This is what you must do to take control of your training efforts and win on your own terms.
By Skip La Cour
Six-Time National Champion Bodybuilder
Owner of Skip La Cour’s Mass Machine Nutrition
Everyone hopes to have a great workout every time they step into the gym. But, if you want to be the most effective and efficient with the time you invest training, simply hoping will not get the job done.
The best way to get what you want out of your workout is to first identify exactly what you want to accomplish before you even get to the gym.
What’s most important to you when it comes to your training sessions? Have you taken the time to specifically determine what a “great workout” means to you?
There are many factors that could contribute to a great workout. Components such as the amount of weight you lift, how many reps you perform, if you set personal records, the quality of form you use, how well you stimulate the targeted muscle group, if you get a good pump, how quickly you get and out of the gym, your level of concentration and focus, and for some people, how much connection made with gym friends and getting through an entire workout without quitting could all make a workout a great one.
Which components of a workout are the most important to you and how do you prioritize those components? You usually won’t value each one of them the same. Some are more important to you than others—and that’s perfectly acceptable. How you prioritize the importance of all these factors will definitely have an impact on your results.
Have you taken the time to figure this out and aim for it during every session?
For example, if one person’s highest priority is the quality of his form and he has made the decision that he will never sacrifice quality of form for the sake of lifting heavier weight, he can expect to experience a certain level of achievement. His results will more than likely be quite different than a person whose number one goal is to lift the heaviest amount of weight humanly possible—regardless of how sloppy the form he uses becomes. If a third person strives for proper execution, with form effective enough to stimulate the muscle group being trained with the heaviest amount of weight possible, he can expect results different than the two previous training approaches mentioned.
The person who doesn’t want to socialize in fear it will hamper his focus and concentration will produce different results than the person who sets out to both connect with his friends and pound-out a decent workout at the same time.
So, after listing what’s most important for you to achieve during your workout, arrange what you’ve decided upon in their order of priority.
I evaluate the quality of my workouts by my effectiveness, performance, and mental focus:
Effectiveness. My number one priority when I evaluate my workouts is how well I hit the targeted muscle group during every set. Did I stimulate the growth process by feeling the weight exactly where I wanted? Or, did I incorporate other body parts to help me perform the repetitions? Did I give every set everything I had inside of me and work every set to absolute failure?
Performance. After I make sure I’ve overloaded the exact muscle group I targeted, my next priority is peak performance. I evaluate my performance by how much weight I lifted, how many repetitions I performed with that weight, what kind of form I used, and if I was in a groove, flow, or zone. How close did I come to the most weight I have ever lifted for each exercise? How close did I come to the most reps I’ve ever performed with that amount of weight? Was the form I used during each exercise the happy medium between very strict and sloppy that as I was aiming for? Did I feel fluent or was every inch of every rep a battle? Again, I only value these components if I have first hit the intended muscle group and worked every set until absolute failure. Who cares how much weight I lifted if I didn’t stimulate the right muscle group? I certainly don’t!
Mental Focus. The level of mental focus I achieved and maintained during my workout is the next component I evaluate when I determine the quality of my training session. How well I concentrated during every exercise, the amount of courage and determination I exhibited, and how efficiently I moved from exercise to exercise all contribute to my mental focus. Was I enthusiastic when I trained? Was my mind only on my workout or did I let situations outside of the gym distract me? Did I go for a challenging amount of weight or did I rationalize and settle for less based on a little fear or even laziness? Did I do any excess talking that broke the flow of the workout? Usually, when you are mentally focused, you are going to have a great workout—but that’s not always the case. Being mentally focused is great. You can have all the best intentions in the world but fail to be effective or perform well in the gym. I’d rather be less focused and get the job done well rather than be super-determined but unable to produce significant results.
How about you? Have you already consciously figured these things out so you can take control over your training and win on your own terms?
Invest in the quality of your workouts by taking the time to determine what’s most important to you, prioritize what you’ve decided upon, and set out to execute them during every workout—and make every one of them a great one.
Train Hard—and Think Big!