Are you doing everything you can to get the most out of your gym time? I’m not talking about downloading the latest workout from your favorite fitness site, or trying a new piece of equipment. No, I’m talking about 3 really simple things to do before, during, and after your workouts so you can reap the benefits of your efforts.

 
WARM UP
A proper warm up should prepare you for the real workout ahead and is one of the best safeguards against injury, and this needs to be more involved than doing 1-2 light sets of the first exercise in your workout. Before you even get to your scheduled workout, spend 5-10 minutes getting your body ready.

For example, let’s say it’s leg day. Instead of jumping right into squats or leg presses, do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps of dynamic stretching, such as leg swings, high kicks, etc., to get the blood flowing to the muscles, get them warm, and increase your range of motion. Then do a couple of sets of light leg extensions before you get to your first heavy compound exercise. Your hips and knees will thank you for it!

Or if it’s an upper body day, say a chest or shoulder workout, do a few sets of rotator cuff exercises, such as internal and external rotation, followed by a superset of very light lateral raises and dumbbell presses for 10-15 reps.

 
VISUALIZE
They say seeing is believing, and I truly support this when it comes to your fitness goals. In your mind, “see” the physique you are trying to build. And be specific. Picture your body exactly how you want it to look. And it’s important to see yourself this way, not a celebrity or someone else.

Also, visualize your actual workout. See yourself doing the exercises with perfect form and completing all the reps. Do this in-between sets, and during the set. See your muscles working to move the weight. It’s just like other athletes visualizing themselves running a perfect race or making the game winning shot.

 
COOL DOWN
Some people race out of the gym immediately following the last rep of the last set, feeling that since the workout is over, they’re done for the day. It’s important to come back down slowly from strenuous exercise, specifically so you can let heart rate get back to normal slowly, so you don’t feel dizzy or light headed.

I do static stretching for 5-10 minutes after weight training. It’s also the perfect time for this as you should never stretch a cold muscle, which can result in injury.

To cool down from cardio, I’ll walk for 3-4 minutes, gradually slowing down my pace. Then I’ll stretch my legs and lower back, again with static stretches such as touching my toes, the hurdlers stretch, etc.

 

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ABOUT NICOLE

One of the biggest names in the fitness industry, Nicole Wilkins is a world-record holding four-time Figure Olympia Champion and 2012 IFPA Personal Trainer of the Year. Nicole earned her BA in Wellness, Health Promotion and Injury Prevention at Oakland University. The owner and founder of nPower Nutrition, Nicole has helped thousands of people start living a healthier lifestyle and reach their fitness goals.

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