Are you spending hours working out and not getting results? Don't despair - It's far more common than you think and the solution may be working smarter, not harder!

Everyone's situation can be very unique, but here are 3 main points to consider with your workouts to help you increase your exercise efficiency and results.

1. Exercise Execution

Using proper technique allows you to stay physically comfortable and reduce risk of injury. Our bodies are designed to work in very specific movement patterns.

When we exercise, the objective is to optimize muscle recruitment and minimize orthopedic stress. When you use proper form, you are better able to target the intended muscle group(s) as well as the order in which muscle fibres fire. Bottom line, you want to call on the right muscles at the right time.

How to improve technique?

  • Check the mechanics of the exercise: This includes posture, alignment, angles and range of motion.
  • Modify your resistance: You could be using too much or too little! This applies to both cardio and strength exercises.
  • Quality vs. quantity: Technique tends to slide when you start to feel fatigued. You may need to modify the number of repetitions or sets.

2. Exercise Intensity

How hard you should be working during exercise can be a confusing and controversial issue - and it's totally understandable!

First, research has really evolved so there are lots of conflicting messages out there. The second, and most challenging concept, is that it depends.

It gets confusing for the public because there is research and rationale that can be used to support any of the latest trends. Infomercials, marketing ads and exercise gurus use elements of evidence-based exercise theories to support their program, system or equipment.

The fact is that it depends on the person and the goals. It also depends on your current fitness level and the amount of time that can be dedicated.

How to choose the correct intensity?

  • Too much: High intensity is a definite trend these days, however, it does cause stress on the body and balancing stress is important - with life and workouts!

    While it can burn a lot of calories in a short period of time, it's also very stressful on the body. HIIT training is recommended 2-3 times a week as your body needs time to recover. For cardio or muscle training, too much intensity can also impact technique which reduces muscle recruitment and can increase risk of injury.
  • Too little: For both cardio and strength training, there are two considerations. First, you do need to be working at a level that is comfortable but challenging. If using a heart rate check for cardio, this means at least 60 per cent of your maximum heart rate (220-age). Alternatively, you can use perceived exertion (see the Modified Borg Scale) at or above 3. The benefit of the Borg Scale is that it applies to any activity. If you are using cardio equipment or weights, having too little resistance can result in ballistic movement that is tough on the joints. You need a sufficient amount to ensure you are maintaining control through any range of motion.

For monitoring any exercise intensity, the Borg Scale is so useful. It is accurate and varies with you based on your day and fitness level.

3. Exercise Selection

What exercises you choose will also impact your results. As we already noted, there is no ONE exercise that is best suited for everyone and all goals. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing workouts and figuring out your weekly routine.

  • Balance of components: You may be more focused on one, but you do want to include a balance of cardio, strength and flexibility in your overall routine.
  • Muscle balance: Include all major muscle groups and be sure to spend extra time on muscles that do need balance. For example, work on back strength and flexibility through the chest and shoulders to combat time spent hunched over a computer!
  • Vary your routine: If you do the same workout, run or the exact same cardio workout all the time, it results in what we call SAID - specific adaptation to imposed demands - or a plateau. Changes don't have to be dramatic, though; you could change your route, your intensity or the type of equipment you use.

Enjoy your workouts: We can't say this enough. If you choose workouts you enjoy, it's easier to stick with them and consistency is directly related to results!

Overall, you want to avoid following trends and trainers who claim their product or method is the solution for shedding unwanted fat and getting that beach body you always wanted. Stick with evidence-based information - so always check if it's from a qualified source that isn't simply trying to sell you something.

You also want to be realistic with your expectations. If you have lots of time to dedicate to training and nutrition, you have the opportunity to get more results more quickly.

The most practical way, however, is to make small changes over time that are sustainable. And, if you are healthy, strong and capable of participating in life activity you enjoy, that is far more important than fitting into an image or weight you think is ideal.

Finally, remember that you also can't out-train your fork. You could have a well-balanced and effective routine, but if you don't eat the right nutrients to fuel your efforts, you won't be able to optimize results from your workouts.

In addition, if you eat more calories than you require, your body is very efficient at storing those extra calories for later use - as fat!

For more tips and inspiration on how to get started with your workouts, click here. We'll be starting a 30 Day Challenge at coming up in May, 2016 to help feel energized heading into the warm weather season. Sign up for more details or simply visit weekly for tips and information. More details coming soon!