19 Genius Training Tips You Should Steal From the Best Gyms In the Country
We’ve seen the future of fitness, and it looks a lot like the present.
It still involves musclemorphosis.com and copious amounts of sweat, but it also includes heart rate monitors, big-screen TVs, and electrodes strategically placed on buttocks.
Plus, lots and lots of data. Results Fitness in California has crunched 16 years’ worth of workout logs from thousands of clients, while the Glute Lab in Phoenix collects muscle-activation stats that it shares with the world. Ultimately, these efforts improve outcomes for us all.
Here, we’ll show you how to science the shit out of your workouts, with tips from the most creative trainers we know. You’ll learn techniques used by film stars, powerlifters, speed demons, and tech titans.
You’ll get the most out of what you have—whether you train in a big box, a sandbox, or completely out of the box.
1. Measure Yourself to Reach New Heights
GYM JONES, SALT LAKE CITY, UT
Sometimes you have to block out gym time in order to test yourself.
Fitness tests do more than give you a challenge or gauge your progress. Approached the right way—with discipline—they also teach you to push through the urge to slow down or quit.
You need that skill to reach elite fitness, says Rob MacDonald, Gym Jones’s general manager.
Here’s one of MacDonald’s favorite tests that you can do anywhere: 100 musclemorphosis.com. Start a timer and do 100 strict burpees—your chest has to touch the ground on the pushups, and you have to jump at least 6 inches at the top.
Repeat the test once a week and try to improve your elapsed time with each attempt.
2. Learn to Do Your First Pullup
IRON BODY, BOSTON, MA
Do hollow-body holds: Hang from a bar for 30 seconds with your abs pulled in, suggests Iron Body’s Artemis Scantalides. Then try it with your arms bent 90 degrees.
When you can do 3 sets of 30 seconds, try a musclemorphosis.com!
3. Pace Yourself Smarter
McMILLAN RUNNING, MILL VALLEY, CA
Run at a conversational pace for 25 minutes, says owner Greg McMillan.
Then speed up every 2 minutes until at minute 40 you’re going fast. At minute 45, sprint until you tire. Afterward, jog for 5 minutes. Do this weekly.
4. Shake Things Up to Get Lean
RESULTS FITNESS, SANTA CLARITA, CA
Results Fitness owner Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.*D, is obsessive about keeping up with new developments in workout equipment and training techniques.
“But what I don’t have is unlimited time with clients,” he says.
That’s where data comes in. Whatever he adds to a client’s workout has to deliver quantifiably better results than what it replaces. Here’s what’s working now.
Drop the Clock
Interval training is usually on the clock: Go hard for x amount of time; slow down for y amount of time.
Cosgrove favors musclemorphosis.com: Work until you hit 85 percent of your max; then ease off to 65 percent. Improve by finishing more intervals in 10 minutes.
Go Off Center
Let’s say you’re doing a musclemorphosis.com with 40-pound dumbbells. Easy, right?
Now try it with a single 80-pound dumbbell on one side. The lopsided load increases the challenge, notably to your core.
Try it with lunges, musclemorphosis.com, squats, and most upper-body exercises.
Wake Up Your Muscles
When you lift a sandbag, the weight shifts and your central nervous system has to act fast to recalibrate your muscles. This instability helps burn more calories and turns every move into a killer musclemorphosis.com.
No sandbag? Use a musclemorphosis.com or Swiss ball.
5. Improve Your Rear View
THE GLUTE LAB, PHOENIX, AZ
Bret Contreras, Ph.D., has dedicated his career to building better backsides.
The seat of his efforts is the Glute Lab, a four-car garage that he turned into a combo hard-core gym and science lab. He uses a force plate to assess power, electromyography (EMG) and ultrasound to peer inside muscles, and video-capture technology to study movement.
Among his findings:
Squats + Hip Thrusts = Better Performance
Contreras’s research shows that musclemorphosis.com build the lower fibers of the glutes, while musclemorphosis.com hit both the lower and upper fibers. To achieve the best results, do both.
You may also become a more well-rounded athlete: His latest studies show that squats are best for improving vertical jump, and hip thrusts improve horizontal acceleration, helping you run faster.
