New to fitness? Or maybe just tired of your old routine? Here are a few suggestions to help you plan and write your own EFFECTIVE fitness programme. You can use our Exercise Database as inspiration for different exercises to incorporate into your routine, training all the muscle groups of the body.
Before you start, you need to define your objectives and set some realistic and achievable goals. Why? A programme designed for weight loss won’t be effective if you are trying to gain muscle mass, nor will a bodybuilding programme help you if your goal is to run a 5K next month. Your programme needs to meet your objectives or you will not meet your fitness goals.
Start With The Basics
What is your current fitness level in relation to your goal? If you want to run a marathon, you first need to train for a 5K, then 10K, half-marathon, etc. If your goal is adding muscle mass, trying to follow an advanced bodybuilding programme will result in overtraining. Start with the basics for any style programme and build from there, once you plateau and your gains slow, then advance from beginner to intermediate or advanced training. You don’t throw your child in the pool and yell “sink or swim”, you start in the shallow end and teach the basics first and build from there.
Your fitness programme should include progression. You’ve identified and trained the basics, but if you don’t progress, that is, increase the intensity, your body will stop getting leaner, stronger or faster. Your body has an amazing ability to adapt, if you lift a weight or run a lap, your body will adapt and eventually that weight or lap around the track will no longer challenge you. To improve, you must progress to a heavier weight or longer (or faster) lap. In progressive resistance training, once a weight becomes simple to complete the prescribed number of sets and reps, you move up to the next weight to provide resistance and challenge.
Regardless of your specific goals, true fitness is a balance of cardio, strength training and flexibility and your fitness programme should include all three. As an example, while cardio may be the most effective exercise approach for weight loss, when combined with or alternated with resistance training you can greatly increase your calorie burn. If your goal is running faster or further, strength training should follow your cardio and everyone who exercises should include flexibility training one to two days each week.
Develop A Clear Plan
Once you identify objectives and fitness goals you can then customise your fitness programme to meet your specific needs, and desires and schedule your training. A complete and detailed fitness plan should cover when your training will take place, what exercises you will do, and the length of time you will workout. These components are fully planned prior to beginning your fitness programme.
Once you develop your plan, commit to implementing it. The most incredible fitness programme will not produce results if you don’t follow through. If you plan for alternating days on the track and in the gym, make it happen. If you find problems in your programme, adjust and continue.
Balance your cardio and resistance training. Do less cardio, under 30-60 minutes, and combine shorter cardio sessions with interval training using body weight or dumbbells. This combination of cardio and resistance training, or weight training, will build lean muscle tissue which will boost your metabolism and turn your body into a fat burning machine. Don’t neglect the cardio sessions, they burn fat while strengthening your heart and lungs. To get the biggest bang for your buck, try 20 minutes of high intensity interval cardio training 3 times each week before your resistance training sessions.
Multi Joint Exercises
When planning your resistance training, incorporate more compound and multi joint exercises like squats, burpees, lunges and deadlifts. Multijoint exercises work more muscles and burn more fat in a shorter amount of time and will boost your results.
Your beginning program should be a FULL body workout performed every other day. Once you reach a plateau and your gains slow, consider a SPLIT routine like upper body one day and lower body (leg day) on alternating days. Split training avoids overworking muscles by allowing a rest day between each upper or lower body day. There are many approaches to split training, including 2 or 3 way splits and push/pull splits, pushing (bench press, squats) exercises one day and pulling (rows, pull ups and deadlifts) exercises the next day followed by a rest day.
Many trainees neglect flexibility training, but stretching and flexibility are an important part of any fitness program and are necessary to warm up your body and loosen your joints prior to your workout. A sedentary lifestyle causes many of your body’s joints to become stiff and will eventually lose the ability to support muscles during periods of strenuous physical activity. Flexibility training including yoga and Pilates can strengthen joints and help them to become more resilient. Flex training can help relieve many of the effects associated with stiff joints.
Your fitness program should include activities that you enjoy. If you don’t like training in the gym, develop a program of home or outdoor based exercises like a boot camp. If you hate jogging, focus on swimming, rowing or biking. Choose activities that won’t bore you.
Mix it up, include a wide range of activities to add variety to your workouts. Swim today, run or bike tomorrow. This keeps you from falling into a fitness rut, but it also forces your body to continually adapt to different types and angles of movement and muscles used. As an example, a fitness program that alternates swimming with running will ensure that you are working every major muscle group in your body.
Once you finalise your plan, hold yourself accountable to your fitness program. Make it your responsibility to ensure you stick to your fitness plan and stay on track. You must commit and want to reach your goals in order to succeed. Review your goals every day to remind yourself how important this is to you and making you accountable.
Tell everyone about your fitness goals and plans, make sure your family and friends know how important getting fit is to you and how much you would appreciate their help and support. Having the daily support of family and friends will help keep you on track and provide additional incentive and motivation.