Life hacks are freaking awesome. I love saving money, but I also love do-it-yourself approaches to every day problems. Life hacks are even better though, because they are so obvious. When you watch life hacks on YouTube you admit its genius but you still wonder why you could not have thought of something so simple yourself. Hacks can be as simple as using a single bra strap across the front of your body to keep your strapless from falling. Soaking oats in apple juice overnight rather than cooking them the next day is a life hack. Life hacks are any simple, yet for some reason rarely thought of, concept or idea to save time and/or money.
Gym hacks are anything that can increase efficiency or results. The most common obstacle the average person cites when explaining why they do not want to workout is lack of time. Another common reason is laziness. My own sister wanted to win a muscle contest with the minimum amount of gym time possible. She actually complained that four days of exercise was too much. Hacks can help to reduce the amount of time in the gym and possibly even increase your results. Rather than four days you could potentially do two days. Rather than only increasing strength you may also increase size. You may cut down on time in the gym allowing you to spend time cooking or relaxing.
I posted a video on YouTube where you can see gym hacks in action. Scroll down for a list!
I really want to know if you try it and what you think of it if you do. Please leave a comment below!
a. Pulses help to do a few things including increasing the time under tension (TUT), and increase strength at the point of the pulse.
b. Time under tension is the amount of time a muscle is under stress. Performing a typical resistance exercise will put your muscle under tension for about three seconds, however those three seconds are split evenly between eccentric, concentric and maximum contraction. You can manipulate the TUT by moving slowly through the hardest part of the exercise, and holding at the point of max contraction. For example, rather than moving one slow speed from the top to the bottom of the squat, increase the TUT at the lower end of the squat and the bottom. Hold the squat, and then slowly stand up. Slowly rising from the bottom is key. Many people manipulate weights by bouncing at the bottom, literally the only things you are achieving is deceiving yourself and maybe others about the actual weight you can support. So again, the most important part of the squat is getting low, lowest point, and when and how fast you begin to rise out the squat.
c. Performing pulses at the bottom allows you to maximize all three of these areas! Make sure you are not using momentum to bounce of out the hole; rather you are focusing on muscle tension and control.
d. In doing this you are increasing your overall strength, and by keeping the pulses to a higher range you are increasing size.
2. Resistance bands
a. Is a piece of equipment really a hack? Depending on how you use it!
i. There are endless ways to use resistance bands to enhance your workout or mobility training. The limit really lies in your imagination, or your Google abilities. Adding resistance bands is great for just about everyone. Athletes, like the guy in the video, can benefit from the explosive power resistance bands allow you to train. The guy in the video is a world-renowned jiu jitsu fighter. You can imagine how important it is to be able to explode out of certain positions. Of course he has the technique, but a well-rounded athlete is the most effective athlete.
ii. TUT- Yup. Imagine this (or just watch the video), you are doing a deadlift that is really heavy for you. What is the hardest part? The initial lift, or getting the weight off of the ground. Once you reach the top of course it is a struggle and you have to lock out the movement, but the hardest part is getting out of the hole. This is why you do not pulse squats at the top (standing position), you pulse where the muscle is under the most tension. That is where resistance bands come in. Resistance bands are pulling tightest when you are standing, which means not only do you have gravity pulling the bar down, you actually have resistance bands literally pulling the weight of the barbell to the ground. Because bands make the exercise consistently difficult you are able to exercise at the maximum level at the hardest and what is typically the easiest part of the exercise. This is why bands are a gym hack. Essentially you are getting two exercises for the price of one. Deadlifts with bands, just as an example, work your body in more extreme ways that deadlifts, which are already considered a holy grail in lifting. Adding the bands helps to increase your strength and explosiveness.
i. You can do the same hip flexor exercise without the resistance band, but if you have the option to use a band, you probably should. A common misconception is that you must get into a deep position to really stretch the hip flexor, but not so. With the correct posture, a tucked in pelvis, body aligned, you should not need to move forward much before a good stretch begins. You can use the bands countless ways for mobility as well. One of these days I will post a video. Keep checking back.
a. Check out the section of the earthquake bench press with weights hanging from the bar. Those are resistance bands holding the weights! Genius. The entire point of this exercise is to challenge his stability. Because the weights are hanging they are swinging around causing the bar to shake. In addition the resistance bands are slightly expanding and retracting causing even more movement and challenging the stabilizers further. Again, as a fighter he needs to have strength in more than simple compound movements. Jiu Jitsu is very unpredictable, and the more you can mimic that type of training while lifting, the better. You may not be a jiu jitsu fighter, but I am sure I can think of many reasons why this type of training could be good for you. Ah! Do you have young kids? I do not, but I have seen how squirmy they can be. Exercising in this way can help to ensure you do not tweak your back, for example, the next time you pick your squirmy child up. That is just an example. Obviously if you have a job that requires lifting and moving things you are rotating at your core while carrying weights, which can be very dangerous. Staying active in a safe program can help to minimize risk in every day or work activities.
a. TUT- Yup, again. We are back to TUT. TUT is probably the number one gym hack of all time. When you do negs you are putting the muscle under tension for about 3 times longer than the traditional movement, depending on what lift you are performing. Research has found TUT legitimately increases muscle protein synthesis. That means your muscle is reparing itself and growing, which is a HUGE reason why people lift weights. So, with negs, you are moving through the eccentric portion of the exercises slowly. Because the muscle is under tension for longer, you are able to do fewer reps. No, you really should not just add TUT to your workout. It is best to work it in in moderation because your muscles and your central nervous system are still subject to its same limits, the only difference is the amount of time it took you do to that.
i. Yup, again and again. Isometrics is a genius hack in itself. It also overloads the nervous system, so you have to be careful with how much you add to your workout. Interestingly you may not require as much recovery time. When your muscles are fatigued you rest, but you can do it again.
i. I moved through the chains in the video very quickly. When the chains hit the ground at the bottom of a squat there is less weight on the bar, which makes it easier to stand. When you stand you then begin to carry the entire weight of the chain. Just as with the bands and deadlifts you are able to challenge yourself with your maximum weight at the bottom of the squat, and again at the top. This two in one exercise is efficient, and a gym hack.
d. Two in one exercises
i. You can do up to four in one exercises! I stuck to two in one because when you get up to three and four you may not be challenging the muscles evenly. Pushup to row works the chest and back. Supersetting is great, and I will get to that as well, however, two in one exercises have zero downtime, making it even more efficient.
i. Supersetting is an art. You can superset a compound with an isolated movement, fatigue one muscle group but going two compound movements, plyometrics, or completely different muscle groups. There are almost endless ways you can superset, all with different effects. It saves you time but reducing you time in between sets, which makes your workout more efficient. Even better, it helps to keep your heart rate up giving your workout a fat burning effect. If you like to lift heavy you can superset without sacrificing your strength by working a completely different muscle.
f. Unloading weights
i. You can manage to look very silly while unloading weights depending on the type of weights and bar. You can also seriously injure yourself by underestimating the weight while sliding it off. I filmed this quickly to communicate the point, but it is really the most helpful when you have a lot of weight loaded on the bar. You simply roll the weights onto a small weight, which allows you to slide the other weights off. You can then lift it like I did, or just slip the bar out from the other side.
Again, I really do want to know if you try any of these gym hacks! Stop by and let me know!