How to choose a workout (Part 1)

In General by Adam Friedman

Part I.

First take a look at what you have been doing the past three months and slowly integrate the following principles in discovering what is the next step in your fitness lifestyle.

  • Frequency: This is the number of days each week you exercise.
  • Intensity: This is how hard you exercise. It can be based on your heart rate, the pace you jog, or the amount weight you lift.
  • Time: This is how long you perform an activity. For example, it is the number of minutes you run, or the volume of sets and repetitions performed in strength training.

Apply these principles to the three major components of your exercise regime.

  • Cardiovascular Exercise
  • Strength Training
  • Stretching

Cardiovascular Exercise includes two necessary parts: Standard Cardio (Aerobic) and Interval Training (Anaerobic). In different and essential ways they both improve the body’s efficiency to produce energy for every day activities, burn fat & excess calories, digest food, and maintain your mood through hormonal balance.

Some examples of various modes of cardio exercise are: running, biking, stair climbing, rollerblading, and swimming.

Standard Cardio Recommendations for beginners looking to improve their aerobic base.Frequency: 3-5 days each week
Intensity: 60-75% of maximal heart rate
Time: 15-20 minutes > 45-60 minutes

Interval Training Recommendations for beginners looking to impr their cardiovascular conditioning.

Frequency: 1-2 days each week
Intensity: 65%-85% of maximal heart rate for timed intervals (example: 2 min.@ 65% > 1 min.@ 75% > 30 sec.@ 85%)
Time: 10 minutes > 30 minutes

Strength Training is performed with the objective to physically challenge your muscles to a greater capacity then they are accustomed in order to improve both neurological and musculoskeletal function. It is activity that involves controlling the movement of an object through space and time (distance), or the ability of the muscle to generate force against a resistance, and most commonly applied over a specific number of sets with multiple repetitions. The said object can be the body, free weights, resistance bands, weighted balls, or resistance machines. The movement can held statically, controlled through an entire range of motion at different speeds, or can be explosive (plyometric). The result of strength training the entire musculoskeletal system is better posture, stronger bones, improved strength, and reduction of the risk and/severity of an injury. Strength training also adds lean muscle to our frame, which is beneficial for increasing the ability to burn more calories at rest due to the energy requirements to sustain muscle tissue activity. It is actually in the belly of the muscle where the most fat is burned.

Some examples of Strength Training movements are: Push-ups, Pull-ups, back row, biceps curl, abdominal crunches, and even jumping (plyometric).

Standard Recommendation for beginners:Frequency: 2-4 days each week.
Intensity: start light and find a weight that challenges you towards muscle failure during the last few repetitions of each set.
Time: 2-3 sets with 45-60 seconds rest, and a repetition scheme starting at 10 reps and progressively increases up to 20 over a period of weeks.

Stretching involves actively positioning the body and it’s limbs with the intention of lengthening and activating shortened, and therefore less efficient muscle tissue. The results of obtaining the optimal length of the muscles supports and or creates improved posture, increase in muscle strength, ache and pain relief in muscles and joints, alleviates stiffness by lubricating muscles and joints, reduces risk of injury, and reduces stress in muscles.

One or more of these examples should be applied to all of the major muscle groups in the body:

  • Static holds (20 or more seconds)
  • Active isolated stretches (10 repetitions of 2 second holds)
  • PNF stretching (assisted Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)
Stretching Recommendation for beginners:Frequency: Daily
Intensity: light to moderate rating of one’s own perceived exertion.
Time: 2-3 sets for all major muscle groups (15-30 minutes)