What Exercise Strategies Should I Use?
It is very easy to start going through the motions of working out and anticipating you will get results. Yes results will come, but how fast? Do you have the right exercise strategies?
It is important to have an exercise strategy with your training efforts in order to keep your muscles guessing while still protecting them from injury.
If you can pull this off, you will get to your goals faster.
Exercise Strategies: Split Training versus Circuit Training
So what is the difference between split and circuit training? Are either of these exercise strategies better than the other?Split training is where you do one or two muscle groups per day, while circuit training is multiple muscles groups all in one day, but with fewer reps.
There is quite a debate on the subject of which of these methods is more effective. Some argue that split training is better than circuit training because it maximizes each body group, unlike the circuit training where the last exercises of your routine usually suffer.
People tout circuit training because it creates variety and is believed to help you build a much more significant amount of strength and muscle at a faster pace.
So what is the right one? I honestly do both and have gotten good results for both.
If you haven’t touched a weight since Clinton was president, then I recommend that you definitely want to start out in circuit training to lower your risk of running out of energy short term. I probably tend to lean toward circuit training with high intensity intervals, but test it out for yourself. I believe some will do better with circuit while others will hit their stride with split training.
As we mention often, it is all about tinkering and figuring out what your body responds well to. You may find that it helps to go back forth every three to four weeks between the two.
If you are doing circuit training and you find your final exercises struggling, then reverse the order of your exercises each time you work out. So for instance you can start with abs and end with quads one day and then the next day start with quads and end with abs the next day.
You can always do better when you mix up your exercise strategies, which leads to our next exercise strategy.
When I first started creating my own personal program, which each of you should do as well, I realized that I was doing something very wrong. I made some great progress initially. I was dropping fat left and right. I got down to about 190 pounds and 14% body fat, but I seemed to have gotten smaller instead of more ripped.
I was confused and actually got pretty bummed about it. I was working out ferociously and I wasn’t getting the results I wanted.
In hindsight from where I started at, my results were great when I looked back at it, but I hit a definite wall with my progress. All the exercise wasn’t doing anything for me. I didn’t understand why.
What had happened was that I hit what is referred to as the plateau effect. There is a law of physics that I wasn’t aware of, the law of diminishing workout returns. This law exists when a dumb young guy does the same exercises over and over again.
I also thought that by simply doubling my cardio workout or number of reps, that I would automatically double my calorie burn. As we have talked about, it doesn’t work that way. It only raised my cortisol levels and kept me stagnant and frustrated.
Your body needs short bursts of unique power in order to keep it guessing. The positive effects of a workout routine wear off when you establish a pattern for more than a month.
Remember that the body is an amazing machine that wants to stabilize at a certain body composition. This is a defense mechanism to prevent it from injury or death. After anywhere from 3-4 weeks your body becomes adjusted to your consistent movements and requires alterations in intensity or the type of exercise to keep getting impressive results consistently.
This process of keeping your body guessing with unique exercises is referred to as muscle confusion. Just like how you need variety in foods, you also need variety in exercise to keep getting results. The irony is that you need to keep changing your patterns in order to keep getting the same consistent positive results.
By throwing in different exercises with blunt force for 20-30 minutes you can get an impactful experience and keep cutting fat. Obviously this has to go in hand with 8-9 hours of sleep in pitch dark, cool environment and healthy eating with a diet based around animal protein, veggies, and fat.
HIIT or High-intensity interval training is pretty much like it sounds. You spend 20-120 seconds doing high impact aerobics followed by 60-120 second periods of low to moderate aerobics. It can also be 20 seconds on, and 10 seconds off, repeated multiple times with strength (weight) training.
The advantage of HIIT is that your heart rate stays elevated as your body uses more oxygen because your heart and lungs are working harder. In turn you burn more fat by keeping your body guessing by exerting force with different movements at various speeds.
According to the Physiology of Sport and Exercise, using HIIT compared to standard training will burn an additional 50-75 calories per workout after the exercise is done. While I am not a big fan of calories in vs. calories out philosophies, I do think that there is residual positive effect to your body with HIIT.
Other awesome benefits include:
- 7-8x more positive results on our oxygen flow,
- regulating stress and hormones, and
- building faster lean mass.
