Sometimes it’s nice to work out alone—it’s a chance to clear your head and listen to whatever music you want. But, admit it: With no instructor to keep you accountable, you might find yourself checking your texts or patting yourself on the back after 20 minutes of cardio. Nevermind that ab work—you’ll just do it next time!
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. According to master trainer Kira Stokes (who’s known for her brutal—but effective—Stoked Series), there are plenty of opportunities to hack your gym workout so it’s just as hard and effective as any boutique fitness class.
You’ll end up working muscles that are otherwise neglected—as long as you stay focused. “Don’t look at your phone,” says Stokes. “You should not be able to read an email while you work out.”
Ready to commit this to memory (and then step away from the phone)? Keep reading for 3 ways to hack your gym workout to make it a serious sweat sesh.
1. Go to the machine you never use
When it comes to cardio, pretty much everyone has their go-to, whether it’s the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. But Stokes says that it’s really important to switch things up at the gym.
“If you usually get on the elliptical for your cardio, turn right back around and try something else, like the rowing machine,” she suggests. “Whatever it is that you never do is what your body needs the most.”
2. Don’t stop moving during your floor work
Besides the cardio floor, the next most popular place at any gym is typically the open space with mats and free weights. Stokes’ pro tip is to walk over there with a plan (or a few good workout videos) and keep moving for about 20 minutes total.
You can take planks, lunges, and squats to the next level by adding a plyometric move. “Follow a set of 15 lunges with a set of plyo lunges (like reverse lunge jumps),” she says. “Do 15 squats, and then do 15 squat jumps.”
Make sure to include plenty of push-ups and pull-ups
There’s a reason why these OG moves have stood the test of time—they work tons of major muscle groups and are always going to be challenging, no matter how fit you get.
“Doing a push-up correctly is hard,” says Stokes, adding that most people inadvertently give their bodies a break by sticking their butts out, arching their backs, or not activating their cores. Instead, she says, place your arms on the floor slightly wider than your hips, squeeze your butt, and draw your navel in as you lower down and come back up. “This is as much a core move as it is an upper body move,” Stokes says. “You should be able to feel it.”
As for pull-ups, Stokes claims they’re the hardest move you can do at the gym, period. “Male or female, being able to do a pull-up is a great goal for anyone to have,” she says. Sure, it may take several weeks (or more) to perfect, but Stokes assures it’s time well spent—not just for your arms and core, but you’re entire body.
Next time you hit the gym, give the stair climber a try—one pro says it’s the best form of cardio you can do. Just make sure that you’ve got the proper fuel, like one of these trainer-approved snacks.