It’s the question that every magazine claims to answer and every personal trainer gets asked. What’s the best workout? It has some subcategories such as ‘Best Workout for 6-Pack Abs!’ or ‘Your Best Glutes Ever!’ However, the idea behind the question is the same. Somewhere out there, there is one perfect workout that does better than any other ever invented and it promises you visible, tangible results.
With my degree, certifications, and dedication to continued education in the field, clients expect me to have an answer that can be squeezed into a single training session. So, what is the magical answer? Here it is…
It depends on your lifestyle. It depends on your health history. It depends on your goal. It depends on whether or not you’ve ever picked up a weight before. It depends on your job, your kids, your injuries, your nutrition…and more.
Whenever I get a new client and give her a different approach to her goal than the last trainer, that client feels like they were led astray before or that my new approach must be wrong. What your past trainer gave you may have been just what you needed at THAT time with what that trainer had to offer and to work with.
Even after you’ve figured out your ‘perfect workout,’ it’s not going to stay the same because your body isn’t going to stay the same. I’ll also bet that circumstances in your life won’t stay the same. When a magazine or a product presents us with THE workout that’s going to change our physiques and our lives, it’s all very tempting to believe THIS IS IT! However, how much does Shaun-T know you and your goals when you buy his Insanity DVDs?
That is not to say these magazine workouts and pre-recorded programs are good for nothing. They can be fantastic tools for anyone looking for general guidance, or just a good, FUN workout.
BUT, if you are looking for the best workout for yourself, in this present time with the resources you have at hand, here are some things to consider when creating your very own Best Workout:
What is your current state of health?
Do you have a pre-existing condition such as cardiovascular disease or asthma that you may need to consider when designing your program? Always make sure you are medically clear to start an exercise program. Be certain of the guidelines and limitations you may need to stick to for the time being. If you do have a condition that you need to work around, you may want to consider hiring a professional to advise you on where to start.
How much time can you devote to an exercise program?
Be realistic. You can always add more time later, but it can be a bit disheartening if you plan on jumping from zero to 6 days a week of exercise and only manage to get two days in. Sure, you can benefit from a 2 hours workout, but you can also benefit from a 20 minute workout. Once you have your frequency and duration in mind, you can start to figure out what types of workouts will help you maximize that time. If you plan on doing only 2-3 days a week, you may not want to do a 6-day bodybuilding split that will leave three weeks between leg days.
When will you do your workouts?
Do you have a demanding job that leaves you feeling drained at the end of the day? You may want to do your workout in the morning while you’re still fresh. Do you have kids to take care of in the after school hours? Maybe a lunch time workout is best. If you train in the evening, you may have to work around large crowds to optimize your time. Yes, there is some research to suggest maybe you should do cardio in the morning, or strength training in the evening, or figure out what time your body “likes” to work out. However, none of that matters if it isn’t feasible with your lifestyle.
What is your goal?
If you’re goal is to get a PR in your next marathon, you probably don’t want to lift heavy six days a week. Conversely, if you’re main goal is physique, endurance training will only get you so far. Decide on your long term goal then break it down into smaller, more short term goals. For example, if you’re goal is to get shredded and you’ve just started lifting again, make your goal to lift 2-3 times a week for four weeks. If you are only focused on your larger, more long-term goal, you are very likely to get discouraged. Call it a symptom of our instant-gratification way of life.
What is your exercise history?
Have you ever lifted weights before? Maybe you need someone to show you a few exercises to start. Have you been sedentary as of late or have you been working out consistently five days per week? If you’re just getting back to it or starting a routine for the first time, start small. Start with 2-3 times per week. If you’ve been doing nothing but cardio and abs for the past 3 years, maybe you should try stepping off the treadmill and spending more time in the weight room. Basically, change your routine frequently and don’t jump from nothing to working out five days per week. Your body will be happier with it, you’re more likely to stick to it, and your results will be better.
Stay on your program for 4-6 weeks and then reassess your situation.
Back to the topic of changing things up: Your body adapts to what you habitually do. If you want to see CHANGES you need to CHANGE your routine. The body will adapt to a new program in an estimated 4-6 weeks. If you keep to the same routine of running the same miles per week at the same pace, you are doing a GREAT job at maintaining your health! However, you won’t see drastic changes in physique or performance.
Track your progress.
If you want to see changes to physique, health, or performance, the single best thing you can do for your workouts is to track them. KNOW what you are doing. Have a log that allows you to go back and see what your routine is. Did the amount of weight you were lifting go up or down? Are you able to run a mile with more ease than before? Compare your workouts with other factors of your health. Are you sleeping better? How is your energy level? Compare your tracked workouts to your goals. Are you seeing changes in your body composition? When you are able to track your workouts and how your body is adapting, you can make a more knowledgeable decision about how to change your program for the next 4-6weeks or so.
Most importantly: HAVE FUN!
Find routines, classes, and activities that you can enjoy! For those that are just starting out in the fitness world, it may take some time to really enjoy a workout. There are so many different activities to try and I know you’ll find one that you can have fun with!
When you’re combing through workout routines in magazines or putting one together for yourself, make sure you ask yourself these questions. There are so many great workout programs and methods out there and they can do great things for different individuals. Educate yourself on the types that are available. More importantly, use this as an opportunity to educate yourself about YOU and YOUR body. You only have one, so treat it well!