As a personal trainer, I often get asked what the “best” workout is or best combination of exercises. I don’t always have the right answers, and I often ask my friends to recommend a workout. A good fitness routine should take into account a person’s goals, diet, age, schedule, etc. I can always offer suggestions, but eventually, the only person that knows the workout best is you. And it’s not hard once you understand the basics.
Whether you’re looking to start a brand new workout routine or are wanting to mix things up a bit, we can definitely help you learn to design a program. Remember, if you are a beginner, it is always a good idea to work with a competent friend or trainer that can make sure you are exercising within your limits and making any necessary adjustments for injuries and limitations.
What is your situation?
Do you have a full gym available to you? Or will you be using free weights, a stability ball and/or resistance bands in your home? Don’t create a workout that isn’t within your means. Even if you don’t have any equipment, you can still do body weight exercises. Additionally, figure out your time commitment. Do you have a flexible schedule and can devote an hour a day at the gym? Or do you have a full-time job and a family that only allows you to squeeze in 20 minutes every other day? It’s important to develop the most efficient workout possible. Don’t stress yourself out developing an hour-long workout when you only have 30 minutes.
Keep it simple!
Keep your routine simple and within your limits. Unless you’re an advanced lifter, try to schedule a simple, full body fitness routine two or three times a week. The goal is to target all major muscle groups including your core, biceps, chest, triceps, shoulders (your “push” and “pull” muscles), the front and back of your legs (hamstrings and quads), and glutes. You can easily do a full body routine with just four or five exercises. No need to learn complicated lifts when you don’t have the time, desire, and/or proper training. Keeping the routine simple saves you time, lowers your risk of injury, and helps you meet your specific goals.
So which exercises should I do?
Below is just a small sample of exercises that target the muscles mentioned above:
- Core (abs and lower back) – planks, side planks, crunches on a stability ball, mountain climbers, bicycle crunches, etc.
- Pull muscles (back, biceps) – chin ups and pull ups, dumbbell rows
- Push muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps) – bench press, push ups, dips, overhead press
- Hamstrings – deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, step ups
- Quads – front and back squats, lunges
Pick one exercise from each group and you’ll hit every muscle group. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but gives you a good idea of what to aim for. Remember, mix it up every couple of weeks. If you do the same routine every week for months on end, your muscles will get bored and you will stop making progress. Also, alternate different workouts throughout the week. For example, if you do a shoulder press on Monday, do a bench press on Wednesday. And remember, your muscles are not just made in the gym; they need adequate recovery time and excellent fuel! Keep your muscles guessing and you’ll be less likely to plateau.
How much should I lift?
This is a tricky question with no specific answer. Even personal trainers have to estimate a bit when they work with a new client. Lift enough that you can get through your set, but not too much that you can’t continue at the end. This involves some patience, trial, and error. If you’re a beginner, always exercise good caution and judgment. Also, if you’re just using your body weight, you need to find a way to make the exercises harder as you advance. For example, if you can do 20 jump squats without any problems, try holding dumbbells next time and doing less reps, or pause and hold at the bottom of the squat for an extra burn.
Limited on time? Try circuits!
A circuit requires that you do one set of every exercise in succession without stopping. After you’ve completed the set, you can repeat the process up to five times. For example, I did a circuit over the holiday that required limited equipment and roughly 40 minutes. It included: 10 pull ups, 10 burpees, 10 jump squats, 10 jump ropes, 10 push ups, 10 ab twists, 10 kettlebell swings, 10 lunges and 10 ball slams. I then rested for 2 minutes and repeated the sequence 5 more times. The goal is to get 100 repetitions for each activity, so I will finish this after the holiday. Of course, make this work for you.
Always warm up, whether it’s walking on a treadmill, spinning on a bike, walking or using a rowing machine. Pick one exercise for each big muscle group. Do 3 to 5 sets for each exercise and determine reps and how long you will rest between each exercise. Mix it up, keep it interesting and increase efficiency and alternate circuits. Don’t stress about working out for an hour each time. Make sure to cool down and keep track of your workouts.
Remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. The best workout is the one that’s best for you!
Amy Kurtz BA, BS, Ci-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist