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Personal Trainer Secrets

I've got a secret—several of them in fact. Part of my job as a personal trainer is uncovering those tips and tricks that can help people realize superior results.

Today, I'm going to share four of those secrets with you. They'll help if you're going to the gym for the first time or if you've been exercising for years.

Secret #1 - Losing fat starts outside the gym.

If you're overweight, start getting more sleep. Columbia University researchers looked at data from more than 9,000 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I (NHANES I). The results were released in 2004, and it was striking. The researchers discovered that people who slept five hours per night were 73% more likely to become obese than those getting seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. Increasing sleep by just one hour, from five to six nightly, made the participants only 27% more likely to become obese than those getting seven to nine hours. If you're trying to lose weight, getting more sleep is critical.

Speaking of rest, you should also try to give each body part 48 hours of rest before training it again. Exercising the same muscles, day after day, continually breaks them down without giving them any time to heal and grow.

Secret #2 - Don't get stuck in a cardio rut.

Change your cardio workouts at least every three months. The more cardio you do, the more efficient your body gets at burning fat for fuel. To keep getting the same benefit, your workouts have to get progressively longer, increasing the chances that your body will break down muscle for fuel instead of fat. Shake things up. If you're used to the treadmill, try the elliptical or stationary bike. Consider Pilates, dance or an aerobics class. Don't do anything so long that your muscles can become acclimated to it.

If you slouch, quit it! When you're using a piece of cardio equipment like a treadmill or stair climber, don't prop yourself up by holding onto the handrails. It reduces the effectiveness of your workout and can be dangerous. Reduce the speed if you can't stand up straight.

Secret #3 - When you're lifting weights, think differently.

Don't always balance your weights. When using equipment like dumbbells, use 5% to 10% more on one side than the other. This will prepare you for real-world activities like carrying groceries or doing work around the house. On the first workout, target your right side, then the next workout, target your left. The uneven weight distribution forces your muscles to work harder to maintain balance and can help you push past training plateaus. Remember to document which side you're favoring for each workout and always remember to maintain proper form.

Reverse the order of the weights you're lifting. If you're used to adding weight for each set, do it the other way around. Try lifting the heaviest weight first and progressively decrease resistance while increasing reps. Then your muscles will be moving the heaviest weight while they're the freshest. A simple change like that can help stimulate new growth. (Just don't start your first set until you've warmed up sufficiently.)

Secret #4 - Combine equipment for killer results.

Most of the equipment found in the gym can serve multiple functions. For example: Walking lunges, done while holding dumbbells, can be difficult to perform in many gyms because of a lack of space.

Move those lunges onto a treadmill. You won't run out of room or be forced to turn around. To make things really challenging, you can even set the treadmill on an incline. (If you're going to attempt this, make sure you have a partner that can safely turn the machine off at the end of your set, or use a weighted vest so your hands are free.)

Now that you know four of the secrets it took me years to discover, I just want to know one thing. When are you planning to use them?

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