The fact that you are reading this post means one thing: you are looking to improve your health and fitness. While there are many factors that will influence the latter, exercising is one of the most important aspects that you need to add to your daily life to fulfill a healthier life. Well, you are looking at the right space.
Exercise not only helps you lose weight, it carries numerous scientifically proven benefits such as increased happiness, disease prevention, back pain and injury reduction, better sleep, and the list goes on. Unfortunately a lot of us fail to consistently exercise because of 2 things: lack of goal and lack of planning. Setting a goal and planning your workouts are the key for a successfully reaching your results.
You may first ask what should I do?
The best workout plan Is the one created specifically for YOU. When I say for you means that it should fulfill your goals, fit your capabilities, take into account your preferences and time constraint and ofcourse, support your health and wellness. Before searching for the ideal workout program, it is crucial to answer some questions. The answers to these questions will allow you to find and follow a program you will commit to and enjoy. Remember that it takes a while to see the results you want to achieve, and its therefore important to be realistic about your goals and abilities yet enthusiastic about your plan. Let’s take a closer look on some questions you that may help you choose the best workout plan for you:
What would you like to achieve:
1. Do you want to improve your overall health?
2. Do you want to become stronger in lifting?
3. Do you want to participate in a marathon?
4. Do you want to lose weight and look better?
5. Do you want to learn a new skill?.
Which type of workouts do you enjoy:
1. Do you like to workout alone or with others?
2. Do you like one on one attention?
3. Do you prefer a gym or home workouts?
4. Do you like taking your time or fast, quick effective workouts
What is your current fitness level:
1. Have you been working out for a while and need a level up
2. Have you done a fitness test – ( please find an example of a fitness test below)
3. What is your body composition
Do you have any medical conditions
1. Any chronic disease that need to be taken into consideration such as heart disease
2. Do you have any previous or current injuries
3. Do you have joint pain ( knee, shoulders etc)
How many days a week can you commit to and for how long can you train for :
1. How much can you fit workouts in your schedule
2. Which days seem best for you
3. What time do you prefer working out ( morning versus evening)
How many days and hours should I workout per week?
The amount of time spent on working out depends on multiple factors. First, your job. Is your job active or is it sedentary. If your job is a sedentary job where you sit on your desk most of the day then you should engage in at least 30 minutes of activity on a daily basis for a total of 150 minutes per week. However, since most of us lead busy lives, realistically, you should commit to 1 hour per day atleast 3 days per week of moderate to high intensity exercise to get the benefit you want regardless of your goal. On the other hand, it is advised that if you are lucky to be able to workout on a daily basis, one rest day a week or active recovery such as stretching or light exercise is crucial to recuperate, build muscle and get the results your want.
***How is your fitness tested:
In order to get the best plan that will challenge you yet take into consideration your current capabilities it is important to get your fitness levels checked. Speaking to a professional personal trainer or coach can help you determine where you currently stand with your fitness.
These are some things that are tested:
- Your heart rate: your resting heart rate ( RHR) and how much your heart rate rises during activity tells a lot about your cardiovascular fitness. In general you want to have a RHR between 60-80 bpm. Athletes usually have a RHR of less than 60 indicating that their heart is more efficient at pumping blood to the body. This is an overall health goal.
- Your cardiovascular endurance: This is done through several tests. One could be a 1 k test where the personal trainer can see how long it takes you to finish a 1 k. Another is a 12 minute test to also see how much you can cover and how your heart rate reacts. Those measures could also be targets of improvement.
- Your strength: There are a few ways to test this as well and it all depends on the goal. Pure strength is done by testing your 1-RM of a specific exercise like squats or deadlifts. This is the heaviest 1 rep lift you can do for this movement. Endurance strength is tested by checking how many times you can do a strength related movement. Some of those include max push ups and max plank ( core strength). How many max push-ups can you do?
- Your flexibility and mobility: Flexibility testing could be a primary need especially if someone is starting a workout plan that includes yoga. In general flexibility is necessary correct imbalances and instabilities. Mobility on the other hand is related to the limitations in the range of motion which will be crucial to help build a safe and effective program.
- Body composition: your body composition tells you how much fat, muscle, water and bone you have. In general there is a fat % limit that should not be exceeded to ensure health and avoid chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Body composition tests could be done at some gyms that have inbody machines or other similar machines. According to the results you may decide to choose a fat loss plan versus a muscle building or overall health plan. It an also serve a baseline guide for future reference and improvement process.
As I mentioned above, your workout is based on many factors that only you can answer. After you have decided on your goals, number of days, duration per workout and evaluated your fitness level, you can choose a workout program that suits you.
All workout plans should include a combination of all types of exercises suitable for one’s fitness levels. For example, if your goal is to improve strength and build muscle then 75% of your program should include strengthening exercises, while 15% of your program should have cardiovascular exercises and 10% mobility and stretching. On the other hand, if your goal is to imrpove overall health then your progran should be one that make your happier and should include about an equal breakdown of cardiovascular and strength exercise ( 40% strength, 40% cardiovascular, 20% stretching and mobility).
If your goal is to achieve weightloss, you may want to employ a bit more of cardiovascular workouts ( 50%) , some strength and muscle building exercises ( 40%), and 10 % stretching and mobility. Keep in mind that muscle building is crucial for weightloss and healthy as the muscle is a calorie burning oven, provides the shape and provides several health benefits . It is essential that all workout programs are to be coupled with a healthy and goal oriented nutrition plan.
What if my time is limited?
