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5 Surefire Ways to Improve Workout Performance (Science Backed)

So, you're working out regularly and putting in a ton of effort.

That alone puts you way ahead of most folks on the planet.

But somewhere at the back of your mind you're thinking:

Is there anything I can do to get a bigger bang for my workout buck?

Well, you can relax because here are five proven ways to improve workout performance pretty much instantly.

As in right now.


And the best part?

They're quick, easy and cost next to nothing (in fact, most of them are completely free!)

So if you're looking to get bigger/stronger/faster or just plain more awesome, you'll want to check these out...

1. Yes Whey

OK, let's keep this really simple.

There are only two things you really need to know about protein:

1. Consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (2.2 g per kg of bodyweight)

2. Consume 40 grams of protein in both the hour before training AND after training

That's it!

So, grab yourself an inexpensive whey protein powder and start nailing those targets today.

How will this help your workout?

By helping to make sure that you're properly recovered from the one before.

Always remember that...

You don't get stronger by lifting weights, you get stronger by recovering from lifting weights

– Mark Rippetoe

And for dudes our age, recovery is everything.

Listen, as we get older, we become "protein resistant" - this means we need more protein to stimulate growth and repair than we did back in our 20s/30s.

So here's the bottom line:

If you're working out but not consuming enough protein, you're effectively pushing the gas pedal with your right foot...

...while pressing the brake pedal with your left.

Protein is that fundamental to making continued forward progress.

2. Caffeine Gives You Wings

Caffeine isn't only for jump-starting yourself first thing in the morning - it can also turbocharge your workout.

How much caffeine are we talking about here?

Well, according to The International Society of Sports Nutrition:

(Which means a 200-lb (90-kg) man would take between 300 and 600 mg of caffeine)

OK, so what does that translate to in terms of coffee?

Figure on something like 6 tall Starbucks lattes...

(Yep, you read that right - SIX of them!)

So here's the bottom line:

Caffeine is best consumed in TABLET form around 20-30 minutes prior to working out.

(I use Prolab's caffeine tablets - these work out to something like 14¢ for 400mg of caffeine)

How will caffeine help your workout?

By improving concentration and alertness, and boosting the performance of endurance and high-intensity exercise.

And here's a little secret...

You know all that stuff about Red Bull giving you wings?

Well, research has shown that's all down to the caffeine :)

3. Watch Something Arousing

OK, I know that sounds a bit weird, but get this:

A study found that squat 3-RM (3 rep maximum) improved after watching "erotic, aggressive and training clips" for just 4 minutes.

The upshot?

Before your workout (or heavy sets if you're resistance training) grab your iPhone and check out something that'll get you amped.

• That cheesy-yet-awesome Rocky IV training montage,

• A round from UFC (Mirko vs Bob Sapp?), or

 • The 10-on-1 elevator fight scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier

“Before we get started… does anybody want to get out..?”

Just a few minutes will be enough to get you fired up and in the zone.

Trust me, it may sound kind of lame but it works like gangbusters.

4. Tightness is Lightness

If you're into resistance training, you'll be intimately familiar with this:

How heavy you perceive the weight to be determines your attitude toward the task ahead

So, if your first thought is "Jeez, that's heavy!", you'll doubt your ability to complete the set.

And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But if your first thought is "Man, that's light", you'll attack the set with a feeling of total confidence.

And you'll just dominate it!

So, here's the obvious question:

How do we make a weight feel lighter?

OK, just try this...

1. Set a bar in a rack as if you were going to do a standing press, only with around 25% more weight than you would normally use,

2. Take a HUGE breath, get super-tight, unrack the bar and just stand with it in your hands for 2-3 seconds (maintaining tightness),

3. Re-rack the bar

Tightness is lightness - getting tight makes the weight feel lighter

OK, now the fun part...

Shake your arms out, then do it again, only this time in kind of a halfhearted way (no huge breath, not much tightness).


It's a whole different deal, right?

We perceived the second time as way heavier, even thought it's the exact same weight!

So, here's the bottom line:

Tightness is lightness

Tightness is lightness Click To Tweet

Hey, just check out how tight Justin Lascek gets before squatting 485 lbs for five:

Now, this doesn't just apply to strength athletes or powerlifters.

It works the same if you're lifting free weights or doing bodyweight exercises like chins or push ups.

So, let this be your mantra:

If it's squeezable, SQUEEZE IT.

If it's already squeezed, SQUEEZE IT HARDER.

And your ability to use more weight or do more reps will just skyrocket.

5. Listen to Music While Training

The right music can help you tap into hidden reserves that you never knew existed.

Notice how high it was cranked up in Lascek's squat video above?

And it doesn't only apply to gym workouts...

When I ran my first marathon on the flat, endless roads of Betsukai, I made sure I had a damn good playlist on my iPhone.

Caffeine and music boost performance

Conversely, when I head into a globo gym while traveling, I can almost feel the sucky music drain my training mojo.

Bottom line?

Find some music that gets you juiced, and listen to it while you work out.

Here are my current favorites for the "big five" lifts:

Deadlifts → Nailbomb - Wasting Away

Squats → Orange 9mm - Glistening

Weighted chin ups → Guns N' Roses - Rocket Queen

Standing press/bench pressDef Leppard - Pour Some Sugar on Me

Make no mistake, music has been instrumental (see what I did there?) in pretty much every PR I’ve ever set.


1. Creatine Monohydrate

If you're not supplementing with creatine monohydrate, you're leaving strength gains on the table.

Put simply, creatine monohydrate puts more gas in the tank for movements that require large amounts of force and power production.

More gas in the tank = more repetitions performed = more strength gained


Now, creatine is crazy expensive here in Japan, so I just order this 2.2-lb tub from the US that costs around $20 and lasts over 6 months.

Then you just take 5 grams per day, everyday.


2. Save the Conversation for Later

I know, I know.

It may be tempting to socialize between sets, but that mental relaxation has a nasty habit of bleeding into the next set.

It's hard to get tight when you're chuckling to yourself.

Listen, I've seen people set up for a deadlift and not be able to break the bar off the floor...

...all because they were still mentally in conversation.

"It's way too heavy..."

Then something amazing happens:

They refocus for a couple of minutes, and pull a solid set of 5 with the same weight.

"Wow, it felt light that time..."

So, don't sell yourself short - get focused, stay focused and always bring your best game.

Skyrocket Your Workout ROI

Ultimately, the most valuable resource we have is our time.

And each workout is an investment you make to become the best possible version of yourself.

Now, even if you're working out 3 hours per week, that's still less than 2% of the time you have each week.

And the return on investment is out of all proportion to the time you put in...

... as long as you make the time spent working out count 100%.

So, make sure you:

  • Get in enough protein (1g/lb bodyweight per day, 40g within the hour before/after training)
  • Take 1½-3 mg of caffeine per lb of bodyweight 20-30 minutes before training
  • Get fired up with a video clip
  • Get really fricking tight - remember, tighter is lighter
  • Listen to music that gets you amped
  • Take 5mg of creatine monohydrate each day
  • Give your workout the laser focus it deserves

Start putting these few simple things into action, and you'll be blown away by the results!

OK, now it's over to you.

Can you think of any that aren't included here?

Let's me know in the comments :)

- Tim

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