6. Exercise Substitutions: after you build an exercise routine to fit your fitness goals, it is easy to get caught up in repeating the same exercise either every workout or every cycle of workouts. For example, if you come to the gym to do cardio and lift chest every Sunday, you might get comfortable to run on a treadmill and do bench press after. However, your body also gets used to this routine and therefore every workout has less and less benefit. I like substituting comparable exercises with several alternating options for each. This keeps the body constantly challenged because it does not get used to any specific exercise or order of exercises. Maybe when you come to the gym next Sunday, you could do the Stairmaster (instead of the treadmill) and an alternative bench machine for chest (instead of a dumbbell bench press). I generally try to substitute 50 percent of exercises during each cycle.
7. Cardio Fundamentals: although I believe in exercising as part of a lifestyle, if I were forced to identify only one key element, I would go with cardio. From the literature I have come across, it has the most significant health benefits. But how does one maximize the effect of cardio workouts? For one, it is important to push yourself and vary exercises (see commandment #4). Generally, the recommendation for the average person is to do at least 30 minutes of cardio for health. But most people can’t even do it for this long… Some ways around it are to go from the most difficult to the easiest. For example, if you can only do 20 minutes on a treadmill but find it easy to do bicycle, do the treadmill first, and then continue on a bicycle. Since you are already tired, the bicycle probably won’t seem as easy with your heart rate already up. Another approach is to do intervals. On a treadmill, I like doing minute sprints followed by several minutes of jogging. You could also play around with inclines, especially those of you looking for a serious challenge. Intervals could be used effectively to push cardio boundaries and could be adapted to any cardio workout. Also, even though I try not to pick favorites (it would make it more difficult to stay true to commandment #4) I should admit that I have a favorite cardio workout: the stair climber (the kind that looks like a rotating escalator). Elements of stair workouts have been long utilized by Soviet athletes and have proven the most effective. In addition to cardio, it really works and strengthens many leg muscles – just try it!
8. Strength Training Fundamentals: when working out with dumbbells or on machines, conventional wisdom suggests 3 sets per exercise of 8 to 15 repetitions per set for optimum results. If your goal is to bulk up, your reps should range between 8 and 10, while if you try to get lean, your reps should range between 13 and 15. I also try to vary my exercises for each muscle group to include a balance of free weights, machines, and cable exercises. Each one has unique benefits. You should also make sure you take deep breaths and don’t ever hyperextend your knees or elbows. Proper breathing provides strength for an additional rep or 2 that would not be possible when breath is held (just remember your yoga fundamentals). For all standing exercises, keep your knees just a bit bent.
9. Strength Training Muscle Groups: in creating a routine, it is important to understand that all upper body muscle groups could be broken into two categories: push and pull. Muscles groups that are worked out through pushing movements include chest, shoulders, and triceps, while back and biceps are pulling groups. What this means for forming a routine is more complex. For example, if you are more of a cardio person, perhaps you could combine back and biceps into one workout after you have done your share of cardio for the day (if you only do a few exercise for each muscle group). For people that try to grow muscle mass (and therefore do more exercises per muscle group), I recommend isolating the push and pull muscles. Lifting back and biceps on the same day would not produce the best results as biceps would already be worked through lifting back. The combinations of muscle groups that could be worked out on the same day are infinite and should also be changed around every several months to prevent the body from getting used to any particular combination. I generally do 2 (no more than 3) muscles per workout with strength training limited to 90 minutes (it usually takes me 60 to 70 minutes). The following is my current cycle of work outs every other day:
- Day 1: back (6-7 exercises), traps (2 exercises) and triceps (4 exercises)
- Day 2: legs (5 exercises) and biceps (4 exercises)
- Day 3: chest (5 exercises) and shoulders (5 exercises)
I also like doing abs at the end of a workout, maybe once or twice a week, regardless of the prior muscle groups. I usually do 2 to 3 sets of 2 exercises.
10. Anaerobic: I should admit that I know the least about this fitness area, but I have discovered that working out back and legs is more important than other body groups. They are both large muscle groups, which is why I do more exercises when I work them out. I also noticed that when I work out legs combined with any other upper-body muscle group, I get a much harder workout with a lot more sweating and calorie burning. The reason is that in addition to just strength training, combining upper and lower body workouts has an anaerobic effect which is a different workout dimension on its own. It feels more like doing cardio than anything else. Perhaps there are other combinations, but I have not experimented with them yet. I would recommend trying this approach to people even mostly interested in cardio.
Although these commandments are meant to provide guidance for improved results in 2010, they are not a substitute, but rather supplement the most vital ingredient of the healthy living formula: attitude. Attitude is the drive and inspiration to invest time and effort into long-term health. Healthy results are slow to see and take a tremendous amount of hard work and sweat and time to be invested. This is why I don’t order anything from the infomercials that promise anything in 5 minutes a day or do any dieting. Good luck in 2010 everybody!
Thanks again for your support and for the positive feedback on hubby's posts. I am being hauled off for a bike ride and a training session at the gym shortly! I'll be back soon with regular posting!