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By Shaun Stafford.

Shaun Stafford is a 2x World Fitness Champion, Director at Central London Performance Gym, City Athletic (www.cityathletic.co.uk) and is an Ambassador for sports nutrition brand, Optimum Nutrition.

1) Ditch the LISS for some HIIT! Switch your steady state cardio for some more intense intervals...                                                                       

When you see most people slogging it out on the treadmill, they are usually performing a bout of Low Intensity, Steady State (LISS) cardio. This typically gets the heart rate up to about 60-65% of your maximum, and lasts from 40 minutes to an hour…

Instead, try mixing things up by performing some High Intensity Intervals (HIIT): not only will it save you time, but it is scientifically proven to burn more fat than other forms of cardio.

Jump on a bike and power the legs (as hard as you can) for 10 seconds, before taking 50 seconds to recover… try this work: recovery combination for 8-15 times in a row for a killer blast that not only gets you feeling fit, but looking the part too!

2) Check your ego at the door and drop the weight to “feel the burn”! It’s a classic workout mistake witnessed in every gym I’ve ever been to: rows of people rushing through each rep, with a weight that is too heavy to really control the range of motion or technique.

Try dropping the weight on your selected exercise, and making an effort to slow every rep down, squeezing the muscle at the peak of the move, and controlling back down through a full range of motion. As simple as it sounds, this is the best way to really stimulate the muscle you are trying to work, and reduces any chance of muscle or joint injuries.

3) Get compound... swap out single joint exercises for compound, multi-joint moves. More muscles moving = more fat burned!

If hitting the gym in your lunch hour or after work, chances are you are probably pushed for time to get a really effective workout. Rather than focusing on single joint “isolation” exercises, (such as the bicep curl or seated extension) try swapping them for a big, multi-joint, compound move (like a Squat, Deadlift, Pull-up or Bench press).

Any exercise that uses more than one joint, and therefore more than one muscle, will have a higher metabolic impact, and therefore bring about better results in double quick time!

4) If looking to change your body, do your weights first: save your energy to push more weight... and leave the cardio for the end!

If we are looking at which form of exercise is going to have the most significant impact on body composition (burning fat and building lean tissue), all the research leans to doing resistance training or free-weights over cardio.

This doesn’t mean I suggest dropping cardio altogether (if looking to build a well rounded and healthy body, both forms of exercise are essential), but make sure you don’t tire yourself out on the exercise that is going to have more of a significant impact on changing your body.

Attack the weights whilst you are fresh into your session and can lift the weights more effectively, and save the cardio until the end of your workout when you are a little more fatigued.

5) Bring a bottle... hydration is key for performance, so get a big a bottle and stop making trips (resting) to the water fountain between sets!

Hydration is an often-overlooked factor when training, and could be limiting your progress. If you are 1% dehydrated, training performance can drop by up to 13%: this is significant when striving for your best.

Aim to consume about 250mls every 15mins when training (and about 0.04litres per kg body weight throughout the day) for optimal hydration levels.

Don’t let this get in the way of keeping your rest periods tight however: get a large bottle and fill it up at the start… this will save you time walking back and forth to the fountain, and allow you to focus on the task at hand with your workout!

6) Take your time! Timing your rest periods is crucial: get an old-school stopwatch and make sure your rests are under 60 seconds to keep your heart rate high!

A large percentage of the gym going population takes too long rest periods: not only does this prevent the muscles getting the most efficient ratio of stimulus to recovery, it also steals a crucial level of intensity needed to have a kick-ass session.

If you are lifting heavy weights, with the primary purpose of improving strength (1-5 reps), then longer rest periods over 2 minutes are needed… if you are working in the 6-12 rep range (which most people trying to get buff are) that rest period should drop to between 60-90 seconds!

If focusing on endurance, and your reps are upwards of 12-15+, then your rest periods want to be short and sharp and as close to 60 seconds as possible… This will keep your heart rate high, and will allow your workout to be more metabolically focused: a must if trying to get your body to change shape, fast!

7) Stay Classy: if you need a break from your program, get involved in some classes for a week! Most gyms offer a great class timetable that can reignite your motivation and offer a nice change from your routine...

Sometimes you get to the gym, and you just cannot be bothered. Tough break. It happens. Sometimes picking up your program card is the last thing you want to do… so don’t!

Why not check out the class timetable at your gym and see what other options are available. Most class time-tables have a real healthy blend of classes (from Spinning Intervals to Yoga, Pilates to Circuits…) and there is something about a group training environment that can give your motivation a much needed kick up the backside!

I don’t think I have ever met a guy in the gym who lifts weights regularly who wouldn’t benefit from a yoga class to improve flexibility and mobility. I also don’t think I have ever met a Yogini who couldn’t benefit from a circuits class or interval training session, do get a deeper level of fitness conditioning…

The key to progressing in the gym is to keep the stimulus on your body varied and progressive, and classes can provide a great supplement to get you outside your comfort zone, and reinvigorated by exercise.

School of Success