We’re all on our own fitness journey. From seasoned gym-goers to the "I’ll just stick to cardio" individuals, there’s always something to be learned. In order to avoid the dreaded plateau, you have to continue adding intensity to your workout. It might even be a quick fix.
Regardless of where you’re at, try these five helpful tips to add some power to your workout:
Use Your Breath
Breathe in, breathe out. Simple, right? Not so fast. When it comes to exercise, the way you breathe can make or break your entire workout. Whether you’re strength training or doing Pilates, efficient breath is crucial for delivering oxygen to the muscles to help you get the most out of your workout. If you’re one to regularly hit the weights, you’ve probably heard that you should exhale on the exertion or “effort” part of the exercise. This is because when you exhale, you’re essentially contracting the respiratory and core muscles, which allows you to brace yourself, and in return, give you more power during the rep, while also supporting your lower lumbar spine. When in doubt, breathe out! Holding your breath can increase pressure inside the chest and keep blood from flowing to your heart, which is bad news.
Be “All About That Bass”
While the concept of listening to music while you sweat isn’t exactly breaking news, it does help to know a few reasons behind why it works. For starters, music is a good kind of distraction. It makes you forget the negative goings-on outside and helps you be present and focus on the workout at hand — and it even makes you enjoy it more and push harder, per a recent study. Also, every workout has a musicality to it, whether it’s simply the rhythm of your breath (see above) or the cadence of your movement. Rhythm stimulates the motor area of the brain, telling our bodies when to move. By syncing with these time signals, we can keep a steady pace and use our energy more efficiently, thereby adding power to the workout. Not to mention that listening to a good tune makes you want to move. Basically, your playlist has the power to get you moving, no matter how much you’re dreading it.
Work Harder, Not Longer
A great way to up the intensity in your workout is through interval training. Relative to your athletic ability, the concept remains the same for everyone: Interval training refers to periods of intense work followed by periods of rest or recovery. Hard-working muscles produce lactic acid. If you’re running at a comfortable pace, for instance, your body has plenty of time to flush it away. As you start to work harder, the lactic acid starts to build up, leaving you with both burning muscles and a burning desire to stop. Interval training is all about learning to cope when you do reach that lactate threshold, so you can run faster for longer. In the meantime, doing more intense interval training for a shorter amount of time will help improve your stamina.
Focus on Your Weaknesses
Ever heard the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link”? Well, in this case, you’re only as powerful as your weakest muscle. Going to the gym and consistently working one body part is ineffective for total-body wellness, and it’s a good recipe for injury. Let go of your pride and be willing to start slower to build up your strength. Instead of staying in your workout comfort zone, try different genres of fitness. Go for a run or hike if you’re lacking on the cardio, try a yoga class if you know your flexibility needs work, or hit the dumbbells if you’re addicted to spin class. Keep switching it up so your body is always guessing; the more diverse your cross-training is, the more powerful you’ll be.
Train With Someone Stronger Than You
If you always train alone or with people of your own ability level, you are missing opportunities to exceed your own expectations. Try working out with someone who is physically stronger than you. Having someone around who inspires (or intimidates) you will always make you up your intensity level. And who doesn’t like a little healthy competition?