When it comes to time constraints which is a major factor to halting exercising and not committing, there are several solutions. One is employing more HIIT workouts within your workout plan. There are two major types of cardiovascular activities: HIIT and long steady state Cardiovascular activities (SSC). Both burn a lot of calories and contribute to weightloss, fitness and health. HIIT is ”high intensity interval training” and usually takes a short period of time while providing the calorie burning effect among other beenfits. The way it works is by having a short period of hard work aiming to raise your heart rate to about 90% of your maximum, followed by a period of rest that allows you to push hard for the next round ( your maximum heart rate is 220-age). Since you are pushing your limits here, usually HIIT does not take longer than a 20-30 mins workout. Steady state cardiovascular activities the other hand, are workouts that aim to raise your heart rate to about 60-80% of your maximum heart rate for more than 30 minutes. Since the heart rate stays on the moderate side, you are able to sustain for a long period. The benefit of HIIT is not only saving time but also tapping into the fat stores and avoiding muscle loss. Steady state cardiovascular ( SSC) activities are good for calorie burning and have amazing heart health benefits. HIIT,if done right, should not be done more than twice to 3 times per week. Below are some examples of HIIT versus SCC:
dynamic stretches, then 2 rounds :1 min jog on the spot, 10 squats, 10 arm rotations each direction, 5 push ups
1 minute on full on: 1 minutes off x 10 rounds (alternating the below movements)
– Jump rope skips
stretches and 5 minutes light jog
2. Steady state cardiovascular activity (SSC)
5 minutes jog followed by dynamic stretches
5 k run for time as a steady state non-stop
So now that you have an idea about where to start when choosing a workout program, below are some sample workouts that you can start with keeping in mind your fitness level, how many days and hours you can commit to and what are your fitness goals. Every workout should start with a 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches focused on the exercises and light cardio to raise your heart rate and get you warm avoiding injury. You can also make any workout program more challenging by increasing repetitions per time and/or increasing weights as you improve.
1. Strength and Muscle building plan x5 days with minimal time (45 minutes)- intermediate to advanced level
Monday – lower body focus
- 10 back squats at a moderate weight resting 90 seconds between each x 3 rounds
- 12 leg elevated split squats ( each leg with or without weights) supersetted
- 10 Romanian deadlifts
- Stretching and mobility : Hamstrings and hips
Tuesday – Core and HIIT
- 12 V-ups
- 30 seconds plank hold
- 12 sit ups
- 30 seconds superman hold
- HIIT 20 minutes
Thursday- Upper body Focus
- 10 Bench press at a moderate weight- rest 90 seconds between each set
4 rounds supersets:
- 10 dumbbell strict shoulder press
- 10 bicep curls
- 10 tricep bench dips
Friday- Posterior chain and back
3 rounds :
- 10 deadlifts at moderate weight – rest 90 seconds between each set
- 12/12 Single arm dumbbell row
- 12 goodmornings with dumbbells or light barbell
- 12 dumbbell flyes
Saturday: steady state cardio
1 hour cycling
Home workout/ Overall fitness/ weightloss – 1 hour x 3 days per week plus 1 day movement . Beginner to advanced
2 workouts: 20 minutes as many rounds as possible rest 5 minutes between each circuit
- 10 push ups ( knee or normal)
- 12 squats ( weighted or unweighted)
- 15 sit ups ( weighted or unweighted)
- 20 shoulder taps
- 16 lunges ( weighted or unweighted)
- 20 russian twist ( using any object or weight)
Followed by 10-15 minutes of stretching and mobility
Tuesday – rest
Each minute on the minutes x 45 minutes ( EMOM)- aim to hit all numbers in all sets, so choose a number you can maintain
- Minute 1:15- 20 mountain climbers
- Minutes 2: 15 wide squats
- Minutes 3: 10-12 burpees
- Minutes 4: 30-40 seconds plank
- Minutes 5 rest
Every 5 minutes x 7 rounds complete the below and rest for remaining time of 5 minutes
- 20-40 rope skips
- 10-15 sit ups
- 8-12 jumping squats
- 10-16 alternating up downs
- 8-12 jumping lunges
Walk for 1 hour
3. Cardiovascular/weightloss Focused Program x 4 days a week( 3 days 1 hour, 1 day 30 minutes)-gym access
Monday: 30 minutes HIIT
- Row : 200 meter
- Rest 1 minute
- Burpees: 15
- Rest 1 minutes
- Kettlebell swings: 20
- Rest one minutes
- Time CAP 30 minutes
Tuesday 1 hour – cycling and upper body
30 minutes cycling at 70% maximum heart rate
Then 4 rounds circuit:
- 10 reps strict press at moderate weight
- 10 dumbbell bench pres
- 10 bicep curls
- 10 push ups
Wednesday – rest
12 reps weighted squats supersetted with 12 weighted step ups x 5 rounds
Then 5 rounds for time:
- 15 calories on the air bike
- 20 dumbell snatches
- 15 box jumps
- 20 push press
- Run: 1 hour steady state ( record distance)
- Stretching and mobility
Fitness is an amazing way to improve our health, look better and feel better. However, starting a new journey or upgrading your current fitness journey without guidance may not be easy given the many aspect that you need to take into consideration. This may lead to suboptimal results, lack of motivation and accountability, unwanted injuries and the list goes on. Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced Personal trainer will help you structure the best program that fits you and only you. Not only will they give you a customized program but will also adapt to the changes and needs that you may pass through during your journey. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced enthusiast consider a personal trainer to lead your way and you will never regret it.