If you are, or want to be, a competitive bodybuilder or athlete, this might work for you, but I am targeting this to the amateur, or beginning exerciser.
Many people who want to “exercise” shy away from strength training with weights, or other resistance training because they feel it’s too hard and that they will have to, as my father once put it, “work themselves to death”. Actually, while it is true that you get out of exercise what you put into it, there are ways to do it without gym dues, long workout routines, or a “no pain no gain” philosophy.
True, if you ARE training for competition, as an athlete or bodybuilder, you may have to endure a lot of pain and sacrifice to reach your goal. However, if you are a desk-bound executive, working mother, or a stay-at-home mom, you can do good quality strength training in just a few minutes a day.
Remember, by the way, that a good workout routine for overall fitness, will also include a cardio (aerobics) component as well. While you COULD split the two, you can get a lot done in a short period of time, less than half an hour a day, five days a week, by combining them.
For example, I do some walking on my treadmill for about five minutes to get my heart rate up and my muscles warmed up. Then I do some strength training, a core exercise, and then about five more minutes on the treadmill. I do this for about 20-30 minutes a day, five days a week.
And I feel great afterwards and my wife gets tired of hearing me say how much I am looking forward to the next day’s workout.
Did I mention that I am 67 years old and have really bad osteoarthritis?
Now, one thing I cannot tell you in the following instructions, or even what I wrote up above, is how intensely to exercise or what weight to use for an exercise. YOU will have to “exercise” some judgement on that, and, especially at the start of this program, get it wrong sometimes. You may feel that a certain weight feels “just right” at first only to realize part way through the workout… or the next day… that you should have chosen a lighter weight. It is better to start with “too light” a weight and gradually build up, than start too high and either injure yourself, or just feel that there is too much effort or pain involved.
My once a week twice a week strength training workout rests on a few pretty solidly established exercise principles.
1. A muscle needs to rest for at least 48 hours after exercise to strengthen and repair itself.
2. High reps with low weights (resistance) is better for fitness and fat burning.
3. Most “muscles” need to be worked from a couple of different angles.
4. Some muscles don’t need as much work as others.
5. A “muscle” only needs to be trained for strength once a week!
I put the word “muscle” in quotes in #3 and #5 because, when we think and talk about muscles, as in “I exercised my bicep muscle.”, we overlook the fact that many muscles may actually have two or more components, often referred to as “heads”. Take the bicep muscle, for example: It has two heads (bi=two cep=head) and a bodybuilder will actually have to do different exercises to completely work both.
The ordinary person exercising for health and fitness does not have to go to the extremes of a professional bodybuilder, but they, and we, are going to use the same principle. We will train each muscle from a couple of different angles. Here’s how…
THE STRENGTH TRAINING
For the sake of discussion, let’s say my workout week is Mon-Fri. I want at least two days overall rest in my workout routine. That would be Saturday and Sunday in this example. With the workout plan I am going to outline, you can also make your rest days Wednesday and Saturday, or any other schedule… that’s up to you.
Okay, now that I have a break from formal exercise built in, and you should not just sit in front of the TV on your “off” days… go do something… I need to build in that 48 hour rest mentioned in #1. Let’s put in #3 as well while we’re at it. So, if I do a chest exercise, such as dumbbell fly’s (one angle) or a bench press (another angle), I will do them a few days apart… say Monday and Thursday. Upper back muscles can be worked with lying pull-overs and rowing… on different days a couple of days apart. Thighs could be worked with squats and lunges, again a few days apart.
Oh, #4? Your arms. A bodybuilder will work his or her arms from all kinds of angles because to compete they have to produce certain effects. You want to be able to play weekend softball, carry in the groceries, and just have some strong looking arms. So, do a couple of tricep exercises, say a press and a tricep extension… with rest days between them, of course, and do some curls. If you are doing bench presses and rowing, your biceps and triceps (front and back of the arms) will get plenty of work. Concentrate on upper chest, upper back, and thighs.
Do your first exercise and then your second exercise without resting. Then, rest for 30 – 60 seconds and do another set of each. Start with 60 seconds of rest and gradually try to get it down to 30. If, at first, you find this is two hard, stretch it out to 90 seconds. If that is still too hard, you may need to lighten the resistance you are using.
Start with a couple of sets of 10 reps and gradually build reps to 20 and increase sets to three. Once you are able to work comfortably at that level for a couple of weeks, ease the weight (resistance) up. Think “five pounds” total. If you are using dumbbells, that will be an increase of 2 1/2 pounds on each dumbbell. When you increase resistance, decrease reps and build back up. If it just feels “too hard”, go back to your previous level and stay there a couple of weeks more and then try going back up again.
So, do two exercises a day, work specific muscle groups a few days apart from a different angle, don’t work the same muscle groups on the same day, and give yourself two “off” days each week.
Got the idea?
There are lots of exercises out there and lots of pieces of exercise equipment, so, try out different ones, find what works for you, and go with those. I personally have a set of adjustable dumbbells and a bench. That’s my gym.
No good workout routine is without something for the central portion of the body. Most people think “crunch” when they think about working their core. However, the core area contains several different muscle groups and these have to be attacked differently. I do a different core exercise, low reps (10-12), high sets (4-6), each day I exercise. One day I do ordinary crunches. These work the upper rectus abdominis (six pack to you) muscles. The next day is obliques, then lower abdominals, then transverse abdominis, and then the whole rectus abdominis.
THE GRAND FINALE
So, you start with some cardio, just to warm up. About five minutes will do. Then do your two strength exercises, doing one set made up of both exercises back-to-back and then resting before doing the next set. Then do your core exercise for the day, and finish off with some more cardio… at least five minutes. Then, a little later in the week, you hit the same muscles again, but from a different angle with a different exercise.