Finding a fitness routine that’s right for you
If you are still an undergrad, or are lucky enough to have a career with a summer break, you can take a lot of extra time this summer to get into (or back into) shape. Many of us argue that we can never establish a regular work out routine because we can’t find the time to or just don’t know where to start. We’ve provided some valuable info here for all situations so you can find a routine that best fits your lifestyle.
Determine Your Situation
How much time can you devote to exercise?
If you can do an hour a day, that’s awesome. If you have a wife, three kids, and two jobs, then maybe you can only do thirty minutes every other day. That’s fine too. Whatever your time commitment is, developing the most efficient workout is crucial. Why spend two hours in a gym when you can get just as much accomplished in 30 minutes?
What Exercises Should I Do?
Unless you’ve been lifting weights for years, I recommend doing a full body routine that you can do two or three times a week. You want a routine that has at least one exercise for your quads (front of your legs), butt and hamstrings (back of your legs), your push muscles, your pull muscles, and your core. Yes, this means you can develop a full body routine that uses only four or five exercises. Hows THAT for efficient?
- Quads – squats, lunges, one legged squats, box jumps.
- Butt and Hamstrings – hip raises, deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings, step ups.
- Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps) – overhead press, bench press, incline dumbbell press, push ups, dips.
- Pull (back, biceps, and forearms) – chin ups, pull ups, inverse body weight rows, dumbbell rows.
- Core (abs and lower back) – planks, side planks, exercise ball crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks, hanging leg raises.
Pick one exercise from each category above for a workout, and you’ll work almost every single muscle in your body. These are just a few examples for what you can do, but you really don’t need to make things more complicated than this.
Add some variety – If you do the same routine, three days a week, for months and months both you and your muscles will get bored. If you do bench presses on Monday, go with shoulder presses on Wednesday and dips on Friday. Squats on Monday? Try lunges on Wednesday and box jumps on Friday. Pick a different exercise each time and your muscles will stay excited (and so will you).
Lastly, your muscles don’t get built in the gym, they get built when you’re resting. Give your muscles 48-72 hours to recover between workouts. A Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout works well to ensure enough time to recover.
How Many Sets Should I Do?
Keep your total workout number of sets for all exercises is in the 15-25 set range (5 or 6 exercises of four sets is a good start). More than twenty five sets in a workout can either be overkill (doing more harm than good) or you’re not working yourself hard enough (boo inefficiency).
If you’re looking to burn fat while building some muscle, keep your number of repetitions per set in the 8-15 range. If you can do more than 15 without much of a challenge, it’s not difficult enough for you. Add weight or change the exercise so that it’s tougher.
If you’re looking to build size and strength, you should vary your rep ranges depending on the workout.
- Low reps (5-8) and heavy weight on Mondays.
- High reps (12-15) and lower weight on Wednesdays.
- Medium reps (8-12) and medium weight on Fridays.
Doing low reps with heavier weight helps promote dense muscle building, where as working with lighter weight and more reps will help you build muscular endurance.
How Long Should I Exercise?
45 minutes to an hour.
If you’re doing 15-25 sets of total exercise, you should be able to get everything done within that 45 minute block. Now, factor in a five or ten minute warm-up, and then stretching afterwards, and the workout can go a little bit longer. If you can go for over an hour and you’re not completely worn out, you’re simply not pushing yourself hard enough.
Less time, more intensity, better results.
Now if you aren’t apart of the crowd that can devote an hour to the gym everyday, the next two sections can better suit your busy schedule and give you a workout that is just as effective.
Let’s say you’re doing four sets of squats and you plan on doing four sets of dumbbell bench presses after that. If you wait two minutes between each set, this will take you around twenty minutes or so (factoring in the time to get set and actually do the set).
Try this instead: Do a set of squats, wait one minute, then do a set of dumbbell presses, wait one minute, then do your next set of squats, and so on.
Because you’re exercising two completely different muscle groups, you can exercise one while the other is “resting.” You’re now getting the same workout done in half the time. Also, because you’re resting less, your body has to work harder so your heart is getting a workout too. Jackpot.
Let’s see how this would play out in a sample workout:
- Lunges alternating with incline dumbbell presses, four sets each, one minute between sets.
- Wait a few minutes to catch your breath and get set for your next two exercises.
- Straight leg deadlifts alternating with wide-grip pull ups, four sets each, one minute between sets.
This is the most effective way to burn fat when exercising.
A circuit requires you to do one set for EVERY exercise, one after the other, without stopping. After you’ve done one set of each exercise in succession, you then repeat the process two, or three, or four more times.
Keep Track Of Everything
Keep a workout journal! You should be getting stronger, faster, or more fit with each day of exercise. Maybe you can lift more weight, lift the same amount of weight more times than before, or you can finish the same routine faster than before. Write everything down so that you can compare yourself against a previous workout.
While all of this info can seem a bit daunting initially, it’s important to focus on the basics: Make time to work out consistently, be sure to get plenty of rest, and write everything down so you can keep track of your progress along the way. Proper nutrition is just as essential too. Finding a regular workout routine will help you feel better, be more productive, and provides as a great stress buster. Start your routine today!
(Via Nerd Fitness)