This post is intended for all the new clients and soon to be new clients out there who are just getting started working out, not for those who have been training for awhile (although you could still get some benefit from reading this). When I meet with new clients for the first time, I sometimes get requests for a perfectly laid out plan listing out every exercise in detail with the number of sets and reps outlined in a neat and organized way. Many times (but not all the time), these individuals will get their perfect plan, go to the gym, try their new plan out for a few days or weeks and then report back to me that they did their workouts but they are still not seeing results. On the flip side of that, I get individuals who need just a little guidance and perhaps some form corrections with a few exercises. Then these individuals go to the gym and come back leaner, stronger and in far better shape. So, what’s the difference here!? Does this mean that the person who wants be organized is not going to see results? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s a great idea to be organized with your workouts. However, often what a workout plan leaves out for many individuals is how truly challenging is the training session?

For someone who is new to exercising or who has been away from it for a long time, they often don’t realize what an effective workout is like. So, they just go through the motions. Often, it’s like these people are playing Bingo when they go to the gym! They pick up some weight, they do a few movements with it, they check their little box on their workout log and then they move on to the next exercise where they check their next box and then eventually they get Bingo and they go home! Unfortunately, that’s not what it takes to see results. Not much physical change will come from a “check the box” mentality when you workout. You really have to push it!

A good way to measure how challenging an exercise is, is to rate it on a scale of 1-10. With 1 being something you could do all day and 10 being something you could likely only do one or maybe a couple of repetitions of. Most people will see their greatest changes and improvements working in the 7-8 range on that scale. However, for a lot of people who are new to exercise, getting a real solid feeling of how to rate intensity is often a big challenge. Many times when I am teaching a new class or one-on-one client, I spend a lot of time taking them through workouts that are really challenging so they can see what it’s like to experience a challenging session. I believe that many people have a fear of really pushing themselves hard and there are often a lot of barriers to overcome so that they can allow themselves to see what it’s really like to reach a “10” with a resistance training workout. Sometimes that fear is because they may be afraid of hurting themselves, which is understandable. This is why hiring a knowledgeable trainer to help you with your form can often make a big difference for you. Once that self-confidence is built however, often great physical changes happen and happen quickly.

For myself, I really look forward to challenging myself with my workouts. I always try to mentally go into a workout knowing that I am going to try my best with many exercises, knowing that it’s going to be hard, but worth it! When I leave the gym,  I often rate the overall workout the same way I do each exercise. I’ll rate the session on a scale of 1-10 that day based on what I was expecting to do. If I nail every exercise the way I was hoping with as much intensity as I was hoping, then it’s a 10! If I feel like I was off a little on my intensity, but still got a few good exercises in that were challenging, then it may be an 8. Sometimes a workout may be something like a 6 if I’m not feeling well at all, but honestly that does not happen that much for me. The reason why that does not happen often is because of these factors: 1) I try to prepare myself mentally by visualizing how hard I will work in the gym 2) I prepare myself physically by eating foods that help me and drinking enough water which all work to help my performance in the gym and 3) I aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night because rest is where muscle development really happens! So, most of my workouts are somewhere between a 7.5-10 range every time!

Physical improvements happen when the body is consistently experiencing a challenging training stimulus. The keys to that statement are “consistently” and “challenging”. If you have been “checking the box” with your workouts, I would recommend stepping up your game! Connect with a well qualified personal trainer.  Experience what it’s like to have a real challenging workout. Learn what a “10” for a workout is like. Then develop a plan that you can stick with that will allow you to consistently experience these level 10 workouts. By doing so, you will be well on your way to developing the body you have been hoping for!