Articles on nutrition and fitness tips are good and well but an actual fitness routine that nearly anyone can follow is far more useful. Although healthy eating and the creation of an energy deficit are the most important factors for weight loss, a proper exercise regime will really help. Not only will it help as you lose weight, but it will make keeping the weight off afterwards much more likely. It goes without saying that if you are new to exercise start off at a pace that is challenging but comfortable for you, and build from there.
However, remember that only by putting the body into overload – getting breathless, straining on the last few reps – will it be forced to change and adapt.
The Training Program
Avoid the strength training component on consecutive days – when we are strength training we are actually breaking down muscle fibres. They then repair stronger and firmer only in recovery. Improvement only happens in recovery.
The more advanced can do the cardio component of this routine on consecutive days but a full day off exercise every third or fourth day is recommended. So for example you could do…
Day one – strength and cardio
Day two – cardio
Day three – strength and cardio
Day four – recovery
A full warm up is essential not just for safety but as it will really increase performance. Like a car engine, our muscles, heart and lungs (the human engine) don’t operate properly until fully warmed up. The warm up should be in incremental stages, including some faster bursts ¾ of the way through followed by some slower settling phases. So on a treadmill it would look like:
Two min fast walk
Two min slow jog
Two min run
45 seconds fast run
30 seconds full speed run
1:30 slow jog
Which is 10 minutes.
You could replicate this on any cardio-vascular machine or even at home using the stairs or a reasonable space for some shuttle runs. For the total beginner the slower parts of the warm up might be a brisk walk.
Cardio-vascular exercise will burn energy while you are doing it, and for a time afterwards, but a toned body with lots of lean muscle will burn energy all the time; even at rest. These muscles may be covered by a fat suit at the start, but in time they will help to burn this fat suit off. That’s why strength or weight training is a vital component of any exercise programme.
All exercises need to be slow and controlled – two seconds up, two down. This eliminates momentum and ensures that the muscles are working all the way through the movement.
If you can do more than 14 repetitions (reps) then you need to increase the difficulty or increase the weight. Any more than 14 will be working predominantly on endurance whereas we want toning and an increase of muscle mass, to push up metabolic rate and change your shape. So you must be at or close to failure at the 14 reps.
Large compound movements working across multiple joints using large muscle groups will be much more effective than isolation exercises like crunches or bicep curls. These have their place, but can come later on in a program as the ‘icing on the cake’. They won’t have nearly as great an effect on metabolic rate and shape change as the larger big muscle movements.
By swapping from opposing muscle groups with little recovery we can save time and keep the heart rate up, burning more calories in a session. Once form and technique are good, we can start to go from one exercise to the next in pairs, or a ‘superset’. A good basic routine outlined below shows this technique. Do the 1st exercise, take no more than 15 seconds recovery, then do the next in the pair. Rest for one minute, then repeat the pair two more times; aim for three sets or ‘supersets’ in total. Then move on to the next pair.
There are three pairs of exercises; each one should be done three times. Twice is ok, but three is much better.
Achievability is paramount though, so if time is a potential obstacle then two rounds on each pair is fine.
If you can only do say 12 or even 10 reps on the second or third round of each exercise don’t worry, this is good. The fewer reps you do the more you will go into the strength zone, building strength and toning which will mean you will be stronger next time.
Ideally a pair of dumbbells and a suspension trainer will be needed. The dumbbells should be heavy enough to be challenging – see the notes above regarding rep range, timing and endurance. More than 14 reps? Increase the weight/difficulty.
The dreaded but oh so effective burpees appear in the last pair. Although not strictly a strength training exercise, they certainly fit the bill in terms of being a compound, large muscle grouped move that will also ramp up the heart rate at the end of the routine. If you are a beginner, put your hand on a step and omit the jump in the burpee.
Push ups (¾ to start with)
Dumbell squat to overhead press
Dumbell russian twist
Cardio component – High Intensity Intervals
Steady state “fat burning zone” aerobic cardio has its place, but some high intensity intervals will burn just as much fat in less time.
It will also provide faster fitness gains and more marked health benefits. After the warm up outlined above, a simple one minute fast run followed by a one minute jog is a great start. Once mastered, you can then start to manipulate the recovery/work/speed ratios to make it more challenging. You need to be fully winded or out of breath after each one, unable to converse in all but the shortest phrases. On a 10 scale we’re looking for eight or even nine out of 10. If you are a beginner, a fast power walk uphill might be enough for the ‘work’ interval”, so long as you are really out or breath.
At the end, remember to stretch all the major muscles worked during the routine.
Adam Atkinson www.dietsdontwork.co.uk
07830 148300/0800 0407526 firstname.lastname@example.org