It’s the end of your workout - you’re tired, sore, mentally drained, and searching for anything you can find to get in one more rep.
This last rep is where progress happens. If you continue with the same weight, the same number of reps and sets each time you go to the gym, you won’t move forward.
Progress doesn’t come in a huge leap. It comes with a lot of small steps. You should be looking to push yourself a little further each time you go to the gym. Eventually, if you look back at where you were a few months ago, you’ll notice a massive progression.
Finding the drive for one more rep is tough, and that’s fine. If it was easy, everyone would do it. You’ve got to reach a little deeper than the average person, and in time, you’ll have the results to show for it.
We’re going to help you on your journey for one more rep, with these proven hacks for getting more out of each workout.
1: Pre-workout Fuel
We need the right fuel in our bodies to work to our full potential. How you eat, particularly close to your workout, will make a huge difference when it comes time to try and bang out a few more reps.
Here are some tips for pre-workout nutrition to help you push further.
Time your pre-workout correctly
Timing is key with pre-workout fuel. Eat too close to your workout and you’ll struggle, as your energy goes towards digesting your food, rather than where you want it to be - helping you lift weights or run fast.
On the other hand, if you go too long without food before your workout, you may struggle to find the energy you need as your tank is running low.
Everyone metabolizes food at a little different rate. But for most people, what works best is a small snack around 30 minutes before working out, or a larger meal 60-90 minutes prior. That should time it so you’re still getting enough energy right at the end of your workout.
Find what works for you
Everyone responds to food a little differently. Some people work out best after a big, carb-heavy meal, while some operate best when they’re feeling light and lean, perhaps with just a small, high-protein snack as fuel.
Similarly, different types of workouts go better with a different pre-workout snack. Heavy meals before a cardio-heavy routine don’t work so well, but might be okay if you plan to do slow, heavy lifts.
Find what kind of meal or snack makes you feel the best prior to a workout and stick with that.
Commonly effective pre-workout snacks
Your pre-workout snack should be clean, light enough for your body to easily digest, and give your body the energy it needs to get through a workout.
A whey protein smoothie with creatine is great before a workout - protein is an essential building block for muscle growth and performance, while creatine helps improve endurance and output during your workout.
Carbohydrates are good pre-workout as well, as carbs are essential for energy production, which will help you perform for longer.
Bananas, dried fruit, whole grain bread, and oats are a few more examples of good foods to eat before a workout, providing the energy you need to get moving.
Foods to avoid
Some foods are not optimal if you’ve got a workout coming up, and will end up having a negative effect on performance.
Foods high in refined sugar are a bad idea. These empty calories provide little nutritional value and often lead to a crash, which may come right when you need energy the most.
Foods with a lot of fiber or fat are not great either, as they require a lot of work from the digestive system, taking away from the energy you need for your workout.
2: Rocket Fuel Playlists
Music can be a really effective energy booster at the gym. Alternatively, it can be great for helping you focus, clearing out the distractions and the noise in your mind, helping you blast through the mental barrier that usually shows up at the beginning and end of your workout.
What music gets you going?
Think about what music, as soon as you hear it, gives you a boost of energy. Use this music to tap into energy stores right when you need it the most.
Music can help get you going at the start of your workout when many people are sluggish and don’t yet have any momentum.
It can also give you a second wind, near the end when you’re struggling to finish your last few reps. Usually, this barrier is more mental than physical, so the right motivation and mental energy may make all the difference.
Podcasts and audiobooks
Some people get more focus and motivation from podcasts than music. Particular podcasts or speakers are incredible motivating forces, such as David Goggins, Jocko Willink, and other disciplined high-performers.
The act of focusing on someone speaking also serves to draw your mind away from the effort of your workout, and the mental barrier that comes with it.
Audiobooks can have the same effect, both in finding something to focus on and drawing inspiration from the source material.
Change it up - create 2-3 playlists
Have a few options up your sleeve, so it doesn’t get stale. Create 2 or 3 different playlists that you rotate often. Or one big playlist with enough variety that you never end up playing the same songs again and again.
