How to take your workout to the next level

Are you already in pretty good shape and now need to take your workout to the next level?

Here are some tips and suggestions about taking it up a notch.  Some of these are fairly obvious but some others you might not have thought of.

Obvious ways:

Do more (in order of effectiveness)

o    Time – spend an extra 15-30 minutes at the end of your current workout doing a cardiovascular exercise like jogging/ running, spinning or the elliptical machine.  Do this about 2-3 times per week and you’ll burn tons extra fat calories.  Cardiovascular exercises at the end of a workout will utilize more of the energy (calories) stored inside the body’s fat cells and will therefore produce quicker results.

o    Days/week – It’s safe to say that for most people an hour long strength building workout with some cardiovascular exercises mixed in will burn anywhere from 350-600 calories in an hour.  By increasing the number of these types of workouts you get in a week you’ll obviously burn more calories and start seeing more results!

o    Weight – don’t opt for the lighter resistance; increase the amount of resistance you usually use, even if it’s just 10%.  Increasing the resistance will make your body work harder and will burn a few extra calories.  This doesn’t mean you have to stack on the weight, just add more than you are use to. You can always go back to the easier resistance between sets.

o    Repetitions – Instead of doing 10-15 reps of an exercise, increase it to 20-25 reps. The best way to tone muscle is to use it over and over again.  10-15 reps is a good start, but once you get use to doing something, it’s time to change it up and adding additional reps should do the trick.

o    Use Training Variables – Training variables are things you can do to change how an exercise is preformed.  A couple examples include: change the speed at which you perform the exercise (go faster or slower), change the grip you normally use to perform an exercise, or do a mega set (this is where you do three exercises back to back to back then start over again).  There are about 18 different training variables in all and any good trainer should be able to guide you on how to use them properly.

Eat less

  • Eating less isn’t the same as skipping meals.  The goal should be to eat smaller meals more often.  Skipping meals slows down your natural metabolism while eating on a schedule will keep your metabolism working at a higher rate.  Stop trying to lose weight by skipping meals, it is a horribly ineffective technique.
  • Cut some of the carbohydrates. FACT: one ounce of carbs (bread, pasta, rice) has about three times as many calories as one ounce of protein. So, cutting the amount of carbs in your diet will cut many of the calories in your diet as well. (This is NOT an endorsement for a low or no carbohydrate diet, just a reminder that you do not need to eat bread at every meal, especially at restaurants).

Less Obvious:

  • Stop talking during your workout.  When you are talking you are detracting from the effort you should be putting into your workout.  The rule of thumb should be, if you are able to hold a conversation, then you are not pushing yourself hard enough.  It doesn’t matter if you are walking, running, or lifting weights, you should not be able to hold a conversation.  However, you should be able to answer questions (from your trainer) with short answers.  If you are unable to do so, then you are likely working too hard.
  • Focus on each exercise you perform, better yet, focus on each rep you perform.  Pay attention to the muscle contract; think about how you want that muscle to look someday.  Focus on your form, your breathing, and your range of motion.  Ensure you are going through the entire range of motion and if you aren’t sure what this means or what the proper range of motion is, then you should be seeking help from a professional that does know.
  • If out on a run, bike, swim or any cardiovascular event; have a goal.   Don’t just go for a run.  Your goal can/should be time or distance based.  During your run, you can add additional goals, like hanging with the group that is typically in front of you, versus being content with what you normally do.  Or, you can sprint up hills and jog down hills, another goal is to run a certain distance for time, then at some point in the future, you try to get to that same point quicker.  Having a goal will help keep you focused and motivated to accomplish it.
  • During your sets – Avoid taking all the small breaks.  Skipping a rep here and there, resting the resistance on a protruding body part on the way down or using momentum or allowing tension off of the muscle are all ways to cheat.  Despite your trainers requests, demands and pleads, you are the only one who can actually stop cheating.  Pushing through those extra few reps and not taking the breaks will make the muscles get stronger, leaner and will help burn off those extra calories.
  • Gadgets – yes, add something extra to your workout and reap all the benefits.  Add a few of the below recommended products to your normal routine and all of a sudden you will have a completely new workout that will challenge you in new ways.  It doesn’t matter if you are an outdoor conditioning client or an in home Personal Training client. These items will work!

o    Medicine balls – Can be used with squats, lunges, abs, running, jumping, etc. (these are small balls that are weighted and come in 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, lbs.)

o    Weighted vests – Can be used with squats, lunges, running, jumping, etc.

o    Bosu Ball – Good for most lower body exercises like squats and lunges; assists in the development of the core body to help prevent injuries and lower back pains.

o    Weighted jump ropes – Assist in increasing cardiovascular intensity, therefore burning more calories.

o    Stability balls – Assist in the development of the core body to help prevent injuries and lower back pains. (these are the large balls that you can sit on)

o    Wrist and/or ankle weights – Increase your intensity while running/walking to get your heart rate up higher and help you burn more calories.

For a one time cost, these gadgets will enhance your workout and your fitness a great deal.

Author Bio:


Tom Kalka is the President and CEO of Custom Fitness Concepts in Virginia which offers a wide range of personal fitness training programs.  If you are serious about ramping up your workouts, try a fitness boot camp for free and see what a difference it can make.