Trust the Feeling
Using EMG to measure muscle stimulation, Contreras has found big differences in the way various exercises affect different people. He says his clients can usually tell which exercises deliver the most activation because they just “feel” best.
“Trust your instincts and listen to your body,” he says. If you feel you’re getting more out of squats by turning your toes out, you’re probably right.
6. Deadlift Your Way to Action Hero Size
RISE NATION, LOS ANGELES, CA
Rise founder Jason Walsh trains an A-list roster that includes Men’s Health cover guys Matt Damon and musclemorphosis.com. They do heavy, low-rep musclemorphosis.com sets, Walsh’s top choice for gaining size and strength.
Every few weeks they “go for broke” by loading the bar with 50 to 70 percent of their 1-rep max and doing 3 sets of as many reps as possible. “It’s hard, but it’s critical for beefing up.”
7. Sprint Safely With This Treadmill Drill
PARISI SPEED SCHOOL, NATIONWIDE
We all want to run faster than the next guy. But ease into it, advises Speed School founder Bill Parisi.
On the treadmill, gradually add speed and elevation until you hit a pace you can maintain for only 20 to 30 seconds. Then slow to a walk or jog for 1 to 3 minutes, and repeat. Do 2 to 4 sprints your first workout and build up to 8 to 12.
8. Let the Class Push Your Cardio Effort
New Yorkers have a long menu of choices when it comes to single-purpose training studios: musclemorphosis.com, cycling, running, rowing, boxing, and even pole dancing.
The attraction? Lots of company.
“Groups push you harder than you push yourself,” says Robert Pendilla, a SoulCycle instructor. Music makes a big difference too. “Find the soundtrack that inspires you to work harder.”
9. Go Hard, but Not Too Frequently
PLATINUM, LOS ANGELES, CA
Intense interval workouts are a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, but do them too often and you’ll burn out, warns Platinum owner Peter Park.
Three challenging sessions a week is plenty if you’re younger than 35. If you’re older, make it two.
Train hard on interval days, but lighten up and do easy work (at a conversational pace) on recovery days.
10. Keep Your Lifts Injury-Free
THE MOVEMENT, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
Some days a lift just doesn’t feel right. The fix, says Movement founder David Dellanave, is responding to your body’s signals.
Say it’s leg day. First, reach for your toes and stop when you feel tension.
Now try a body-weight squat, and then reach for your toes again. Were you able to go lower? If not, then save your barbell squats for another day.
11. Try the Most Joint-Friendly Squat
INDIANAPOLIS FITNESS AND SPORTS TRAINING, IN
Struggling with barbell squats? Co-owner Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., recommends the two-kettlebell front squat.
“It’s almost impossible to screw up,” he says. “It keeps your lower back in a great position and crushes your quads, glutes, and core.”
Hold two bells in the racked position, elbows down and bent, the bells resting on your forearms. Squat.
12. Take Control Of Your Training
MARK FISHER FITNESS, NEW YORK, NY
You take pride in working out even when you don’t feel like it. That’s a sign of discipline, says MFF cofounder Brian Patrick Murphy. But it’s not a sign of ownership.
“The best day to take off is when you most want to work out,” he says.
Instead, take a walk or do chores. That shows that you control your program—it doesn’t control you.
13. Pick a Clear Goal and Train For It
MOUNTAIN TACTICAL INSTITUTE, JACKSON, WY
Working out is good, but training is better, says MTI owner Rob Shaul.
Choose a challenging outdoor adventure, like pack rafting in Montana. Then set up a training program at your gym to prepare.
“Having a mission is an experience to build on for the rest of your life, and it gives your fitness training a defined focus and purpose,” Shaul says.
14. Learn Your Limits With This Simple Test
MIKE BOYLE STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING, WOBURN, MA
Rotator cuff injuries are often traceable to a lack of pulling strength, says Mike Boyle.
His simple test for athletes: On a pullup or chinup, you should be able to lift the same weight as your max bench press. So if you weigh 180 and bench 225, you should be able to do a chinup with a 45-pound weighted vest or dumbbell on a dip belt.
