “

  35. piyush tripathi says:

    thatsssssss a tips i want .ttthanxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx sir

  36. Hey….!!!!!

    danx 4da tipz….

    ima try em out…

    Bye…..

  37. martin says:

    Good work with the tips thanks a lot

  38. Nabeel says:

    it helped a lot for me……. i follow almost all the steps said here…. thank you

  39. aakash k says:

    hi
    howz can i do may exercises in the gym. i want to know the
    routine about it and how can i do may exercise in the whole week .

  40. aschwinnie says:

    Hi !
    All your points are very useful(depending on person to person) for maintaining a gym discipline and once you are ready for this you start discipline your life without you even noticing (I mean by the time you notice you are already in).Once you start getting in shape it adds up happiness in your life.
    I have started GYM 6 months before most of the points you wrote are in my daily routine and learned myself and from trainers.I spent at least two hours but with no heavy weights. I have seen changes in me i.e I feel relaxed ( having a better control on my temper)
    One thing I would like to add is Good music ( soft techno or trance with good beats) encourages you to complete the session without getting tired.
    Kafee idea is good for people above 35. I open my day with kafee and after my workout and dinner in the evening I close my day with kafee.
    Keeping at least one and half liter of water/juice or mixed with creatine all the time during workout is very important.Avoid junk food.
    Most of the people love colorful GYM fit specially women’s and girls so when it suits them let them have it. I myself wear only black and sometime white upper outfit,Like you said nothing should be followed religiously.One can make his or her own rules for them self depending on their requirement and comfort .
    Good start with such ideas ,pl keep it up, this motivates everyone.

  41. zarina says:

    hi there, awesum tips.especially for me. i start with a bang each time full of beans , then it all goes away, the d rive and the new muscles.

    so your tips are a great boost.
    one thing though, pls avoid coffee. its bad in the long run. it kills ur brain cells, puts u on to the Alzeimers track…TEA is good for the heart too.
    the rest is perfect.

    good luck and happy gymming.

  42. Luca says:

    I agree on the caffeine bit. It’s now been over two years since I wrote this, and today it’s one year exactly since I stopped drinking coffee (and tea and coke) – it’s great!

  43. This is a good long list of things you can do to improve yourself. 20 should give anyone plenty of opportunity to lose weight, tone muscles or what every your goals is.

  44. Vikas says:

    Is there any tip for gym which does not require any workout.

  45. Luca says:

    I wish! 😉

  46. Niall says:

    very helpful , straight and undertandable.

    cheers

  47. Abhìshek says:

    Plz give some tips, eating after & before Gym & weakly routine.

  48. aschwinnie says:

    Before GYM it is not advise able to eat but yes if you are hungry the some fresh fruit ( banana is good ) or juices with no additional sugar. Coffee with cookies is also OK but above 35 of age. Carry lot of water during GYM but at least 15 minutes after and before abdominal workout water is not advise able.

    After GYM and proper bath one can have egg white, Banana, Apple,Oranges,Grapes or any other Fresh fruit and for Dinner one should avoid heavy oily or junk food. Some Meat/Chicken/Fish and Green Vegetable/Lentil bread or rice but keep changing food and should not load too much.
    In Breakfast one can have Corn Flax/Oatmeal/( you can add some dry fruits especially walnuts), cold meat cuts, Yogurt with Whey protein,whole wheat bread or Indian breakfast w/out too much oil.
    One should not follow these rules religiously but try any light food carrying nutrients.

  49. Livemoore says:

    This is terrible. So many of your facts are simply wrong. The body doesn’t benefit after 45 mins? So do you think all pro athletes only train for 45 mins and then cap it? And stretching before a workout is a terrible idea. It shuts the muscle down and makes it harder to recruit it during exercise. And while changing up your routine is good, moving from freeweights to a machine will actually regress a muscle’s development.

  50. sazzzy says:

    i have being going to the gym from september and i have lost some weight but my body is very saggy,instant my boobs and tummy,can u please advise me what excercise i could combine with my one hour on the threadmill to tone up pls.thxs

  51. Dhruv says:

    Hey ,buddy i’ve recently joined a gym and i’m quite thin. So could you tell me the best way to gain weight and size..and what kind of exrcises woul be the best for m as in light weights or heavy ones..???

  52. aschwinnie says:

    Hi D !
    You have to put your age hight and weight to have better workout plan.

  53. Lee Pyotr says:

    Thanks for publishing about this. There’s a mass of great tech information on the internet. You’ve got a lot of that info here on your web site. I’m impressed – I try to keep a couple blogs fairly ongoing, but it’s a struggle sometimes. You’ve done a great job with this one. How do you do it?

  54. aschwinnie says:

    Hi SAZZZY !

    you shoul do twice a week body pump/jump ( 45 minuts ), twice a week RPM (45 minuts) and twice a week abdominals (30 minuts )

    aschwinnie

  55. MANOJ KUMAR says:

    if you are a new person in the area like gym then you have to do very hard work but don’t feel it hard do it with interest don’t go with heavy weights you also have to learn from others but never ask from them if you think they are not a serious about others you can learn from their activities and the main funda is ‘MORE YOU WILL PRACTICE MORE YOU WILL GAIN”.

  56. Brendan says:

    this is an awful article, Coffee before working out? That will just cause you to cramp and coffee is not good for you anyway. If you want to benefit from working out just get a good amount of sleep(8+hrs), take a protein shake before/quckily after lifting, eat pasta or somethign with carbohydrates before lifting and than wait a bit before lifting to let your food settle. Drink lots of water after to promote synthesis and give yourself enough liquids to repair your muscles. Wear a watch to monitor your breaks between sets and push yourself and just because your in pain that doesnt mean stop working out; the goal is to be in pain. No pain, no gain. This article sucked, i was expecting more than common knowledge.

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