Have you ever thought about the different parts that make up your workout? And I don’t mean the different exercises that you’re doing. I mean, at a high level, identifying what each and every single workout has in common.
I’m a personal trainer – so I think about this every day. But most people don’t! And I know that because when I hit the gym, I see many people who don’t really know what they are doing, and think of their workout as just a series of exercises.
So in this post I want to share with you some of the tips and tricks I use every day when I think about people’s workouts.
In an nutshell, every workout consists of these 3 parts:
- the warm-up
- the workout itself
- the cool-down and stretch
So let’s explore each in more detail.
Here’s the most important thing you should know about the warm-up: don’t skip it!!
It’s so painful to see people get to the gym and begin by lifting the heaviest weight they possibly can without preparing the body at all beforehand.
The warm-up is crucial. It’s like starting up your car in Alberta. You don’t just start it and leave. You let it run for a bit to allow it to warm up and then you go. It’s the same with your body. When you warm up, the following amazing things happen to your body:
- your heart rate goes up gradually
- blood flow to your tissues and muscles goes up gradually
- you gradually increase your breathing rate
- your joints secrete synovial fluid which keeps them lubricated while exercising
- you mentally prepare yourself
- you decrease risk of injury when lifting those heavy weights
Ok, so what does a warm-up look like?
It’s actually super simple:
- 5 minutes
- low intensity
- focus on breathing and proper technique
So, for example, if you’re going for a run, power walk for 5 minutes. Do a few step back burpees if you’re going to do some crazy HIIT routine. Jump rope is also an awesome way to warm up.
If you’re doing strength training that day, start with some easy moves to get the blood flowing, and do about 10 reps of each. Here are some ideas:
- jogging on the spot
- knees up
- butt kickers
- shoulder rolls
- arm reachers
- jumping jacks
- step back burpees
- side lunges
The actual workout
Now that you’ve warmed up, it’s time to really work out! Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind if you’re a beginner.
Start with compound exercises
Compound exercises, such as squats, incorporate multiple muscle groups and joints. Start with those. Then work your way up to exercises that isolate certain muscles you want to work. For example, do squats before doing hamstring curls.
If you are aiming for a full body workout, focus on exercises that will target as many muscle groups as possible so you maximize your calorie burn. These include squats, push-ups, burpees, step-ups, seated rows, etc.
Start with large muscle groups
These are your chest, lats, quads, glutes, etc. Then move on to the smaller muscles: biceps, triceps, adductors, abductors, etc.
Work your front side and your back side
If you’re always focusing on bicep curls or bench presses but never working on your triceps ad back muscles, you have a problem. You need to make sure you are working both sides of your body, limbs, core, etc otherwise you will run into postural issues and you increase the risk of injury. And guys, balance also means working all parts of your body, not just the upper 😉 so don’t skip leg day.
Do the core last
Because the muscles of your core help to stabilize your body while you exercise, you want to make sure they are able to do their job properly before you blast them with your awesome core sequence. You can definitely start with core for an extra challenge if you’ve been working out for a while, but you better not be lifting heavy weights that day.
Related: Types of training to give you results!
The cool-down and stretch
So a few days ago I saw this guy in the gym doing some really heavy weights. He’s pushing really hard, headphones on, sweating bullets. After his last set, he just puts the weights down and leaves.
What’s wrong with this scenario? Can you tell?
I see people doing this ALL. THE. TIME! But here’s the thing: you’ve done something intense and now your body needs to cool down. Just like it needed a warm-up, it needs a cool-down. It needs time to go from that elevated state to back where it was.
So what happens if you don’t cool down properly? Here are some signs and symptoms that you’ve stopped too abruptly.
- feeling dizzy and light headed (especially after cardio)
- feeling like you’re going to throw up
- venous pooling: depending on what body part you were blasting that day, your heart delivered a large blood supply there. If you stop, your blood stays accumulated in that region of your body for longer than it should, which can’t be good for you.
The cool down shouldn’t take more than 5min and, depending on your fitness level, may take as little as 2min. Just enough to get that heart rate back down to normal.
Now for the part that everyone skips. Stretching feels like a waste of time and I can totally relate. You’re just hanging out not doing much, you’re not really burning calories. And the clock just keeps ticking away. Maybe you’ll do it if you have extra time that day, but you probably won’t, and it’s always the first to get cut if you’re short on time.
Flexibility is actually incredibly important. If you can’t get through the full range of motion in your joints, how will you be able to do your shoulder presses, squats and so on? You will only be able to do partial moves, which means you will get partial results. And no one wants that. Moreover, lack of flexibility can lead to all sorts of problems. For example, low hamstring flexibility has been linked to lower back pain.
I’m not saying take half your workout to stretch. But allow yourself those 5-7 minutes at the end to heal your body.
Next time you hit the gym, think about your workout and make sure it has a warm-up, as well as a cool down and stretch, on top of your usual exercise routine. If you’re a beginner, start with simple moves, working big muscle groups first and doing exercises that target more than one muscle group. Finally, do the core last!
The tips and tricks above sound simple; perhaps even quite obvious – and they are! But trust me when I tell you that more than 2/3 of the people I see in the gym, if not more, do not do them. Which percentage do you want to be in?
After being skinny unfit for the majority of my life, I discovered fitness by accident once I became a mom and started working out with my husband. A couple of years later, I started Tone Every Zone out of an overwhelming desire to help other busy individuals and couples juggle a hectic lifestyle while staying active.
My mission is to teach people about fitness and work with them as a team to make long lasting lifestyle changes. My personal values include being professional, honest and transparent in all of my doings but also being funny and silly because that’s what makes life (and your training sessions) fun!
Every day I hear from tons of couples who are dying to get more active but they just need that extra push! Getting people started on a fitness program is what I love to do. Check out my personal training packages and share your story with me so I can help you reach your fitness goals!