The Most Important Workout Factor You Might Be Missing


After more than 20 years in the fitness industry, there is one question that’s asked by nearly every person who has stepped foot in a gym, regardless of their personal goals: “What is the best workout plan?”

The answer is simple, really. The best workout is the one you believe in. Over the past two decades, I have tried every set/rep scheme and workout protocol imaginable: high repetitions, low repetitions, high volume, low volume, speed work, maximum effort, resistance bands, chains, boot camp, body weight and the list goes on. Trust me, I’ve “been there, done that.”

I’ve found the one most important factor in determining my results (and the results of hundreds of clients I’ve trained) is the level of intensity or vigor applied to the workout. What determines whether you perform your workout with intensity? No matter if you are age 22 or age 92, it’s simply your belief in the workout. Period.

Fitness research tells us anything WILL work, but only for a limited time. Then you must change the stimulus to keep your body from adapting, limiting and stopping further growth.

Here are my top five tips for building a workout plan that gets results for a lifetime:

  1. Set goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Setting goals keeps us motivated and helps us through the many phases of our life. Goals vary with age, so think about the goals you have for the phase of life you are in and choose workouts appropriately. If you are an avid gardener, you may want to incorporate twisting movements and bending up and down into your workout, to simulate the things you enjoy doing in your garden.
  2. Incorporate variety. It’s the spice of life and fitness. So try a bit of everything. If it interests you and you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stick with it.
  3. Rethink your definition of fitness. Walking on a treadmill and lifting weights are not the only ways to be fit. In fact, there are thousands of ways to incorporate fitness that don’t even require you to step foot in a gym. Sports leagues, dance classes, swimming and walking with your friends all are great ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Rotate your workout plans continuously and never stop. Eight weeks is a good amount of time to run through a workout plan and still be excited about it.
  5. Consider hiring a personal trainer. I know, I’m slightly biased. But working with a trainer, even just a few times each year, will help keep you on track and ensure you’re choosing the workouts that best match your personal goals.

If you read through a workout plan and even for one second start to think, “this sounds stupid,” don’t try that workout. You will never fully believe in it and therefore you will never give it the intensity that your workouts need and deserve!

Matt Smith is certified as a personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). A former private gym owner, he now serves as Director of Personal Training for Greater Midland Community Centers. He sits on the board of curriculum advisors for Delta College’s Health Fitness Education Department and the Wellsport Community Advisory Committee. Matt is also the distance coach for the Meridian High School track program.

In addition to his leadership roles, Matt is an active competitor in the USAPL and APF powerlifting federations, where he has won multiple state championships and holds state records. He also has competed in NPC Bodybuilding Shows, marathons, 50-mile ultra-marathons and triathlons, including recently completing a Double Iron-Man. Matt and his wife, Julie live in Midland, Mich.


Photo credit: Jasleen Kaur Flickr (Main), Greater Midland Community Center

If you liked this post, you may be interested in reading:

Do You Know How To Create The Perfect Weekly Workout Routine?

Cardio Doesn’t Have to Hurt: The Best Low-Impact Workouts

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