1. Pre-workout Meal:
Our bodies need fuel before a strength training workout session. Waking up in the morning and going to the gym to lift weights without eating is like driving a car with an empty gas tank.

Carbohydrates are an important part of this meal since they provide a major source of energy for our bodies. A mix of complex carbs, for a slow and steady release of energy; and simple carbs, for a burst of energy is ideal. Adding protein to the meal helps to minimize our body from breaking down the muscle we are trying to build.

Ex: Whole grain toast with almond butter and banana or oatmeal with blueberries.

2. Focus:
Proper form is sometimes comprised when our minds wander. Proper breathing technique and concentrating on proper muscle recruitment are key.

Holding your breath during weight training can cause a rapid and dramatic increase in blood pressure. The most effective way to breathe during resistance training is to inhale on the negative and exhale as you exert, or lift the weight. This helps to control your blood pressure and can prevent lightheadedness.

Focusing on the specific muscle being trained will assist with proper form and decrease your chance of injury.

3. Core:
Your core consists of your abdominal muscles, the muscles of your lower back, your pelvic floor, and your hips. Most movement starts at the center and moves outward. A solid core will help ensure that your movements are strong and pain-free, as well as improve your posture. During any strength exercise or movement it is important to activate your core muscles. This will help with balance and stability, help to protect your lower back from pain and injury, while strengthening your core muscles. So in this sense, every exercise is a core exercise.

4. Variety:
After about four to eight weeks your body gets used to the exercise pattern you’ve set it. After that your muscles become indifferent and don’t work as hard as they did at the beginning which can lead to hitting a plateau…a frustration and discouraging experience many of us can relate to. So to prevent reaching a plateau, and also to prevent boredom, it is important to change your routine every 4-8 weeks.

Different ways to add variety include changing the rep range or amount of sets, performing different exercises, using different grips, or even changing exercise environments.

5. Post-workout Meal:
After a strenuous workout your body is hungry for nutrients. Protein shakes are convenient because liquid is digested quicker than solid foods and is easy to prepare. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Fast digesting proteins, like whey isolate and egg whites, are good choices combined with fast digesting carbohydrates to refill glycogen stores that are depleted from the workout.
Ex: Whey protein shake with fruit.

6. Stretch after:
To stretch before or after workout has been a debate over time. An issue with doing static stretching before strength training is that it can make your muscles weaker which may not allow you to maximize your strength training session. Dynamic stretching prior may help prepare you for exercise without loss of strength. Be sure to do some static stretching after your workout to lengthen the muscles you just worked and to decrease post workout soreness. Hold static stretches for 25-30 seconds for full effect.

7. Cardio after strength:
Typically after doing an intense cardiovascular exercise session your body has used a lot of it’s energy and is exhausted. Leave major cardio for after your weight training session to optimize your energy for training and to lower your risk of injury due to fatigue. A simple five to ten minute cardio warm-up is recommended to prepare your body and mind your your strength training workout.

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