Have you been planning self-led workouts? Whether you’re writing your own gym routines or checking out some online workouts you need to ensure you’re including all the essential parts of a training session in order to stay safe and get the maximum benefit from all your efforts.
Planning a self-led workout isn’t difficult if you keep some basic training tips and good workout structure in mind. So, keep reading to make sure you are always in the best position to start an AF Connect Online on demand class or switch up your in-gym training routine.
General training tips
Always warm up properly before starting your workout. Never train a cold muscle as that increases injury risk. You can read more about warming up below but it’s important to remember that everyone will need slightly different things from their warm up. If the video you’re watching doesn’t have a warmup built in or it’s too short for you, find a warm up only video you do like and go through that beforehand. If you’re in the club take longer warm ups when needed.
Training with proper technique is crucial to avoid injury and maximise results. If you are unsure how to perform an exercise, seek advice from an AF Coach. If you are using any resistance (like fixed resistance equipment, free weights, kettlebells etc.), select a suitable weight that will allow you to complete the desired number of repetitions safely. Do not be tempted to lift heavier weights at the expense of good technique and always stop when you tire and your form is at risk of being compromised.
Breathe out on the concentric phase of the movement (when you lift the weight) and breathe in on the eccentric phase of the movement (lowering the weight). Never hold your breath. Use the full range of motion as you breathe, taking the muscle from its fully extended position to its fully contracted position. Partial repetitions will develop strength only in that portion of the movement, and produce only slow overall gains. Make sure you maintain full control of the weight throughout the movement. Swinging a weight too fast means momentum takes over to bear the load rather than the target muscles, putting your joints at risk of injury. Push evenly in each movement whether you’re using any resistance or not and focus on both the concentric and eccentric phases. Resist the weight as you return it slowly to the starting position.
Maintain good posture and neutral alignment of your spine throughout each exercise. Keep a strong core by drawing your navel towards your spine during each movement. To find the correct training tempo, count to two as you lift the weight, and count to three as you lower it. Hold the fully contracted position for a count of one (but do not relax) before returning the weight to the starting position. Visualising your target muscle contract and relax will not only help you perform the exercise with good technique but will also help you do more repetitions. It’s all about that mind-muscle connection!
Abs/core training tips
The function of ab movement is to draw the hips and ribcage together in a crunching motion. So, for every exercise, picture your ribcage and pelvis pulling together. Don’t worry about how far you are moving though as it’s the direction of movement that is most important. Do each movement in a slow and controlled manner. This increases the intensity of the contraction and minimises injury risk. Fast movements generate excess momentum and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Slow and steady really does win the race here.
Although your spine flexes during many of the exercises, keep your neck, head and shoulders in alignment. Don’t press your chin into your chest. Imagine you are holding an apple under your chin to keep it in the correct position with the correct spacing. As above, aim to perform each exercise with a full range of movement, really squeezing the muscles.
Training your abs every other day is sufficient. Working them more frequently won’t necessarily produce better results, and risks over-training and injury. If your abs are still sore, it’s too soon to train them again.
Before you start any workout, spend five to ten minutes doing light cardiovascular work. If you are in the gym; on a rower, stationary bike, elliptical trainer or treadmill and if you are at home, work or outdoors; jog, power walk, walk or follow a warm up video to raise your body temperature and prepare your body for more strenuous exercise. You should just break into a sweat but still be able to speak while you’re doing this.
Next, spend just a few minutes warming up your joints with some mobilising movements such as arm circles, knee bends, shoulder circles. Doing dynamic movements like this helps to avoid injury during heavier training. Try to match the warm up movements with the exercises you’re about to do. For example, if you’re doing squats do leg swings to get your hips and leg muscles moving.
If you are using any resistance (like fixed resistance equipment, free weights, kettlebells etc.), complete one or two warm up sets of 15-20 reps with very lightweight, for the first exercise in each of your workouts. This warms up the target muscles, ligaments and joints and prepares you mentally for your workout.
Stretching at the end of your workout will help improve your flexibility and posture; reduce the risk of muscle strain, joint injuries and back problems; and help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness. It will also help speed your recovery and increase your range of motion. Make sure you focus on your form and technique just as much as you did during the main part of your training session, it would be such a shame to increase the chances of injury after all your hard work. Stretch only when you are warm as cold muscles are prone to injury. Gradually ease into position, all the time focusing on relaxing the muscle. Stretch only as far as is comfortable and then hold that position. As the muscle relaxes ease further into the stretch with each breath. Exhale and relax as you go into the stretch and then breathe normally while you hold your position for a few seconds.
Never go past the point of discomfort or pain. This is a clear warning sign from your body that that’s enough! You can feel the stretch but there should be no pain and you should feel good afterwards. Stretches performed at the end of your workout should be held for 30 seconds or more, depending on how you feel and you should always release from the stretch slowly. Don’t rush into it and don’t rush out of it.
Now you should be feeling much more confident about planning a self-led workout and enjoying an on demand class. If you’re interested in more training and wellbeing tips, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow us on Facebook or Instagram.