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8 Ways to Branch Out at the Gym 

Think for a minute about where you spend your gym time.

What areas, machines or rooms do you frequent? What tools do you use? How much of the overall facility do these encompass? Finally, how long have you been limiting yourself to this circuit? 

The fact is, Life Time members literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of different equipment pieces, classes and other offerings to choose from. The concept behind this variety, of course, is to ignite interest and maximize workout productivity.

The tough thing, however, is that we're creatures of habit. We find our groove in life and often get stuck there. The same applies at the gym. This pattern can lead to plateaus and frustration, but a few tweaks can change your outlook on your current regimen. Expanding your fitness horizons will inevitably boost your enthusiasm – and your workout productivity. Consider these several ways to branch out at the club today.

Change your “tools.”

Free Weights

Many people gravitate toward the machine area over the free weight area. This is very understandable. For many, the free weight area can be quite intimidating. However, free weights should really be the foundation of any strength training program. Don’t get me wrong, machines are very viable tools, but they should be used to complement your resistance training – not set the foundation. Oftentimes, machines put us at a mechanical disadvantage and decrease the amount of muscle fibers we use.

Bonus Tip: Take it one exercise at a time. Pick out a single exercise you feel great about performing – let’s say, a row. During your next workout, instead of doing the machine row, do the row in the free weight area with dumbbells. You will slowly develop confidence in that space and can continue to branch out.


As simple as these cannon balls with handles are, they are truly amazing tools. When used properly – and I emphasize properly – Kettlebells offer up endless possibilities. They can be used to improve maximal strength, increase aerobic capacity, improve body composition and prevent pain and future injuries – especially in the low back.

Bonus Tip: All exercise tools can become weapons when not used properly, and this is especially true with the Kettlebell. This tool takes a lot of precision to use effectively. If you’re going to incorporate the Kettlebell into your current plan, then partner with a trained fitness professional who will help you use it properly.


ViRP is an acronym for Vitality, Performance and Re-Conditioning. With well over 9,000 documented exercises, these cylindrical hollow tubes offer up an endless array of total body exercises. When you look around at the gym, almost everyone moves their bodies in a singular plane of motion – the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane divides the body into left and right halves. This plane of motion includes the following traditional exercises: running, walking, chest press, pull ups, shoulder press, squats, lunges and rows. As you can see, many of us only move in one single plain while at the club, but outside of the club we move in 3 different planes simultaneously. Think about the motion of shoveling. You squat, reach, pull, stand, lift, twist and throw in one fluid motion. Traditional lifting cannot prepare your body properly for that type of motion. That is why many people injure themselves when doing the simplest tasks. Their bodies are simply not prepared for it. That is the beauty of ViPR training: it allows you to perform total body, loaded exercise in all 3 planes of motion at the same time.

Bonus Tip: Many people look at the ViPR and think, “Wow, that is a silly device for shoulder press and bicep curls.” Do not be the person who overlooks the incredible ability of these simple looking tools to improve your health! Connect with a fitness professional who can help you uncover all the benefits for your fitness and performance.


TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise. These straps with handles allow you to use your own body weight and gravity to build strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, core, and joint stability – all while preventing injuries.

Bonus Tip: Just like the tools we just covered, the TRX straps have hundreds of different exercises that can advance your current program. Leverage the experts in the club to show you all the different possibilities.

Change your intensity.

Add strength training to your regimen.

No matter how heavy your program is in cardiovascular work, you need to add strength training to it. Strength training can increase your cardiovascular efficiency, prevent injuries, and enhance your final kick.

Bonus Tip: Without a periodized program that continues to overload the body, you will be wasting your time. Partner with a personal trainer who can design a personalized routine to complement your cardiovascular effort.

Add high intensity interval training to your regimen.

No matter how heavy your program is in strength work, you need to add cardiovascular training to it. Developing a good aerobic base will allow your body to recover between sets more quickly. This will allow you to perform at a higher volume during any given workout, which is imperative to continued success.

Bonus Tip: Don’t waste your time doing mindless minutes of cardio without a concrete plan. Take advantage of Life Time’s Metabolic Coaching to guarantee you are not wasting your time and effort. You will get a custom monthly plan that progresses your workout to ensure you get the very most out of your time investment.

Change your motivation.

Train with a partner (or two).

Motivation is critical to staying consistent with not only the effort but the success of the workout. Working in groups of two or three is ideal to ensure you bring enough intensity to every workout. Chances are, when you’re by yourself, you may skip a workout on occasion because you “weren’t feeling it,” or skip a few sets here and there because “it doesn’t really matter.” Working with a partner or in a group of three increases the chance that someone in your group is “feeling it” and will motivate you to do the same.

Bonus Tip: “Iron shapes iron.” Train with someone who challenges you. If your training partner doesn’t help motivate you to get to the club and put forth your absolute best effort, then you may need to branch out and look for another partner. 

Benefit from a personal trainer.

As fitness professionals, we could be referred to as “personal motivators” as much as personal trainers. A critical part of any trainer’s daily duty is to make sure his or her clients are pushing hard enough in their workouts to elicit change. Motivation can, and should, come through weekly progress checks, continual adaptations to the program, monitoring and implementing new healthy habits, and continuous encouragement to push harder and farther.

Bonus Tip: Each personal trainer has specific areas of expertise and areas of limitation. In the same respect, just like anywhere, we have personalities that can either “jibe” with you or clash with you. Respect your needs as well as their individuality, and shop around to find the trainer who best suits your interests and can offer the education and relationship that will best propel you forward in your fitness endeavors.

Which of the above tools or strategies would help you branch out during your gym time? Choose one new possibility to incorporate in your workout this week, and take advantage of the instruction and support club trainers can offer you in your exploration.

In health, Cliff Edberg, National Education Manager, Nutrition, Metabolism & Weight Management, RD/LD, NSCA, BioSig, CISSN, Pn1

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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