Are You Working Out Hard Enough?


When it comes to exercise, the most common question is “Am I working out hard enough?” We want an exercise routine that leaves us feeling exhausted and thoroughly pumped post-workout? I like to say that you should be drenched in sweat, you should be close to gasping for air, and your hair better be jacked to Jesus after a workout. Before I delve into some great tips, it’s very important to note that everyone is at a different level of experience and ability. Also, everyone has different goals. This blog post will discuss techniques for beginners who are ready to advance to an intermediate level with resistance training/weight lifting. This counts for you ladies too because building lean body mass helps all of us to raise our metabolic rate, especially at rest which helps to burn fat. Let’s get started!

Tip #1: Schedule Split Days

This refers to how often you work out your muscle groups. I used to do a total body workout every single day. There were a couple of problems with this: I was over-training my body (not letting it heal properly in order to grow) and I was not performing enough isolation exercises each day to maximize muscle breakdown and subsequent growth. Instead of working out 10 muscle groups a day, try limiting your days to 1-3 muscle groups. It will really help you focus your exercises on individual muscle groups and help them grow.

For example: Monday (Chest/Triceps), Tuesday (Back/Biceps), Wednesday (Rest), Thursday (Core/Shoulders), Friday (Core/Legs), Saturday (Total Body), Sunday (Rest). People do various types of split days.

Tip #2: Perform at least 3-4 Exercises per Muscle Group

When you have a split day schedule for the week, it really allows you to focus on the muscle groups of the day. Aim for doing 3-4 different types of exercises for each muscle group. Each exercise is recommended to be performed for at least 4 sets. In total, each day will have a total of 12-16 sets for each muscle group for the day. So, on Mondays if you are exercising Chest and Triceps, you will perform 12-16 sets for Chest and another 12-16 set for Triceps.

We’ve all heard that we have at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise each day, but don’t measure your workouts with time. I suggest you set a goal number of sets/reps for each day and DON’T LEAVE UNTIL YOU FINISH EVERY SET/REP!

Tip #3: Throw in a Superset or a Dropset for Efficiency

If time is an issue (or even if it’s not), you can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your workout by adding a superset or a drop set. A superset is a coupling of two exercises performed back-to-back (no rest). These exercises will target the same muscle group but in a different way. For example, when you are working out your back, a superset would include performing a seated row exercise immediately followed by pull-ups. These two varying back exercises make up a superset.

A drop set is a little different. It is a set of usually 3 sets performed back-to-back (no rest) but with the same exercise. The key is that each time you perform the exercise, you decrease the weight by 30%. For example, if you are doing bicep curls, you would do a complete set of 10 reps with a heavy weight. Once that set is done, immediately grab lighter dumbbells and do 10 more reps to complete a second set. Then, grab light dumbbells and do 10 more reps to complete the third set. These three sets performed back-to-back make up one drop set.

Tip #4: Choose the Right Weight to Lift

Choosing the right weight when performing weight-training exercises can be difficult. You don’t want to choose something too light that it renders the exercise useless, and you don’t want to choose something too heavy that it ruins your form and injures you. When it comes to choosing the right weight, pick a weight that allows you to do an exercise properly for 8-10 repetitions. Those last two repetitions should be very difficult but should not cause you to ruin your form. This range is the goal range for hypertrophy/muscle growth.

Tip #5: Change It Up

This is a common tip given by personal trainers and athletes, but what does it mean?! It can refer to big changes like revamping your entire workout routine every two months. Or it can refer to the small changes you make each time you workout. Each time you go, consider changing one small thing like the order of exercises performed, the types of exercises performed, the weights used, the combination of exercises in super/drop sets, or even the number of sets/reps performed. All of these small changes keep you off balance with your routine and keep you challenged. Check out a couple of different workout routines I’ve done (it’s still changing):

Workout #1
Workout #2

Tip #6: Push Yourself

“Beast Mode” is not a physical attribute; it’s a way of thinking and performing. It refers to an animalistic/ monster-like attack on your workout. Change your mentality to believe in yourself. Throughout your workout, you may get tired and want to end it early, but repeatedly tell yourself that you can do it, that you are going to push through, that you’re going to succeed. Mind over matter! I nod a lot when I’m at the gym because I’m constantly motivating myself to keep going by repeating “I got this. I got this. I got this.”

If you’ve done everything mentioned above and you’re at the end of your workout routine, congratulate yourself on a job well done. Then, get on the floor and do push-ups until failure. This fits perfectly into having the beast-mode mentality. Each time you work out, you’re gonna give it all you got, and more! Every workout is a last chance workout.

Tip #7: Keep Track of Your Progress

I recommend you record the exercises, the number of sets/reps, and the weight you are using each time you exercise. Bring in a small notebook with you to the gym and keep track as you are going. At the end of each week or every other week, look over your performance and see where you need more focus/work. This will help you stay accountable and on track because you’ll be able to see your progression.

All of these weight-training tips can be tough, but you can do it. Remember to always be safe and watch your form in order to prevent injury. Don’t hit the ground running too fast. Push yourself but do it within your means and capabilities. Also remember that you are on this fitness journey so celebrate your hard work every day and be proud.

You got this!

Thomas Ngo
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Dietetic Intern

Check out my Facebook and Instagram pages for more daily fitness/nutrition tips:
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