Finding a workout is no problem these days, thanks to social media. From Pinterest to Instagram and then to Tumblr; a variety of workouts are readily available. Hey, I’m all for it! But are these types of workouts balanced? Is your intensity good enough for cardio? Is your resistance training covering all of your major muscle groups? What about a proper warm-up and stretching? All of these components need to be included in a well rounded exercise program. Don’t fret; I’m not saying this to say the workout you have saved on Pinterest is pointless. It’s just important to know if your workouts are balanced so they can be more effective and catered to your goals. In the world of exercise science we use something called the FITT principle to help us design exercise programs for our clients; frequency, intensity, time, and type. This principle can be applied to each component of fitness to provide a balanced exercise program. Let’s get into the types of fitness components you need to include in a balanced exercise program and how you can apply an easy principle to ensure that your workouts are ultimately giving you life!
Balanced Workout Routine
Skipping a warm-up before a workout is kind of like skipping breakfast in the morning. The purpose of a warm-up is to wake up your muscles to get them prepared for what’s to come in your workout. Contrary to popular belief, stretching is not considered warming up. A warm-up should be focused on building a light sweat along with increasing your heart rate. Depending on what your workout is for the day, your warm-up can vary. Typically before my cardio I walk briskly for 3 minutes, and before my strength training, I will do the elliptical or bicycle for 5 minutes. Let’s take a look on how the FITT principle applies to your warm-up:
Before each workout
Until you have increased your heart rate and/or worked up a little sweat
Brisk walk, jumping jacks, march in place, high knees, arm circles, etc.
If it gets your heart pumping then it’s cardio and your heart is reaping the many benefits from it. The general recommendation for how much you should incorporate into your workout routine per week varies by the intensity. You can measure your intensity in a number of ways, but one common way is through the “talk test”. If you are able to comfortably have a conversation or even sing along with a song, then that puts your intensity at moderate. If you are experiencing some difficulty engaging in a conversation, meaning you are breathing heavy in between words, then that would be considered moderate to vigorous intensity. Lastly, if you’re not able to sustain a conversation at all, then that would be vigorous intensity. For those of you who are just starting an exercise program, then a good intensity to start out at is moderate. A more technical way to monitor your intensity is through a heart rate monitor by calculating the heart rate zone that correlates to the intensity using the heart rate reserve equation. It’s not necessary to go overboard on your cardio, not unless you are training for a race (5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, etc.). Check out the FITT principle below:
Moderate: 5x a wk
Moderate to vigorous: 3-5x a wk
Vigorous: 3x wk
Intermediate: moderate to vigorous
Moderate: 150-300 min/wk
Moderate to vigorous: 75-150 min/wk
Anything that is a rhythmic continuous movement
brisk walk, jogging, cycling, elliptical, stair master, arc trainer,
aerobic classes, skating, etc.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) over the last decade strength/resistance training has remained one of the top 5 fitness trends. Whatever your motivation may be, strength training provides more benefits than just aesthetics. Incorporating strength training into your workout routine helps improve your overall body composition, improves your blood glucose levels, increases your metabolism, burns more calories at rest due to the increase in muscle mass AND for women it helps increase bone mass. The last one is especially important because women start to lose bone mass after menopause, which increases their risk for osteoporosis. One of the key things to remember when making your own strength training program is to gradually add resistance. This means to start out with light weights and gradually increase your weights. Don’t be so quick to do a few reps and think you can grab a heavier weight. A general rule of thumb to follow is the “-2 +2 rule”. If you are able to do two more reps outside of what is assigned in two consecutive workouts, then it is safe to increase your weights. If you are not able to complete your assigned reps and sets then that is a good indicator that your weights are too heavy to start out with. Check out how the FITT principle applies to designing a balanced strength training program:
2-3x a week; non-consecutive days
- if you are working with a personal trainer then you will go through an assessment to identify where your weights will start
- Muscle endurance: lighter weight, more reps
- 2×10, 2×12, 3×10, 3×12….etc.
- Muscle strength: heavier weight, less reps
- 5×3, 3×5, 2×3….etc.
- There is no specific time recommended by ACSM, but on average most routines are from 30-40 minutes
- Muscle endurance: 30-60 seconds in between sets
- Muscle strength: 3-5 minutes in between sets
Include various equipment: stability ball, BOSU ball, medicine ball, resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, bodyweight. When you are doing a strength training program be mindful of working out your larger muscle groups before your smaller muscle groups to avoid muscle fatigue. You should also allow a minimum of 48 hours between strength training sessions to prevent injury. This is an example of a full body workout.
This component of fitness is usually underestimated and sometimes neglected in an exercise program. As we grow older in age, the elasticity in our ligaments decreases, limiting our flexibility. The purpose of incorporating a stretch routine is to help maintain and improve your range of motion (ROM) in your joints and ligaments. One way to assess your range of motion is through the sit-n-reach test. If you are a member of a gym, most personal trainers/health coaches will be glad to assist you with the assessment at no cost. One thing that stretching does not do is eliminate or prevent muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is an indicator of a good workout which means that those muscles are benefiting from it. Soreness should not last any longer than three days and should only be uncomfortable. If you are in pain it may be an injury. Your stretching routine should take place after your workout is complete or throughout your workout; while your muscles are still warm. Stretching beforehand can increase your risk of a musculoskeletal injury due to the muscles not being warmed up. Below is the FITT principle for stretching/flexibility:
3-5x a week; as needed to improve your ROM
Hold the stretch until you are at a point of mild discomfort (don’t forget to breathe)
Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds (depends on how limited ROM is)
Static stretching, yoga, Pilates
Final Thoughts: Don’t start out with too much too soon, because that’s an easy way to burn out quickly. With this information you are able to create your workouts to your specific goals. All components of fitness are essential to attaining optimal health and it doesn’t take a lot of time. If you’re schedule is busy then aim for 10 minute bouts of exercise, three times a day. You will still reap the same benefits from a workout that is done at a longer length of time. At the end of the day make sure that you’re having fun with your workouts!
Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!