Exercising is different from training. Going to the gym or heading out for a run is good, and you will in better shape by doing these things, but without a defined result in mind, you aren’t really training. If you want to reach your fitness goals, you will need to start a training plan, maximize your efficiency, and make space in your life for training so you can over obstacles and achieve results. 

One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make is that they think that just showing up counts, but this doesn’t work. Having a purpose in training can have a major effect on your results. Follow these tips for improving your performance and stopping going through the motions. 

Set A Goal, Choose A Plan, And Stick With It

Your fitness goals are entirely up to you. Do you want to burn fat, build muscle, improve endurance, get better at a sport, or a combination of several of these? If you’re serious about reaching your fitness goals, but you will need to do more than just get to the gym. 

Set goals that are based on performance rather than just going to the gym a certain number of times a week. For example, aim to deadlift twice your body weight, or do a certain number of chin-ups. Having a goal can make a big impact on your success. 

Include strength training to help you to prevent injury and improve your performance across all your activities. For example, if you’re an endurance athlete, adding a strength training component into your training can improve your running economy. It will help your transfer more efficiently and prevent you from breaking down sooner. You can’t exercise or lift if you’re always injured, and strength training stops that from happening as often. 

Train In The Transverse Plane

Human movement takes place in three planes of motion; the frontal (vertical plane divides the body into front and back portions), sagittal (vertical plane divides body into left and right portions), or transverse planes (horizontal plane divides the body into upper and lower portions). In order to increase your overall athleticism and help your movement quality, incorporate more exercises that make you move in the transverse plane, which is basically anything rotational. Wearable technology health and fitness can help you track any improvements. 

Many people tend to stay with forward/backward and up/down movement when they train, doing moves like squats or lunges, which are linear exercises. Add in exercises like rotational med ball tosses, shot put tosses, and cable woodchops with a hip rotation to get out of your comfort zone. 

Schedule Two Movement Days Every Week

If you’re a novice or intermediate trainee, do one movement day a week. On this day, do a 15 minute circuit of 8-10 mobility exercises like glute bridges, quadrupled extension rotations, and lying windmill repeated 3-5 times, followed by 15 minutes of sprint work. 

More advanced athletes can do two movement days a week. One should be dedicated to the mobility circuit and sprinting, and the other to just sprinting. Here is a sample sprint workout that you can try.

Sprint workout (movement day)

  • 10-yard knee skips
  • Duration: 3 rounds
  • 10-yard pushup and go (get into pushup position, explode up, and run 10 yards)
  • Duration: 4 to 8 rounds
  • Rest: 30 seconds between rounds
  • 20-yard sprints from two-point stance
  • Duration: 4 to 8 rounds
  • Rest: 30 seconds between rounds

A novice will rotate the direction that their movement will take place in during the movement days. Later on, you can switch out sprinting for more lateral movements like lateral touches, lateral skipping, and other lateral-agility drills. For advanced athletes, you can have movement day as linear, and the other lateral. 

Work In This Order: Big Lift, Fillers, Supersets

Weightlifting workouts should start with a compound barbell movement, such as squat, bench press, or deadlift. Your first compound movement should be paired with a filler exercise that addresses a problem area, such as hip mobility, core strength, or glute-activation exercise. 

Pair the first compound movement with a filler exercise because you’ll still be working on something of value and it won’t impede the next set of that big movement. 

Here are some ideas for filler exercises:

  • Bench press filler – band pull-apart to improve shoulder stability
  • Deadlift filler – glute bridge or one-leg glute bridge to activate your glutes
  • Squat filler – adductor mobilization to open up your hip joints

After the main lift/filler combination, program your exercises in supersets. A superset is a pair of exercises that activate opposing muscle groups, such as dumbells press with a lateral pulldown, with no rest between the exercises. Supersets can increase muscular endurance and size while forcing you to work harder in a shorter space of time. 

Hit The Back

Sitting at a desk all day and putting too much emphasis on the mirror muscles (the chest and arms), it can be easy to miss the back muscles when we work out. In order to avoid the muscle imbalances and get the most out of your lifting routine, schedule in a back exercise into every workout you do. 

Add in some sort of upper back work into every training session to help improve your posture. An upper back movement, such as rows or face pulls, will have a lot of carryover to deadlifting, squatting, and benching performance. 

Train Unilaterally

Unilateral training occurs when you only load one side of the body in an effort to improve stability, balance, coordination, and athleticism. Single-leg or single-arm work also has the often overlooked benefit of strengthening the core, as tension is increased in the area with more instability. 

There is no sport where you will be on two legs the whole time. You will be on one leg, and changing direction all the time, so including some single-leg work or off-set loading is essential to improve performance. Add exercises like loaded carries, or farmers walks, where you hold a dumbbell on one side and walk. These teach you to remain upright, which is more of a challenge for your core.