Most advice telling you what to do before training involves advice that isn’t wrong, but it’s not useful.
We all know that getting a good night’s sleep and eating well and having consistent routines are important to have a good workout. We’ve heard this.
But this isn’t the full story. There are other strategies you can tap into before working out in a few specific instances.
1) You don’t feel like working out that day.
Maybe you went out the night before. We’ve all been there, including the guy who’s pretending he’s perfect on the internet and telling you to just get a good night’s sleep.
2) It’s an important workout
It could be competition day, or PR day, or maybe it’s just the day you’re doing Bulgarian Split Squats and those are freaking terrible and you need a boost for them.
For those instances, that’s what these strategies are for.
Research has shown clearly that listening to music can boost our sympathetic hormones, like adrenaline and signal a dopamine release.
This seems to translate directly to our training. One study found that those who listened to music before strength training had increased power. They were literally more powerful.
We can take this a step further on the days you need an extra boost.
Our brain is fantastic at creating associations between things.
Think about the psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his dogs, which created the whole term “Pavlovian.”
Pavlov’s infamous dogs were fed always after hearing a bell. Over time, when they heard the bell, they began salivating even before the food came.
We can create associations in a similar way. This is why we recommend choosing a “trigger song.”
Now, this shouldn’t be one of your favorite songs. It’s a song reserved to give you a boost for your training.
Habitually listen to it before training, and ONLY before training. If you listen to it all the time, then the association weakens.
Your body will physically learn to associate training with this song.
Your heart rate will quicken when you hear it, your bloodstream will flood with adrenaline.
You will be just like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the sound of a bell.
Then, on the days when you’re lacking motivation, throw that song on. Throw it on repeat. BUT, you have to use it judiciously, and make sure you only listen to the song in moments when you’re training or just about to train.
Think about how if you hear blink-182s “I Miss You,” you automatically think of high school. You’ve created that association. Even though it’s been years since then, when you hear that song you still think of high school again.
Our brains are remarkable at this, so let’s use it to our advantage.
“Power training” is an ill-defined term. Here I’m referring to any training at higher velocities. Jumping, sprinting, low-rep exercises at lightweights like kettlebell swings and medball throws.
Physiologically, there are a whole host of benefits to doing this before heavier lifting and traditional resistance training.
More simply, though, this explosive training activates our sympathetic nervous system more than steady-state movement.
Think about it from an evolutionary perspective. When ancient humans saw a bear coming at them, they suddenly had to sprint to save their life. In a split second, they were sleepy or sluggish anymore.
This doesn’t mean you need to sprint 400 meters to tap into this. If you have a short turf area, building up to a 10-yard all-out sprint will tap into these benefits.
Really, there are a whole list of options that can be safe for the most banged-up among us. Here’s a non-exhaustive list you can choose from to get yourself going.
- 10yd build-up sprints
- Dynamic warm-up
- Pogo Jumps
- 10-second stationary bike sprints
- Med ball chest throws
- Med ball slams
- Squat jumps
There are a host of options but the premise is to do something explosively. A safe option could be a short sprint on the stationary bike.
This is a good habit generally, but make it more of a priority on the days you’re feeling sluggish.
This can come in many forms. Coffee can be exactly what you need, as caffeine is one powerful substance. Especially if you’re not a habitual coffee drinker, a caffeine boost will give you extra alertness compared to those who habitually consume a lot of caffeine.
You can say the same for traditional pre-workouts. Although, there’s a lot of crap on the market, so make sure you look at a brand that’s third-party tested.
If you’re a regular caffeine drinker, it will lose a lot of this boost. The good news is that caffeine isn’t the only stimulant that’s safe at moderate doses.
One herbal supplement to try is kratom. Kratom comes from the leaves of the kratom tree, a special native to Southeast Asia and known for its stimulant effect.
In particular, go for a white strain of kratom, because as we cover in this article, white strains have more of a stimulating effect. Green strains can be okay too, but avoid red strains if you’re going for an energy boost.
Kratom is a controversial substance, and we tackle a lot of those reasons why in this article. The biggest problem with kratom, though, is because of its other controversies it’s not well-regulated. This means almost anybody can sell kratom, and it could be total crap. It’s the same problem that supplements like pre-workouts have, but to a greater extent.
So if you do want to try kratom, make sure you pick it up from a reputable source. We ONLY recommend getting it from Viable Kratom. They have the most transparent manufacturing process in the industry and are third-party tested.
For a caffeine alternative, try Viable’s White Vein Borneo kratom.
But, just like caffeine, your body will build tolerance. So use kratom as a pre-workout only on the days you need that boost.
The base of motivating yourself to workout should rely on the basics. Develop sound habits so that training consistently becomes second nature. Learn how to sleep soundly so as a default you have the energy to train.
But, like we talked about at the beginning, these are all tools at your disposal to put yourself in beast mode when you need it.
For more thoughts on everything involving pre-workouts, check out our general thoughts on pre-workout supplements.