After more than 12 months of entering and leaving lockdowns, most of us have changed our workout routines more than once (with varying results). Have you struggled to raise the motivation to hit the weights? Or, perhaps worse, maybe you’re putting in the work and breaking a sweat, but aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped for?
Both of these things can take us back to the couch and those binge-watch sessions, which is not ideal when we could all do with getting the endorphins going right now. That’s why we’ve come up with these exercise-smashing tips to help those of you looking to push your workouts to the next level.
Lose the empty carbs
White bread, potatoes, rice and pasta may well be staple student food groups, but if you’re looking for a bit of a detox, then ditch these empty, low-nutrient carbs in favour of whole grains like quinoa and carbohydrates that are rich in nutrients, such as sweet potatoes.
These unprocessed carbs contain lots more of the good stuff that’s going to help your workouts in the long run. Make sure you’re also getting plenty of veggies, protein and healthy fats, instead of relying on empty calories to make up your meals.
Go for H2O
Fizzy drinks and alcoholic beverages are big on sugar and calories. Instead, make sure you’re getting plenty of water throughout the day.
Doing so will reduce bloating and limit your calorie intake, while adding sliced cucumbers, limes, oranges and mint to your glass adds an extra hit of flavour. Plus, these fruits and veggies also provide further minerals and vitamins, all of which are great for your skin, muscles and tissues.
Be sure to hydrate throughout the day. Since it takes a couple of hours for the body to absorb water, it won’t be enough to simply glug down a glass right before you begin exercising.
Maximise workouts with compound exercises
We’ve all had enough of isolation at the minute, and for your muscles, things aren’t any different either. If you’re in the habit of doing isolated exercises such as bicep curls, it’s better to spend the same time on your workouts doing exercises that hit multiple muscle groups at the same time – giving you a full-body workout.
Things like squats, lunges, push-ups, bench presses, rows, pullups and a whole host of other exercises all require different muscle groups to work in tandem as they would do in the real world, rather than alone like they would with a bicep curl.
Switch up your sessions
Sticking to the same workout routine not only gets a little dull, but it’s bad for the body too. Without mixing up your exercises once in a while, your body will adjust to the stress level, preventing you from getting the benefits of a good workout.
Performing multiple variations of an exercise changes muscle mass and the amount of weight you can lift, both of which translate to greater gains (and who doesn’t want those?). Keep your body guessing by adding in variations of your usual exercises every few weeks. For cardio, rather than simply running every time, give cross-training a go instead.
Keep it slow and watch your form
When it comes to things like strength training and swimming, good form is key. If you’re new to lifting, then start with lighter weights so you can keep an eye on your form.
It might be tempting to channel your inner Arnie and go for a heavier weight, but perhaps the most important thing to remember is: never sacrifice form for heavier weights. Improper form can not only minimise the effectiveness of your workouts, but it could lead to injury too.
Likewise, lighter weights let you focus on, and achieve, a slower speed of lifting. A lot of people contract their muscles slowly, and then release on the downward direction on say, a bench press. If you lift slowly in both directions, you’ll be maximising each move, so aim to lift and lower to a 5-second count in each direction.
Only do cardio? Get on the weights too!
By only doing cardio, your metabolism will end up going down, which makes weight loss tougher to achieve. Resistance training, on the other hand, builds muscle to increase your metabolic rate. If you’re into your running but don’t trouble the weights, then it’s time to add some lifting to your routine too. Need some proof? A study at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that in 10,500 adults, those who spent 20 minutes a day weight training gained less abdominal fat over the course of 12 years, compared to those who spent the same amount of time just doing cardio.
Give interval training a go
High-Intensity Interval Training – or HIIT – has been a big hit (sorry, not sorry) in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. This kind of training, which involves bursts of all-out energy broken up with short, low-intensity breaks, provides more cardio and fat-loss benefits than any other workout.
These workouts will differ, but generally, they’re 20-30-minute sessions with exercises that include push-ups, burpees, squats and lunges performed with short 10-second rests and then repeated. Want to hit refresh on your workouts? Interval training is the way to go!
Get in the habit of good sleep
Finally, a lot of the effort you put into the workouts will count for little if you can’t get the right amount of quality sleep. Poor sleep hinders your exercise performance (and your performance in just about everything else, for that matter), the number of calories you burn, and your body’s ability to come back stronger after every workout. Make sure you’re getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
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