Someone asked me recently how they should workout. They wanted to go to the gym but didn’t really know the best way to exercise. Well, I could talk about this forever! Workouts and exercise rules have changed so much over the years. That is one thing about the fitness business, it as always being updated as new research is developed and new approaches are tested. It keeps us on your toes! However, it can be a bit confusing to someone who want to do the right thing to get and remain fit and healthy. Therefore, I came up with a short and simple list.
While I am not a gym rat, body builder or fitness competitor, I do have some great steps for your best workout.
6 Steps to Your Best Workout
1. Have a Plan.
One of the worst things is to enter the gym or your home workout space and have no idea what you are going to do. That is such a huge waste of time and will completely shatter your motivation. Before you walk into the door know what you are going to do. Know what type of workout you will be doing, what body parts you will be focusing on and how much time you have for your workout.
Have a plan not only for one session, but for your week. I like to map out my week on Sundays so I have in mind what I will be doing each opportunity I have to workout. If life comes up and you have to juggle, you know what to do to make sure you are not doing the same workout on back to back days. (more of that later)
2. Use as Many Muscles as Possible.
I am not one of those gym rats who is in the gym every day working 2-3 body parts each day. My workouts are total body workouts that incorporate moves that work multiple muscles with each exercise. This is so much more efficient and helps us all be functionally fit. Think about it, how often are you standing in your kitchen and need to use only your bicep muscles? I’m thinking never. You might, however, need to squat down, grab a heavy pot, rise up and put it on a shelf. Using muscles in your workouts that allow you to have the strength and stamina to do that type of work is an example of using exercises for functional fitness. Therefore, you can combine your biceps with your squats. You might combine a dead lift with an upright row or a fly with a single leg glute lift. The combinations are endless and effective and much more fun! Along these same lines I also recommend doing as many exercises standing as possible. You will be using more muscles and burning more calories! It’s a win, win.
3. Mix it Up
On Fridays I teach a body sculpt class that I try my best to make challenging, effective and different. In fact, I am generally sore somewhere on Saturday morning! Therefore, one of my rules I tell the class is that they are NOT allowed to come do a body sculpt class on Saturday morning! We need to allow the muscles we worked time to recover. It is important to mix your workouts up and keep your body and muscles guessing. Therefore, doing different exercises and working different body parts on consecutive days is the way to get the best benefit.
4. Have an Active Rest Day
You don’t need to kill it every single day. Repeat that to yourself three times. Allow a day of rest so you can be recharged, reenergized and ready to get back at it. I always make sure I have at least one day a week – and depending on my schedule and week – sometimes two days of active rest. I say active rest because a rest day does not mean getting on the couch and staying there all day as your rest day. An active rest day is perfect for a walk, a yoga class, tackling some gardening or yard work. It is a day to be physical without doing an all out workout.
5. Do the Intense Work First
There is a lot written about whether to do cardio or resistance training first. If you think about having the safest and most effective workout, you need to do the most intense work first. You need to do your resistance training first so you will have energy to use proper form and focus on the moves and muscles working. Follow your strength work with cardio and ending with some high intensity intervals like sprints, burpees or jump squats will accelerate your fitness goals.
6. Make Time to Stretch
Your workout is not complete without a stretch. When I teach a group class I always tell the folks that my goal is for them to leave the room feeling flexible and energized, not tight, constricted and completely spent. Whether you have had a cardio session on the treadmill, a high intensity interval session with burpees, jump rope a spin class, strength class or resistance training on your own, your muscles have worked hard, shortened and become constricted. They need to be stretched and lengthened. Also, while your muscles are warm you are in the perfect position to work on your flexibility.
Most importantly, just get out there and move. This list is the top 6 tips I find most helpful . . . it is NOT an exhaustive list as there is so much more I could say on this topic! If you have any particular questions just leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back with you!
What are your favorite tips? What do you think works best for you? Are you a planner? Schedule your workouts?
Enjoy Your Day!