Alex Hutchinson, in Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? describes research that showed that people who were given the exact same exercise program to follow made greater strength gains when they worked out under the supervision of a trainer. You just work harder when someone's watching you. This kinda sucks, because very few people can do every workout under the supervision of a personal trainer. Even if I felt like spending the money, scheduling all those workouts would be a nightmare.
However, I have picked up a few tricks that have improved the quality of my trainerless strength training workouts:
- Music. According to Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? studies have shown that listening to music while working out improves performance. Interestingly, different kinds of music appear to be optimal for different kinds of exercise. For running, cycling, or other cardio exercise, fast paced music seems to have the best effect, whereas for weight training, "motivational lyrics" appear to be more important. I'm slowly refinish a weight lifting playlist. It does seem to help a bit.
- Accountability. A couple of workouts ago, I got down on the floor to do some knee pushups, and lay there thinking, "Crap, I can't do this." After lying there with my nose pressed to the carpet for a bit, I thought, "Okay, you can give up, but when you go to the gym on Wednesday, you have to tell your trainer that you wimped out and didn't do any pushups in your last workout." I promptly busted out 3 sets of 12. There's probably someone in your life - your spouse, a friend, your healthmonth team, your LJ friendslist - to whom you'd rather not admit failure. Or to whom you'd love to brag about a success. Use that.
- Lie to yourself. I hate planks. I hate ab work in general, but there's something particularly evil about the plank. Maybe it's because you expend an unholy amount of effort just to hold your body still. So, today, my workout plan was: squats, lunges, knee pushups, overhead press, and planks. And by the time I got to the overhead press, I was starting to feel tired. So, I said to myself, "Look, just give it everything you got on the overhead press, and we'll skip the plank." A deal I was more than happy to take. I did my 4 sets of overhead presses and I made them the best overhead presses I've ever done. And then had the following dialogue with myself:
"Okay, now plank."
"But you said..."
"I lied. Plank."
"Look, what's going to do you more good in the gym on Wednesday? Unbroken promises or strong abs?"
Eventually, I will figure out that I am a lying liar who lies, and this trick will no longer work on me. I'm kind of hoping that by then I'll have learned to love the plank.
*Surely it's only a matter of time before someone capitalizes on the craze for all things Austen and releases Squats and Sensibility: The Thinking Girl's Guide to Looking Fabulous in a Ballgown and Being Able to Deadlift Mr. Darcy. I'd buy it.