Feel like you’re doing a lot in the gym but not seeing the results you were hoping for? Fitness coach, James Alexander-Ellis (opens in new tab), has shared five simple hacks in a recent Instagram post that he says will level up your existing exercise plan or workout routine. Here they are, in no specific order:
1. Use ‘time under tension’ stimulus for all of your sets
Time under tension, or “TUT” as it is also known, refers to the amount of time a muscle is held under any amount of strain during an exercise. To perform a TUT workout, you simply need to lengthen each phase of the movement to make your sets longer. The idea here is that it forces your muscles to work more, therefore optimising their strength and - eventually - growth.
Ellis advises that you should lower your regular weights much more slowly and count those seconds in your head. For example, in a typical 10-rep set, you’d be looking to make the set last for around 40 seconds, so 3 seconds down and 1 second up, for 10 reps.
2. Train twice a day (for a short period)
It might sound a bit much, but if you’re impatient and want to see gains and fast, Ellis recommends training twice a day for a short period of time as it will “give you more stimulus for growth”. Train the same body part with 6-10 hour rest in-between.
He reassures anyone worried about losing gains by saying that protein synthesis kicks in 24 hours after working out, so he suggests training heavy in the morning but with lower reps, then lighter in the evening with more volume but higher reps.
To support protein synthesis, it's beneficial to increase protein intake; the easiest and most convenient way to go about this is to use protein powder shakes after workouts. If you're a hard-gainer, you can use weight gainers instead.
3. Make your workouts more ‘painful’
Of course, we’d never advocate doing anything potentially dangerous in the gym – usually, pain is a sign your body is doing something that could cause injury; it’s not worth it. But what Ellis means here is that you should continue lifting even when feeling the burn, even when it becomes uncomfortable.
4. Shorten rest periods and time them
This is a simple one and merely entails shortening your rest period. Train your muscles to work under a partial recovery, and they will make them adapt and grow faster. After workouts, feel free to use foam rollers or massage guns to speed up recovery.
5. Focus on the exercises you aren’t good at
Get uncomfortable, and you’ll see gains come your way faster than ever, Ellis says. This is because humans naturally avoid the harder or more awkward stuff and prefer the moves we’re used to and thus better at. This means missing out on a different type of mechanical stimulus, and so focusing on the exercises your body finds difficult will force your body to adapt and help improve your results.