Workout secrets of the pros: how to boost your fitness, fast

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  • Is your fitness regime working hard enough? Charlotte Philby explores new workout secrets to maximise your performance and improve your stamina

    You might think you have your workout nailed, but chances are there are specific ways you can maximise your efficiency without spending more time on the treadmill.

    Research shows that simple tweaks – like working out with others – encourage commitment to goals. Listening to music has also been deemed so effective that a recent study described it as ‘a type of legal performance-enhancing drug’.

    But what else can you do to optimise your fitness game? Four experts reveal the workout secrets they give to their clients…

    ‘Avoid doing the same workout two days running’

    Joan Murphy, co-founder of Frame’s workout secrets: ‘Short, 20-minute sessions at a high intensity are really effective for building muscular endurance. Long, low-intensity workouts are beneficial for beginners and if you are wanting to workout but also need to allow your body recovery time. Mixing both is ideal.

    ‘To build strength, go for simple weight-training using your own body (press-ups and squats). Super sets performed at speed are a great way to maximise performance. An example of this would be in a kettlebells class, where you might do a goblet squat followed by a single arm press.’

    ‘Combine caffeine with protein’

    Pro nutritionist, Steve Grant, shares his workout secrets: ‘It’s part physiology, part psychology, but caffeine pre-workout can be an effective tool for getting the most out of your training – it lowers perceptions of fatigue so you can push yourself harder. In terms of food, the latest thinking is that it doesn’t matter what you eat before your workout, but rather over the 24-hour period around it.

    ‘It is important that you have a regular intake of protein-dense foods throughout the day – so skipping meals and then having a big post-workout blowout won’t cut it. Up your white meat, fish and dairy intake combined with lentils, quinoa and nuts. Also, research shows that eating some protein just before going to bed helps build muscle while you are sleeping.’

    ‘Don’t forget recovery’

    Asker Jeukendrup, the sports scientist’s workout secrets: ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite or recreational athlete, the advice for maximising your workout is the same whatever your goal. It may sound obvious, but it’s vital to have careful build-up
    in your training programme, and allow time to recover fully between exercises.

    ‘Stretching, massage, ice packs and hot baths can all be part of the recovery process, and foam roller manual therapy is a highly effective tool, too. Also known as myofascial release (MFR), it is the application of pressure to eliminate scar-tissue and soft-tissue adhesion by freeing up your fascia (connective tissue). In short, MFR using foam rollers enables you to become a stronger, faster, less injury-prone runner by helping your body repair itself. Quality sleep is also key for improving restoration during any new workout plan.

    ‘In terms of choosing whether to do more of something less challenging or less of something more challenging when it comes to muscle building – which is increasingly popular with women – I would move towards fewer repetitions with heavier weights. Using very light weights and a huge number of repetitions might help a tiny bit with losing body fat, but it is not going to help with body weight or build muscle. To ensure muscle growth stimulation, you must do what we call “going to failure”, which means going up in weights until you can’t actually lift it any more.’

    ‘Work your whole body’

    Personal trainer and health coach, Dmitri Tkatchev’s workout secrets: ‘For a gym-based workout, a whole body approach is key. Try to work as many muscle groups as possible to increase your metabolism and build stamina. Combine strength training, such as lifting weights or kettlebell work, with cardiovascular exercises, such as running or cycling.

    ‘A big advantage of strength-training endurance exercises is preserving muscle mass, something that is often lost when only doing cardio. For strength exercises, aim for 15-plus high repetition ranges, which promotes muscular endurance and increases metabolic demand on the body.’

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