Look, bro, “it” happens to everyone. There’s excitement at first. Things are moving and grooving. Your motivation is razor-sharp. Then somewhere along the way, all of that begins to wane. You’ve felt that in the gym before with your workouts haven’t you?
How many times have you started a new workout regiment only to find that after a few weeks you’re losing your drive to even hit the gym?
I used to jump to something new and flashy, even if the program I was doing was working and I saw gains. Man, that was a big mistake. You only need to swap programs only when you’ve eeked out every last inch of gains from what you’re doing
And I get it. Everyone thinks when things become stale that they need something new, a novelty that will inject some hutzpah into their routine. Really, what most people need isn’t sweeping changes. If your program is working and you’re seeing progress, don’t scrape it for something new just because you’re bored.
Still, what’re you supposed to do when those times come? Can you make workouts better when they get stale?
3 Simple Tweaks to Make Workouts Better When They Start to Suck
Tweak #1 – Listen to Movie Scores
My standard workout playlist, what I call the Playlist of Kickassery, is filled with everything from Eminem to Metallica to The Hives. But even the most badass playlist doesn’t carry the same umph as it once did when you hit a slump in the gym. You should be focused on your bench press or your deadlift instead of flipping through your track list, hoping the right song will deliver you from the darkness.
There’s an easy solution for this: ditch songs with lyrics and load up kickass movie scores.
Films like 300, Gladiator, Braveheart, or Batman Begins have some of the best heart-pounding instrumental music ever created. In fact, studies have shown that classical music has the power to help you sleep better and improves cognitive function (even for babies in the womb).
The repetitive nature of music may help to:
“bypass conscious control and speak straight to feelings, emotions, and senses….[and that music can] cause the listener to….experience the music as executing his or her will, and to precipitate sensations of an existential or transcendent nature, described variously as heavenly, ecstatic or trance-like.”
What this study found was that the repetitive nature of classical music versus music with lyrics fostered a trance-like state. And if you know the score really well, take anything from Star Wars for instance, there’s a profound effect on your brain.
The simple act of anticipating what’s coming next prepares your brain for a release of dopamine. And once those ominous, heralding horns blast in first few seconds of The Imperial March, your brain unlocks something deep inside you. In an instant, dopamine floods through your system faster than Darth Vader can ignite his lightsaber.
And getting into this trance-like mental space may be exactly what you need to turn the tide of battle you’ve been facing with your workouts.
Trick #2 – Visualization and the Mind-Muscle Connection
No person has been a greater influence on fitness and bodybuilding than Arnold. For Arnold, it was the power of his mind that set him apart from everyone else.
”It is the mind that visualizes what the body ought to look like as the finished product.”
Visualization is a powerful tool used by more athletes than The Austrian Oak. Days before a match, Muhammad Ali envisioned the moment his arms were lifted above his head, proclaiming himself the winner. He went as far to admit that he rehearsed in his head everything from the roar of the crowd, to the cheering of his coach, all the way down to the feelings he’d feel in that very moment of victory.
Of course, Arnold got started at a young age. One of his tools of visualization came from the posters he hung in his room as a teen. And he imagined — visualized — achieving their physiques every time he trained.
Maybe you can’t hang posters of nearly-nude dudes on your walls at home. But you could use one of Arnold’s other tools to help reinvigorate your training: the mind muscle connection.
The mind muscle connection is your ability to create tension or relax any muscle at will. One of the best ways to build this connection is by touching the muscle you’re trying to work.
For instance, if you can’t feel your lats in a row, switch to one arm rows and touch your lat with the opposing hand until you can feel the muscle engage. Establishing those neural connections leads to increased gains.
Some people thought the mind-muscle connection was “bro science” for years. But a recent study found that men who focused on a specific muscle, the triceps brachii and pectoralis major in this case, were able to increase activity of these muscles with weights at 60% of their one rep max, increased activity means you’ll recruit more motor units, break down and build more muscle, and that will translate to strength gains over time.
Trick #3 – Change Your Goal
There tend to be two camps when it comes to weight lifting: bodybuilders and powerlifters. At times, these camps can be a bit divided in how they approach lifting. But there are benefits to powerlifters training more like bodybuilders and bodybuilders training more like powerlifters.
And you find yourself leaning more towards one camp than the other but also getting burned out from the gym, it might be time to change your approach for a bit.
Powerlifters who spend some time training more like a bodybuilder will see a few benefits. It will cut your workout times down while allowing you to increase overall volume. That increase in volume will necessitate a decrease in weight used which decreases your chance of feeling like you’ve been hit by a freight train after each gym session. Focusing more on higher reps but lower weight will help you stimulate and maximize more hypertrophy. Not to mention help alleviate some of the stress your joints take from hoisting heavy weight all the time.
But bodybuilders can benefit from training like powerlifters. Lifting heavier weight forces more of your motor neurons to activate to move said weight. After any good bulk, it’s a great idea to switch gears and focus on strength for a while. A larger muscle is potentially a stronger muscle. But you have to unlock that untapped strength first. So training more like a powerlifter — lower reps, higher weight — will allow you to get more of that muscle working for you and your gains.
Slay the Slump and Make Your Workouts Better
Workout slumps happen. It’s an inevitability. But they don’t have to spell disaster for you. So if you’ve noticed that you’re less excited for hitting the gym, use one of the above tricks to inject some extra hutzpah back into your workouts.
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