Written, January 2018
Training hard is easy; training smart is the key to achieving long term fitness and performance results. Using too much weight, trying to perform a challenging exercise or working too hard without being properly conditioned will lead to serious injury. Whether you’re training by yourself, with a personal trainer, or in a group exercise class. Your number one objective should be to train smarter before working harder.  

Here are seven strategies that can help you train smarter versus training harder.

1. Take the time to properly warm up.
It’s no secret that most people hate warming up. We have some athletes who we have to drag to the warm up area once class starts. The warm up should be considered the most important part of the the training session. Spending time attack mobility and activation issues, while increasing circulation and heart rate, and preparing the body for the upcoming training session.

2. Do sets for time, not for repetitions.
Instead of counting for a specific number of repetitions, perform as many repetitions as possible with good form in a certain time frame. Start with 20-30 seconds work sets with at least 1 minute rest periods. Remember good form is king, and once you begin to lose good form stop, no matter how much time is left on the clock.

3. Know when to stop to decrease your chances of getting hurt.
Challenge yourself to work hard, but STOP as soon as your form starts to diminish. You may want to keep going, but if you continue to perform the exercise with poor form you will greatly increasing your risk of injury.

4. Know when and how to REGRESS an exercise.
Often when we get new clients, they always try to do the hardest exercises first. Check your ego at the door, and don’t be afraid or ashamed to perform a regressed version of an exercise if needed. You must understand how to break down exercises into individual steps so you can properly navigate through the progressions.

5. Know how to correctly use high intensity interval training (HIIT) or Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon)
HIIT and MetCon programs have become the most recent overused terms of the fitness industry. Now don’t get me wrong HIIT and MetCon work! When done correctly has been shown to torch fat, improve anaerobic power, and aerobic conditioning. The problem is, very few people perform HIIT sets properly. Just because you perform an exercise for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds and complete this cycle 8 times doesn’t mean you are doing HIIT. It just means you are now one of those people…
Most people are not physically ready for the intensity a true HIIT or MetCon session. Instead build your training base and experience with less intense conditioning.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Lift Heavy.
Studies have shown that many people do not use enough resistance. Muscles grow in response to the applied stimulus, which can be achieved by lifting heavy. Lifting heavy one to two times a week can help you develop the lean muscle that you want.
Trust me, It will NOT lead to looking like a bulked-up cartoon superhero.
Not using enough weight is like spinning wheels and could keep you from seeing the results that you want to see.

7. Implement Recovery Strategies.
One thing I say at the end of every class: “Make sure you stay hydrated, and you stretch.” There’s a reason why the U.S. Olympic Training Center and almost every professional-level sports team have recovery protocols. The workout is when physiological stress is applied, but the post-workout recovery period is when the body actually adapts to that stress. There are a number of different recovery strategies available; learn them so you can apply the appropriate suggestions to help with your recovery and properly prepare for tomorrow’s workout.

Long gone are the days of “No pain, no gain.” Taking a smarter approach to training will be extremely beneficial as opposed to training harder. Use these 7 strategies to implement a smarter training approach.

Dedicated To Your Success,

Andrew Hamel MS, CSCS

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