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Motivational Tools For More Productive Workouts.

What motivates you? Maybe it's a particular figure or physique you want. Maybe you want to get that first date and want to improve your appearance (this is what got me involved in bodybuilding). Maybe you want to be stronger and healthier.

What motivates you? Maybe it's a particular figure or physique you want. Maybe you want to get that first date and want to improve your appearance (this is what got me involved in bodybuilding). Maybe you want to be stronger and healthier. Maybe your motivation is longevity. Maybe you want to look better, feel better and have more energy. Maybe you want more muscle and/or strength. What motivates you determines your consistency and desired results. Tools you use for motivation yield the same. You should be motivated to exercise because you want to, not because of anyone else's reason. What keeps you motivated in the gym? What do you do to keep the intensity up?

Music is a great motivator during exercise. Get a Walkman or CD player, earphones, a pouch or something to place the Walkman or CD player in and your music selection. I personally like a distinctive classic hard rock and rhythmic beat like Foreigner, Aerosmith, Def Leopard and ZZ Top. My recent favorites are AC/DC Live or Stone Cold Metal. How about inspiration? Whereas music motivates, inspiration invigorates. Good examples of inspiration can be found in muscle magazines and watching training videos. Among the bodybuilding community we have Pumping Iron in the 70s, Lee Haney's Workout in the 80s, Dorian Yates' Blood and Guts in the 90s and now Ronnie Coleman's Unbelievable in the 2000s. I have them all four of them spanning four decades of bodybuilding training history. Training and contest videos are at your disposal. Whatever works for you use it!


Your most productive workout will first begin in your head - hours before your actual workout takes place. Your workouts can become super-energizing and very effective when planning your workout first in your head. The tool is called "visualization" - used before and during your workouts. First, have a goal in mind in what you want to accomplish in your workout. Maybe you want to increase strength or weight in a particular exercise. Maybe you want to focus on the "pump." Maybe you want to have a short but intense cardio workout. Maybe you want to build up your mind for greater endurance. Maybe you want to focus on feeling the deep burn to activate your "fat burning machinery" even more.

Whatever the goal may be set your self up for reaching it. Second, form a mental picture, seeing yourself how you will perform your pre-planned workout with the selected order of exercises. Third, mentally rehearse it and then do it. Feel your accomplishment! If you can succeed in your mind then success will also be yours in the gym!

Apply visualization to your working muscles in how they function with each movement. When doing a lat pull-down learn to relax your shoulders, traps, biceps and forearms, while using your fingers only as hooks. Tighten your lat muscles in an effort to pull your shoulders in toward your body (thus, the elbows must be pointing down and under the bar - not out away from the body and back behind the bar). At the bottom of the movement flex or contract and then squeeze the lats together! When doing a flye movement visualize hugging a big tree and squeezing the life out of it! When doing machine lateral raises (a burn for most of my clients!) focus and visualize your self brutally jabbing the "gravity monster."

Maybe you are doing military or leg presses. Pretend to be pushing someone off (who gets on your nerve?) with a thrust! Get off me man! This is my time! This is my domain! Or before starting a set of leg extensions pretend seeing a huge massive muscle monster (for all you guys whose goal is to get BIG!) in front of you with huge, powerful and striated frontal quad muscles! Perhaps you wish to visualize with your spiritual side. Okay, then, think of lifting as a cosmic struggle between good and evil. The weight (iron) is matter and is therefore 'evil.' Your mind is spirit and therefore 'good.' "Matter" is your weakness. Your mind or "Spirit" is your strength. I remember I was in Osaka, Japan and I distinctly recall thinking this way about mind and matter about the weights - the resistance. At the time I was doing standing calf raises on the machine. It is a battle between matter and the spirit. In muscle-building the muscles give up before the mind does. So remember your spirit and/or your mind when training. You'll notice a great difference in your progress!


Wearing a heart rate monitor is an excellent way of monitoring the intensity of your cardiorespiratory exercise and provides the knowledge of how fit or unfit you are. It motivates you to stay within your target heart rate or "training zone" to reap desired benefits in the least amount of time. A heart monitor watch also protects you by letting you know when too much is too much for your heart. It lets you know how easy or hard you are training - when to push it, when to back off and when to stay put.


Many people bring a blank piece of paper with them to the gym or carry their chart of progress with them and record what they did: exercise, weight, sets, reps. I do the same except my paper isn't blank. It's a "game plan" already drafted that tells me what I should do that workout to keep making continued progress. Since my previous workout had been recorded I go back and review it and write down what I should do this workout. When I get back home I record in my training journal what I actually did and throw away the draft. So, to me, a training journal is a pro-active chart of progress that is made up of two parts: (1) a drafted game plan and (2) a record of what was actually accomplished in that workout. I never come to the gym empty handed not knowing what I am going to do.

I've kept a training journal back from who knows when I started. From the summer of 1983 at Superbodies Gym in Costa Mesa, California to Japan in the mid to late 80s to early 90s, to Israel in 1994 and finally to Spokane, Washington in 1994 to present. A training journal is a tool. What it does is that it provides a chart of your progress during times when you are training. It allows you to see your strength increases, weaknesses, and injuries. It keeps you motivated. It keeps you alert. It keeps you positive. It gives you energy. It helps you to train smart. It helps you to plan each and every workout so you will be able to see any type of process at "each workout". It keeps you focused and committed toward excellence of a stronger and healthier you. It gives you ideas from workout to workout: when to adjust your weight, change exercises, sets, reps, what to do, what not to do, how to do it, etc. Not only that but it's fun to look back at them. See the example of my preferred style of a training journal below.

Click Here To See My Training Journal Example

Copyright © 1997-2002 Randy M. Herring