For some, a gym is like a candy store, it’s full of lots of fun, interesting workout equipment that helps keep a workout from becoming boring. For others, however, a gym can be a deterrent to a good workout. It’s information overload. You don’t know where to start or how to proceed once you do start. So you wander aimlessly around hitting one piece of equipment or another with no purpose. Basically, you are completely wasting your time.
Here is a simple guide on how to sift through all the fluff and design an effective strength workout in a gym.
Hit All the Major Muscles With Compound Exercises
For an effective full-body routine, the key is to choose exercises that hit each of the major muscles: thighs, back, chest, shoulders, and abs.
The routine will consist of compound exercises which work more than one muscle. Isolation movements, on the other hand, work only the target muscle. For example, a leg extension only works the quad (front thigh) muscles, but a squat works the quad, hamstring, and glute muscles.
Performing compound exercises gives you more “bang for your buck.” Also, the secondary, smaller muscles such as the biceps and triceps are already worked with compound exercises, so there is no need to waste your time with curls and kickbacks.
Skip the Thigh and Ab Machines
There isn’t anything inherently bad about weight machines. However, a lot of the machines isolate just one muscle and are not the best use of your precious time. Skip the leg extension, leg curl, bicep curl, tricep extension, ab machine, and the thigh machine (adductor).
Here are some of the machines that you may want to use: Smith machine (for squats, presses), leg press, chest press, overhead shoulder press, and the lat pull down. All of these machines allow you to perform compound exercises.
Don’t be scared to use the free weight area. Dumbbells allow you to work in a range of motion that is comfortable for you as well as utilizing more stabilizer muscles since you have to guide the weights and don’t have a machine doing it for you.
Perform the Five Exercises as a Circuit
Choose one compound exercise for each of the above listed major muscles: thighs, chest, back, shoulders, and abs. For example, you might choose this circuit: squats on Smith machine, dumbbell chest press, lat pulldown, overhead shoulder press machine, and decline crunch.
Complete eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, then move immediately to the next exercise with little to no rest. This may take some planning on your part. If the Smith machine is on the other side of the gym as the dumbbells, choose a different exercise or take a pair of dumbbells to the Smith machine. Adjust your circuit to make sure you can move quickly from one exercise to the next.
After completing all five exercises, rest for one to two minutes. Repeat the circuit two to three times.
Use These Exercises in Your Routine
Here is a list of some compound exercises for each of the major muscles.
- thighs: squat, leg press, lunge.
- chest: presses, push-ups.
- back: lat pull down, rows, pull-ups.
- shoulders: overhead presses.
- abs: various styles of crunches.
Use this simple, yet effective design template to create a number of short, intense weight workouts. Now you can step into the gym ready to workout and make the most use of your time there.
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