3: Exercise Environment
You can put yourself in the right mindset to blast through the last few reps of your workout if you know what kind of environment you respond best to.
Everyone has a particular setting where they just feel more energized and motivated. For some, this is when the gym is busy, there’s a social vibe, and you’re around familiar faces.
For others, it’s a solitary environment. Maybe you’re in your home gym, by yourself, where you can direct your entire focus to clocking up reps with perfect form.
A lot of people get more energy when they’re around nature, working out in the park or on the trail. There’s also night vs day - most people have a time of the day when they tend to perform best.
If you can nail down the time, place, and environment that you respond best to, you’re going to be in a better situation to push yourself further every time.
4: Maximize Recovery
To perform your best, you need to be fully recovered from your last workout. If you ignore recovery, your energy stores will be a little lower each time you work out, you’ll feel your performance continue to drop.
Here are some tips to ensure you maximize your recovery and get back to 100% faster.
Give your muscles time to recover
One necessity for recovery, which you can’t avoid, is time. Whatever your recovery routine or which supplements you take, your muscles won’t recover instantly. It will still take a period of time for the body to repair itself and rebuild.
That doesn’t mean you have to take several days off between workouts, until the whole body feels 100%, though. You can work around this by rotating different muscle groups. For example, work chest and arms one day, back and shoulders the next, giving each muscle group the time it needs to recover.
Speed up recovery with protein and creatine
The proper supplements aid the body in repairing itself and will help you get back to 100% faster.
Protein and creatine monohydrate are some of the best supplements for recovery. Protein provides the building blocks you need for muscle growth and recovery, helping your body repair itself after strenuous exercise, while creatine has been shown to reduce muscle damage when working out, meaning you require less time to fully recover.
Use a sauna
If you have access to a sauna, this is another great way to speed up recovery. Heat therapy, such as sauna, has been shown to accelerate recovery post-workout, and reduce the time spent feeling fatigued.
This works by increasing blood flow and circulation, which in turn delivers oxygen to the muscles, helping these muscles recover faster. Take advantage of this if you can with regular sauna sessions in between workouts.
5: Get Enough Sleep
Finally, sleep is one of the most important things for recovery and performance. Most of your natural recovery time comes when sleeping, so if you’re not getting enough sleep, your sleep is low-quality, you’re going to feel tired and sore for longer.
Here are some things you can do to improve your quality and length of sleep.
Limit artificial blue light
For at least an hour before going to bed, try to stay off all electronic devices. These devices emit light on a particular spectrum, known as “blue light”.
The most common source of blue light is the sun. Our bodies’ natural sleep cycle is tuned to work in harmony with the sun - when it comes up, we’re awake, when it goes down, we get sleepy.
Artificial blue light from electronic devices interferes with this, making our body feel more wakeful and having negative effects on sleep quality and sleep cycle durations.
Caffeine, like blue light, has a wakeful effect on the body. This effect continues as long as caffeine is still in the body. It usually takes around 4-6 hours to process caffeine, which means if you drink caffeine too late in the day, it will begin to interfere with your sleep cycle.
Try to limit your caffeine intake, and don’t take caffeine too late - 3 pm at the latest.
Stress is another thing that can have negative effects on sleep. Stress reduction techniques during the day can have long-lasting benefits, including longer and deeper sleep.
Try meditating, going for walks in nature, or any other activities that you find reduce stress and make you feel calmer.
Some supplements can also help lower stress. In particular, adaptogens like ashwagandha - one of the ingredients in Naked Greens - have powerful stress reduction properties, and can assist you in calming down before bed, getting a longer and more restful sleep.
The last rep is always the hardest. But it’s also the most beneficial. This is where you progress the most, and by pushing yourself for one more rep every workout, you’ll soon be amazed when you look back and see the progression over time.
Follow these hacks to help break down the physical and mental walls in the way of you completing that one extra rep.