Jurg Widmer

How to make sure your workout always works for you

We all work out for different reasons, and it’s fair to say that most of us will have tried many different programmes to achieve our goals. Some work, and some don’t – often either because we lost motivation, don’t see any improvement, pick up an injury or all of the above.

So why is this the case? Why do some workouts suit us perfectly, while others just don’t? And is there an easy way to make sure we get it right more often than not? We believe there is – so here’s our quick guide to building the right workout for you.

Set the right goals

Goals are tricky things. Set them too high and you risk failure and demotivation. Set them too low and you’ll quickly lose interest if you find it all too easy. All this is true – but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that you still need to set them properly in order to make sure you’re working out in the right way.

Identifying exactly what you what want to achieve is a fundamental first step. So, have a good think about why you’re working out. Is it to lose weight? Is to gain muscle? Is it to train for a marathon? Whatever it is, be very clear about it, and then make sure that the workout you’re following actually matches the goal you’ve set yourself. Incredibly, one of the main reasons people fail to carry on with a workout programme is because it simply isn’t the right one for the job in hand.

Understand where you’re at now

We’re all different, whether it’s in terms of physical ability, overall health or motivation levels. So, it is absolutely crucial that before you start to develop your workout programme you have a clear understanding of exactly where you’re starting from. It will help you to identify the workout that will work for you, but also to set your goals realistically. There is plenty to take into account here – from your mobility, your conditioning and your strength through to your physique.

Make time to warm up

There is a saying about meditation practice, that if you don’t have time to do five minutes of meditation then you actually need to do 20 minutes of it. The same goes for physical workouts: if you don’t have time to warm up properly, then you don’t have time to workout properly either – being disciplined about your warm up and workout time is critical to success.

So, you need make sure you build warming up into your session in order to work out properly – it is as crucial a part of the programme as the exercises themselves. The key here is to do it properly – not just a few lunges and a bit of jogging on the spot. Think carefully about which muscles you’ll be using and prepare them properly. Lifting weights demands mobility in your joints, so make sure the muscles around areas are ready for action.

Do the hard things first

When you’re planning your workout, tougher movements like bench presses, squats and deadlifts need to be done early on, preferably soon after you’ve warmed up. That way, your body is ready for the challenge, but not so tired that you might get injured. Leaving the tougher exercises until later is tempting, but your body won’t thank you for it. If the exercise you’re doing requires heavier lifting or if it focuses on more groups of muscles than others, then get it in early. You can always relax with a few bicep curls later on.

Understand how rest fits into your routine

Many people go too hard, too fast, and don’t allow their bodies enough time to recover. So, make sure you’re realistic (and honest with yourself) about the length of time you really need to have a break between the sets you’re doing. Of course, it’s also about what you want to achieve. If you’re after building strength or gaining muscle, a longer rest of around a minute is in order. To lose fat, cut that rest time to under half a minute.

The idea of workout ‘intensity’ is important here as well – and that also has to do with the goals you’ve set yourself. If you’re looking to really push it, you might be looking to raise the intensity of your workout – not by adding more weights (a common mistake) – but rather by reducing the amount of recovery time you’re allowing yourself between reps. And of course, identifying that required level of intensity is up to you, and depends on what you want to achieve through your workout programme.

Once again, that all comes down to setting realistic and achievable goals – and then going for it.

Jürg Widmer Probst 

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