HIIT is also a better way to develop the power (strength and quickness) that we have been stressing through these posts. When it comes down to it HIIT is a combo of less work, getting more results, and residual positive results over time even after you are done working out.
Wow, feels like I am selling you a get rich quick book for $9.95 and you have 60 seconds to make your decision. Next thing you know I will ask you to just turn on your computer and fat will come draining from your pores. (kinda graphic)
If you are just getting back into the swing of exercise or have done limited exercise in the past, then take it easy. Start with shorter, less powerful bursts. Have longer periods of light, intermediate exercise or total resting.
This is also something that is just common with how we operate as human beings. When we go through our daily routine, it doesn’t involve jogging at a consistent pace for several hours or running in place while we are working for eight hours. Or I sure hope you don’t have to do that.
Our days consist of peak activity like taking in groceries, going up a flight of stairs, chasing out a squirrel from your garbage, running after your kids either to play with them or rein them in. It is all stop, start, stop, start. Your exercise should be no different.
HIIT should only be performed AFTER sustaining steady cardio for 8-12 weeks, 3-4 times a week. You run the risk of injury by doing HIIT and potential cardiovascular health problems if you have had a sedentary lifestyle. Sedentary lifestyle means where your high impact body movement is grabbing the remote or microwaving chicken nuggets.
Also most HIIT routines don’t last more than 30 minutes. This is a good thing. Keep it brief and focused.
HIIT isn’t the end-all solution. If you are an endurance runner or trying to be, then you need to include more traditional endurance training like swimming, running, biking, etc for longer periods of time. No matter what you focus on, it is smart to have a nice balance of both endurance and HIIT. I personally feel that if you are trying to build stamina or train for long distance running, then less HIIT. If you are focused on burning fat and looking good, then more include more HIIT.
HIIT is more of a recommendation to mix up your exercise, provide variety, and keep your body guessing with muscle confusion. Consider doing HIIT 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes and your sustained cardio 1-2 times a week.
Bottom line, this stuff is great. I sweat so much more and get a stronger workout, often in a shorter period of time. It is a worthy return on investment.
Keep Mixing Exercise Up
The last and most important thing is that variety is the spice of life. Most people stop working out because they don’t have goals that consume them or they simply get bored.
Figure out how to enjoy your weight training and cardio so it doesn’t become a stale experience. Listen to music, workout outside and indoors, get other people involved with you. Be consistent with your working out, but mix things up if you find yourself getting bored.
If you are overweight it probably took a long, consistent process for you to get out of shape. We are talking about years. It is going to take time to get back in shape. So don’t get down on yourself.
Ask for hugs, watch Lifetime movies, NFL Films, listen to Foreigner, or whatever keeps you upbeat. This won’t be an easy process, but the more you make it a part of your life the harder it will be to think of life without fitness in it.
Here are some other tips on how to keep things interesting.
How to Mix Up your Weight Training:
- Increase weight by 5 or 10 pounds, or less weight with more reps.
- Mix up different types of exercises so that your weight training program for each muscle group is never the same as the workout before it. If you did push-ups one day, then replace it the next time with push-ups with an exercise ball on your feet or hands.
- Do 1-4 more reps per set.
- Do HIIT or take smaller breaks between sets by 15-30 seconds.
- Increase from lifting 3 days a week to 4-5 days a week and then back down to 2-3 days as needed.
- Go back and forth between different training programs.
How to Mix Up Your Cardio:
- Add 10-15 minutes to your cardio.
- Do HIIT or take smaller breaks between sets by 15-30 seconds.
- Go from 3 days a week to 4-5 days a week and then back down to 3 days as needed.
- Go back and forth between different types of cardio such as running, stair stepper, treadmill, recumbent bike, rowing, elliptical, etc.
While these different types of strategies can make a big difference, it is important to have a framework to work from. In the next post we will talk about the Know My Body workout routine.
A Strong Warning: As we dive deeper into fitness, I want to make sure you are being cautious and safe. You have to make sure to consult a physician, doctor, or a certified health individual that can give you clean bill of health to start working out if you haven’t in a while or if you are doing something new.
Some of you have been working out for years and this won’t be an issue, but some have not thought about sweating for years. Either way I am excited to learn from you and work with you, but please be safe and smart about this and ease your way in.