In this article you will learn
- What it means to train smart;
- What are the basic “rules” we should follow if we want to train smart;
- What self-regulation means and how to reap its benefits.
One of the most important fitness lessons I’ve learned over the years is, “Train smart!”.
How simple it just sounds, right? “Train smart and you’ll be fine!”, “Just train smart and you’ll reach your goal!”.
Yes, but behind those two words is a lifetime’s worth of material, because everyone understands what training smart means to them as they go along their path.
It’s one thing to read something and another to try it out for yourself.
Well, there are still a few “rules” that could be defined as more common and it is these rules that we will focus on now.
Train according to your experience
It is very common to find absolute beginners who enter the gym for the first time and throw themselves into advanced programs. More and more I see teenagers training one muscle group per workout because that’s what their favourite professional bodybuilder does.
The opposite of this are the people who have been training for 5, 6, 7+ years but… don’t change anything in their training program – not the arrangement and choice of exercises, not the sets and reps, not even the weights. To be honest, when you hear that someone has been training for 7 years, you think they are advanced, but in reality their reality and their behaviour in the gym does not meet expectations.
In order to train smart, we need to tailor our program to our experience, goals and recovery capabilities.
Train according to your goal
Get clear on what you want to achieve and train so that you get closer and closer to your goal, not the other way around.
A concrete example: many women want to have a tight look, lifted butt and shapely legs but throw themselves into endless, daily and monotonous cardio.
In this case, they should seek out the proper information to see that their goal requires other means (or let’s face it, in a large percentage of cases, it’s weight training).
To train smart, we need to use the right “weapons” for us and our goal.
Train according to your own characteristics
Yes, it’s true that we humans don’t differ much in our anatomy.
Yes, it is true that many people want to gain muscle mass and many people want to lose fat.
BUT that doesn’t mean that each group should train identically.
Because after all, we are different and although we have the same anatomy, there are many other factors at play that require a specific approach.
There are people who don’t realise that because of their lifestyle they have weak muscle groups and kinks (a result of sitting in a chair for hours on end, staring at a screen with incorrect posture etc). Instead of working on these units, they deliberately avoid them “because it’s more important to have big arms than to work on a healthy back”.
In order to train smart, we need to train according to the specifics of our own bodies.
Train the whole body
This sign, by which we will know if our workouts are smart, is a consequence of the above point.
It so happens that some people think they only have biceps and abs. Day after day, week after week, month after month (or for the entire summer season).
Remember, in order to train smart, we need to train the whole body adequately.
Whether it’s in one workout or a split – it doesn’t matter. It’s important to pay enough attention to all the parts and not intentionally strengthen some and weaken others. This leads in its aftermath to inharmonious appearance, a lot of imbalances, which in turn reflect on aches, distortions and other undesirable consequences.
Train not for the sake of the goal in the first place, but for the sake of the movement itself.
Or in other words – train with love! Love what you do in the gym (or where you practice your workouts).
Very often people start a certain type of workout “just to lose weight”, “to get fit for the summer”, etc.
This, in the long run (in my eyes), is a recipe for unsatisfactory results if the desire to exercise is not driven by the sheer enjoyment of the movement.
If someone goes to the gym forcefully, they are likely to quit soon, because how are you going to last long with negative thoughts and a negative attitude? Every time you get your workout jacket ready to go you say to yourself “Ugh… I have to go to the gym again, but I so want to look like X”.
To workout smart, change your mindset. Find the movement you enjoy. Find the program that brings you pleasure.
The goal will be achieved eventually if you…
Train hard, but pay attention to auto-regulation
There’s a nice little tale that if we want something we’ve never had, maybe we should do something we’ve never done.
Or another – we can’t expect different results if we do the same thing every day.
Let’s carry these things into the territory of exercise – we may want to lose excess fat, but keep stuffing ourselves with food and not moving enough. We need to change something in our habits to progress towards the goal.
Many people set goals that require them to exercise outside of their comfort zone.
They’ve decided what kind of program they’re going to follow at the gym and the approach is clear – train hard to the max.
And right here is the stumbling point that could get in the way of smart training if we don’t know how to get over it, namely through self-regulation.
Auto – regulation in training terms means making decisions during your workout regardless of what the pre-plan was. These decisions are determined by how you feel – have you fully recovered, had enough sleep, etc.
Sometimes more doesn’t mean better, and if you train hard every time, ignoring your body’s signals, you run the risk of falling into a plateau that could have been avoided through auto-regulation.
Training smart means being mindful during your workout, and if you have to – today you’ll complete the set 5kg less than planned because you had a hard physical work yesterday and didn’t sleep well last night.
Progress is not the ideal straight line. Often, to get from point A to point B, we have to deviate. It is up to us how long that diversion will be and with what consequences.
These are the basic “rules” that I personally follow in my training and have gone through.
To finish I will say: go slow and train smart!
And now to give you the word.
Are you one of the smart players in the workout game?
What are the principles you follow in this regard?