FitnessHow To

5 Ways to Hack Your Strength Training Workout 5/5 (2)

When it comes to a strength training fitness regime, it is easy to get into a routine. You work out with the same exercises on the same days in the same way you always do. Your results? They stay the same. Or they are not as grand as they could be. Shaking up your strength training with a few tricks can result in better workouts and better results. Check out these simple ways to hack your strength training workout.

strength training, dumbbells
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Staff Sgt. Jason Cravens, 727th Air Mobility Squadron, uses a pair of dumbbells to accomplish a three step forearm exercise at the North Side Fitness Center here May 12, 2011. One way to work out all of the muscles in the forearm is to do sets of palm-up wrist curls, palm-down wrist curls and wrist twists said Sgt. Cravens. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

1. Hold the Dumbbell Differently.

Are you holding the dumbbell at its center? Rooky mistake. Next time you go for a bicep curl, grasp the dumbbell at its far ends. This new hand placement changes how the weight is distributed when you do the curl, which makes your biceps have to work harder to perform the same curl. You get a bit more of a workout in the same amount of time (you can find out the science behind why this works here).

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strength training, gym, weightlifting

2. Talk to Yourself. 

Every gym has that one guy. The guy who stands in front of the mirror as he lifts, giving himself a loud pep talk as he lifts and yelling out “Oh yeah. You the man. Who’s the man? You the man” with each curl.

Don’t be that guy. Obviously. No one can stand that guy. As annoying as it is to admit though, that guy is on to something.

Talking to yourself as you work out can help you push yourself farther than you normally would go. One research study found that those who engage in motivational self-talk were able to work out longer than those who did not. Our feeling of exhaustion when we work out is partly psychological. Of course, there is a very real burning of muscles that is not “just in your head”. But our brains often coax us to stop long before our body needs to.

Our feeling of exhaustion when we work out is partly psychological. Of course, there is a very real burning of muscles that is not “just in your head”. But our brains often coax us to stop long before our body needs to.

It’s why we can have better endurance when we work out with someone else. The mental desire to stop is overrun by our competitiveness and desire to appear strong to the other person. They serve as the motivational pressure to keep going. When we work out alone, we can engage in motivational self-talk to last longer in the gym. You can tell yourself “I can do a few more reps” or “it’s too early to quit, I can do more” in your head as a little pep talk. Say (or think) it with conviction and you may be surprised at the difference it makes in your ability to keep going.

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3. Spread Your Workouts Throughout the Week

Take two groups of people. They each do the same volume of strength training workouts. One group spreads the workout exercises across three days a week. The other group completed all the workout exercises on one day. Which group saw better results over a twelve week period?

The three days a week group. The one day a week group only gained 62% of the strength improvement and saw less lean mass increases as compared to the other group. By simply changing how often you workout, you can see more improvements doing the same quantity of work. It can be hard to find the time to go to the gym more often, but doing so can give you better results which make your time in the gym more efficient.

strength training, rucking

4. Throw in Strength Training into Your Aerobic Workout. 

Implementing your strength training within your aerobic workout can help cut down on the time spent working out without sacrificing the personal gains. If you are struggling to find the time to workout your shoulders, back, and abs, go rucking as a way to combine your aerobic workout and strength training. Rucking involves walking or hiking with a weighted backpack, allowing you to get the aerobic benefits while also targeting key muscle groups. As you walk, the backpack engages your shoulders, back, and abs and allows you to build them up as you would lifting weights. You can go rucking in nearly any place, from the park to the nature reserve to your treadmill. For tips on creating a rucking workout, check out this article.

Another option is to combine workouts as you rest between sets at the gym. Do your shoulder workout. Then jog in place or jump rope as you give your body time before the next rep. You may get a few weird looks, but you can get your accelerated heart rate workout squeezed into your strength training workout.

5. Use a Military Fitness Test as Your Goal

Without goals, it is extremely hard to make progress. The lucky few can motivate themselves to go to the gym, workout as hard as they can consistently, and see improvements happen over the course of time.

For the rest of us mere mortals, we need something to work towards as motivation. We need a set number to target, allowing us to measure our ability to get closer to it over time. There are an infinite number of fitness tests out there you can use as your goal, but using a fitness test from your favorite branch of service can provide an extra bit of motivation. You can use fitness test requirements from the Marine Corp, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Coast Guard.

When it comes to personal progress, there is no shortcut. You have got to put in the time and effort if you want to see real results. But along the way, you can hack your workout a bit to make your efforts more efficient. Every little bit helps when you are working towards your ideal level of fitness.

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The Author

Madison Garner

Madison Garner

Madison is a freelance writer with an endless curiosity for fitness and survival know-how. She admires the resilience, passion, and grit of the military personnel she's known in her life. When she's not writing, you'll often find her hiking in the woods with a packed rucksack.