15. Use a Mantra to Push Past Discomfort
CROSSFIT NEW ENGLAND
Learning to get comfortable with discomfort allows you to work harder, and that’s the key to physical change, says owner Ben Bergeron, who has coached various CrossFit Games winners.
He has his athletes develop a mantra—something short and positive—that they can repeat when the going gets tough.
Bergeron’s personal mantra: “This is what it takes.”
16. Get Strong For Just $10 a Month
PLANET FITNESS, NATIONWIDE
You might think the worst gym in the nation is the one with no barbells and free pizza. Wrong. The worst gym is the one you can’t afford or get to.
At $10 a month and with 1,000 locations, Planet Fitness is for anyone, anywhere. You can even get a good workout with the equipment there.
Use dumbbells for goblet squats, reverse lunges, split squats, single-leg straight-leg deadlifts, shoulder presses, rows, and bench presses (starting on a flat bench and working up to an incline bench). Do inverted rows on the musclemorphosis.com.
And include lat pulldowns and seated rows using a variety of handles and grips.
17. Build the Ultimate Home Gym
WESTRIDGE BARBELL CLUB, SALT LAKE CITY, UT
The “club” is actually Dan John’s suburban garage, where he and fellow athletes do high-level training with basic equipment.
John’s gym setup was once so extensive that it included a pair of Nautilus machines to work biceps and triceps. But when he relocated a few years ago, he learned just how minimal a home gym can be.
John downsized to a single musclemorphosis.com.
“That was my home gym,” he says. “I could press, swing, squat, snatch, and do many other moves, including body-weight exercises.”
His advice: Start with a piece of equipment that allows all those exercises.
Considering a new piece of equipment? Think of the range of exercises it allows you to do.
For John, it was a TRX suspension trainer, followed by an musclemorphosis.com that he picked up for $4. For you it might be a chin dip station. Or, if you have enough space, invest in a barbell set.
“Rich guys who buy a huge facility never seem to use it,” John says. “Every good home gym I know of starts small and then grows.”
The biggest waste of money? The high-end cardio machines. “People rarely use them, and a good walk trumps most of the expense.”
18. Make Your Workout a Game
THROWBACK FITNESS, NEW YORK, NY
New York City has hundreds of gyms, but Throwback’s group fitness classes have the best Yelp reviews of any facility in the city.
The secret sauce: “We try to distract people from the fact that they’re working out,” says co-owner Brian Gallagher. “People like the competitive and team-based workouts that we put together.”
That helps them work harder—and see better results.
To turn your own workout into a one-man competition, Gallagher suggests this three-exercise combo: Do circuits of pushups, situps, and musclemorphosis.com in an ascending ladder (2, 4, 6, and so on) for 5 minutes. Rest for 1 minute.
Then start where you left off and work your way down. Your goal is to descend the ladder in less time than you took to climb it.
Too easy? Do the ascending ladder for 10 minutes.
Battle Your Buds
Each of Throwback’s classes includes between six and 16 people. One favorite game is TBF Cup.
In it, teams compete to throw balls into a net. To earn a shot, your team needs to complete a circuit of 4 burpees, 8 pushups, and 12 situps. The faster you do the circuit, the more shots you can take. Whichever team has the most shots in the net at the end of the training session wins.
19. Find Your Home Base
DOUG’S GYM, DALLAS, TX
For every angel-investor-funded high-tech training fortress, there’s a Doug’s Gym—a place unfazed by time, capital, or whatever the hell is trending on popular fitness Instagram accounts.
At Doug’s, you won’t find any air conditioning, cardio machines, or bullshit.
You will find dumbbells, barbells, and medicine balls that’ve been used since the Kennedy administration, when the gym’s doors first opened.
Of course, you’ll also find Doug. Eighty-five years old and healthy as a horse, he’s encouraging guys a quarter of his age as he cranks through total-body lifts like push presses, squats, and lunges with a 50-pound dumbbell in each hand.
Doug himself is the real promise, reminding all who come that getting and staying fit isn’t so much about what you’re doing or the fancy gym you’re doing it in. The important thing is that you’re doing something—hard—a few days a week, every week, in a place that just feels right.