Your workout should be a sacred part of your day.
Any stress or problems eating away at you should be left at the door. The fight with your girlfriend or the upcoming deadline at the office will cripple your workout if they’re allowed to enter the gym.
Focus and energy are the only two things that must be present. You must have a clear mind so that you can focus on your body and how it feels as you execute your training regimen. And you must have physical energy so that you can perform and push yourself past your previous best.
Improvement is the name of the game. Whether it’s loading ten more pounds onto the bar, performing one more repetition, or perfecting that new exercise that your body just can’t seem to get down – you must be fully present in order to improve. Below I want to offer you five tips that allow me to bring energy and focus to each and every workout.
1. Review your purpose
Whether today you’re pushing for a new five rep max on your squat or just trying to nail down proper squat depth, you must review what your purpose is before you get there. There’s nothing worse than arriving to the gym, getting changed, and walking out onto the gym floor only to stop and scratch your head thinking about where you should begin. Having a defined purpose will boost your focus by definition, and allow you to perform that much better as a result.
2. Select appropriate music
When you work out, you want to create the perfect environment for growth and improvement. And your music, or lack thereof, will directly contribute to this. You want music that will energize you and contribute to your focus, not music you want to sing along to or drive your car to. For me this is fast paced rap music. For some people this is heavy metal. And for others, this is no music at all, as it tends to distract them. I suggest trying out a few different genres, not just your favorite, and then picking your poison.
3. Ingest caffeine if necessary
Caffeine is a stimulant that’s been proven to delay fatigue in high intensity training (1). If you’re feeling lethargic or a general lack of energy, I suggest ingesting an appropriate amount of caffeine before you work out. For me, this is a homemade pre-workout mixture. For others, this might be a large coffee. The one time to avoid caffeine is in the afternoon or evening, if you know that it will prevent you from sleeping.
4. Take a cold shower
Taking a shower before your workout goes against conventional wisdom. I’m well aware of this. But you can’t argue how good and energized you feel after showering. And cold showers do the job even better. They’ve been proven to increase the blood flow in your body (2). If caffeine isn’t an option, this is a solid method to boost your energy and wake you up before a workout. And if you can’t tolerate a full on cold shower, alternating between hot and cold is less painful but yields roughly the same benefits.
5. Perform a specific, dynamic warmup
Don’t stretch or do cardio. Cardio will tire you out and should be performed after the main workout, if at all – unless of course that is the workout for the day. Traditional stretching, on the other hand, has been shown to weaken your muscles, and therefore should be performed at the end of the workout (3). What should be done is a specific warm-up that takes your body through the full ranges of motion that will be used during your workout. For example, doing deep bodyweight squats before perform a barbell back squat is advisable. A great full body dynamic warmup is Joe Defranco’s Agile Eight.
If you liked this article, check out my book Shredded Beast for a complete scientifically backed workout routine and nutrition system.
1. Green, J. Matt, et al. “Effects of caffeine on repetitions to failure and ratings of perceived exertion during resistance training.” International journal of sports physiology and performance 2.3 (2007): 250.
2. Keatinge, William R., Malcolm B. McIlroy, and Alan Goldfien. “Cardiovascular responses to ice-cold showers.” Journal of applied physiology 19.6 (1964): 1145-1150.
3. Nelson, Arnold G., Joke Kokkonen, and DAVID A. ARNALL. “Acute muscle stretching inhibits muscle strength endurance performance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19.2 (2005): 338-343.