By Sigurd Neubauer
Are you still a bit insecure – but don’t want to admit it – about how to fully maximize the outcome of your visits to the gym?
Here’s a short guide about what to do:
A quick warm-up is always required as it helps increase your blood flow. This can be achieved by either walking on a treadmill or jumping on a bike for about five minutes. This general approach helps decrease your chances of injury by increasing blood flow around the body and in effect warming-up tight muscles.
The purpose of a proper warm-up, Fitness and Personal Training Director John Kecman of the Aspen Hill Club in Silver Spring, Maryland, explains is to increase blood flow, and range of motion. “You can always try to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ with the combination of dynamic stretching/mobility, and corrective activation exercises to warm-up,” he explains.
Next, we discuss how men – who in their own assessment – are in reasonably good shape, and what they can do reach their fitness goals.
“How to achieve your fitness goals depends on how many times a week one visits the gym, including what kind of additional physical activities are carried out throughout the week,” Kecman says.
For the purpose of practicality, we divide Kecman’s recommendations into the following two categories:
- For those of you with a packed schedule which only allows for one workout in the gym per week. While he doesn’t recommend this approach, the trainer proposes instead to divide a one hour gym visit into two visits divided into two 30 minute sessions. “Dividing the same amount of work into multiple sessions is more beneficial for a variety of reasons, he explains.
- For those who can work out at least twice or more per week.
Working out once a week
For the super busy amongst us, Kecman recommends a “full body workout” for about an hour, which should be dynamic in fashion. “For this session, you need to bring nutrition to prevent your body from ‘breaking down’ your own muscles once it ‘runs out of fuel from the tank,’” he says.
Once at the gym, it is important to set goals and then build a program around them.
For men with limited time, they need to work hard to achieve density. “You need to warm-up to be as close to failure as you can,” Kecman explains. “Your workout program should also seek to complement other physical activities you carry out throughout the week,” he adds, which could include walking, biking, running or any other type of sports.
“The linear progression stalls after three months which is why changing and adjusting goals are essential” - John Kecman
For an effective gym session, Kecman recommends what he calls a “compound” workout session which should include:
- Axis loading – a back squat, an exercise for which the entire body is loaded. This also counts as an ‘entire body workout.’ Goblet Zercher, or front squats and bench press, (add tempos, pauses, weights, chains, or brands as progressions) dips, or pushups. Tempos, pauses, plyo/DB/ring/weighted versions can be used if one is capable.
- Drop set exercise for two to four quick rounds of high repetition isolation to finish the area where one is seeking to improve the most. These techniques forces one to complete the set until failure, namely the inability to do another repetition.
Working out at least three times per week
In this part of our interview with Kecman, we focus on those with more time. He recommends going three times per week and use the same warm-ups that we previously discussed. If one enjoys training more frequently and has the time, one must adjust the training split accordingly. Most people in general should work each muscle group twice a week.
If one enjoys going to the gym multiple days a week – more than three – and has the time, then one can adjust the split into four days to upper/lower body split. Or for six days, he recommends push/pull/legs, and repeat: this done twice a week.
But before one gets started, the trainer cautions to determine whether any sorts of old injuries exist, and if they do, to ensure that they are fully treated so that an optimal workout can take place.
Provided one doesn’t have any injuries or limitations, Kecman recommends an organized and periodized training program. This includes mapping out individual training goals over several months, which could prioritize specific fitness improvements like increasing muscle size while maintaining or slowing the rate of progression in other eras like max strength.
Planning is essential for optimizing fitness goals, he says. “If you only work on the same muscles groups or same specific improvements without making any changes to your fitness routines, you plateau and then regress,” he explains.
In order to prevent this – and to ensure that ones’ time in the gym is used wisely – Kecmen recommends shifting and then alter fitness goals. “This will allow you to continue making progress and it allows your body to adapt without having to plateau.
For this, Kecman recommends:
A full body workout. This includes bench squats, bench press, and dumbbell squats.
“This will allow you to find the appropriate movement, which again makes the body stronger,” Kecman explains, adding: “The body can now tolerate more work.”
This in turn shifts the body towards maintaining strength, and with it, building bigger muscles. This also means shifting towards other weight levels. This means more exercises and more sets per muscle groups.
“The linear progression stall after three months,” which is why changing and adjusting goals are essential,” Kecman says. This also prevents injury and stagnation he adds.
“If you are tired of not progressing the way you feel you should be, or your workouts continue to make you feel that you are regressing into ‘tin man status,’ perhaps it’s worth setting up some time with a personal trainer. Whether you have stalled, hurt yourself, or ‘fallen off the wagon’ due to the many excuses we give ourselves not to work out, having someone who does this for a living overseeing your gym time is the smartest move you can make for yourself. So, invest in your health and wellness and make the most out of the gym membership that you may, or may not be using,” he concludes.