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Written on March 20, 2014 at 3:47 pm, by Eric Cressey
Today, I've got a guest post from Jen Sinkler, the creator of an awesome new resource, Lift Weights Faster.
The playing field may look a little different these days: Rather than washing your own sweaty, grass-stained uniforms, perhaps you’re doing so for your kids. Maybe you’re throwing a laptop messenger bag over your shoulder instead of a duffle filled with equipment.
But the desire to get better has never waned.
Being a former athlete myself — one who continues to pursue better physical fitness and still chases performance in and out of the gym, as well as working with clients who want to look and feel athletic, regardless of whether or not there is a sport involved — has afforded me the opportunity to learn what it takes achieve these goals while juggling a busy work schedule. Below are the essentials.
1. Know when to push and when to chill.
I love Dan John’s analogies — he’s one of the best fitness translators in the business (that is to say, he breaks down even ideas better than almost anybody, for almost everybody) — and a favorite is the risk-reward spectrum of the aging athlete. To summarize, the undersized high school athlete who doesn’t get much playing time will take more risks in the weight room, scarf down more calories, and keep hypertrophy at the forefront, whereas the starters are playing it a little safer, just trying to stay strong and healthy enough to remain on the court or field, at least when they’re in season.
On a larger scale, you’ve got pro athletes earning money at their sport. At a certain point in their careers, they shift on “stealing more millions” by staying in the league. Redefining their game, approach or body at that point is too risky — the goal is to simply stay alive.
If your life is highly stressful, consider yourself the pro athlete. As Eric pointed out the other day, your body doesn’t differentiate between different kinds of stress. All stress matters and counts – simply put, if it feels like too much, it probably is. Examine how you feel after you train: in a nutshell, better or worse? And adjust accordingly.
If, on the other hand, you’re in a place in your life where you can add a little challenge, that opens up your possibilities in the gym. (Keep in mind that as we age, it takes longer to recover, so for those who fall under this umbrella, consider making your workouts more compact, regardless.)
The point is to adjust your workout style to your lifestyle. The person that gets into the gym 52 weeks a year will always make more progress than the person sidelined because they pushed it too hard in 52 minutes.
2. Vary work-to-rest ratios and circuit structure.
Varying the length and structure of your finishers are a great way to stimulate your body in a different, highly metabolic way.
To be clear: I’m not advocating screwing around in a way that isn’t going to net you results. That is, doing squats while teetering atop a BOSU ball may qualify as novel, but it’s not useful. And, we’ve all done workouts where one muscle group was so thoroughly taxed that you can’t perform a sufficient amount of work to qualify as a metabolic workout. I am talking about adding new and productive challenges to your conditioning routine.
Strength ladders are great as they can allow you to get a good amount of volume into a short time period, as do complexes, combos and chains.
And, depending on their training volume within the week and the day of, I’ll toy with my clients’ work-to-rest ratios. Some days short and intense, some longer and lighter, with a negative-rest workout sprinkled in sparingly.
Here are a few options:
3. Play mind games.
Humans are hardwired to love novelty (a quality called neophilia), and new movements can be a gateway for new progress.
Movements like the “monkey hustle” or “silverback” below are great primal movements that are great strength and coordination builders – but be smart with ’em. High amounts of primal/crawling patterns on top of pushups can be a recipe for tender wrists.
Treat newer movements like your strength training, increasing the volume by roughly 10 percent each week. If 15 meters of crawling feels good, just bump it up to 16 to 17 meters the next time you incorporate them in your repertoire. Slow and steady here — no one ever benched 200 pounds for the first time ever and then jumped to 300 (actually, that’s not true, but it usually results in a viral YouTube video).
4. Prep your food plan.
I’m a systems person, from tracking my workouts to cooking at home. Systems save you plenty of time and stress. Nothing works harder against body-comp and performance goals than the aftermath of coming home famished and having nothing prepared. If you can come up with a weekly plan for what’s on deck in the fridge and an inventory of what’s cooked up and ready to reheat, you’ll be set.
If you’re intimidated by home-cooking, short on time, or just like when your meals cook themselves, the crockpot has gone gourmet. It’s as easy as choosing ingredients, cutting them up, tossing them in, and a few hours later, done. The secret is in the spices. (Plus, it makes your house smell like the inside of the best restaurant you’ve ever visited.)
Another option: hash. Again, super easy: throw a bunch of fresh, high-quality ingredients into the same pan and then take credit for the flavorful result.
5. Be adaptable.
Chances are that your schedule varies due to familial or social obligations, work travel, and energy levels. When you can’t stick to Plan A, try workouts like this body weight ladder. The Plunge can be completed for time (I like to jot my times in my training journal to make sure I’m continually making progress, even in conditioning). Or, if you’ve had a heavier strength-training session, this circuit complements the iron nicely with the variety in movement and just enough volume.
Get Better Faster
If you’re looking to improve your fitness in creative but productive ways, I’ve put together a mammoth 130-workout pick-and-choose conditioning library called Lift Weights Faster. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of over 225 exercises (from classic moves to more creative ones), a video library that includes coaching on 14 of the more technical lifts, five challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I leveraged my background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time.
Plus, every workout is organized by the equipment you have available and how much time you’ve got, including plenty of effective options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes. If you’re on the go, there are plenty of options to keep you busy, interested and progressing in the direction you want to go. And if you like a challenge, there are five keystone workouts that you can track online on the site’s tracker along with challenge your coworkers for a place on the leaderboard.
About the Author
Jen Sinkler (www.jensinkler.com), RKC, PCC, PM, USAW, is a long-time fitness journalist who writes for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis.
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