There is no one “right way” to work out, but following a strategic order of exercises based on your needs and goals will help you get the most out of every workout.
GENERAL WORKOUT OUTLINE
WHO DOES WHAT, AND WHY?
Not everyone must do every type of exercise in a given workout, but everyone SHOULD at least do a thorough warm up followed by dynamic stretches. This is a way to signal to the muscles and joints, “Hey! You’re about to be on so get ready!” From there, people who are new to exercise will spend more time on large muscle and stabilization exercises like a bridge floor press or single leg bench squats, while those looking for a more advanced workout might spend less time on foundational movements and go right to ballistic exercises such as box jumps or medicine ball throws. Everyone’s starting point is different, but even the most seasoned workout junky should do some planks and air squats before launching right into Kettlebell swings.
Grab a friend and try this hop and balance test:
One person balances on whichever leg they choose for 30 seconds while the other hops on the foot of their choice for the same amount of time. Then the person who was balancing will start hopping on the same leg, while the other will balance on the leg they were just hopping on. Who balanced better, the person who hopped first, or the person who hopped second? Was there any difference in how long either could hop on one leg before feeling any kind of fatigue?
It’s important to work large muscles and do exercises that focus on precision, stability and balance before working smaller stabilizer muscles and doing more dynamic movements. Doing exercises the other way around would compromise the integrity of movement, so while it might be tough to jump on a leg that is somewhat fatigued from balancing, it’s a lot harder to balance on a leg after its fast-twitch muscles have been firing like crazy.
Working out on your own? No problem! You can follow this formula:
Cardio - If you are an endurance athlete with a specific schedule to follow, sprinkle in some resistance exercises immediately following your key workouts. Do not do them on your rest day - because then you’re not actually resting!
If you are doing cardio for the sheer joy of making your heart beat faster, then it is totally a matter of personal preference whether you do it before or after resistance training. Just remember to always warm up, regardless of which you do first.
Large Muscles - Alternate muscle groups so you can move from one exercise to the next and continuing working one part of the body while the other recovers. IE) Alternate sets of squats with lat pull-downs, or lunges and push-ups.
Small/stabilizer muscles - Incorporate another layer of difficulty to your usual bicep curls by standing on one foot, or do a step-up exercise adding in an overhead dumb bell press.
Dynamic movement - Sprinkle in some low box or bench jumps, mountain climbers, or the ever-popular burpee towards the end of your workout. Challenge yourself by time rather than reps so that if you do start to fatigue to the point that your form fails, you can stop for a couple seconds to take a breath, and then adjust your pace so that you can finish the set safely.
Additional Core - Sit ups and crunches are great, but if you can do 100 of them, there’s a way to do 10 and make them feel more challenging and actually be more effective. Use this time to regain control of your breathing. One of my favorites is the “slow roll” sit up. Lay flat with your legs straight and anchored together, heels pressed into the ground. Sit up as tall as you can without lifting your legs off the ground and reach up toward the ceiling. Count to five (“Mississippi”) as you slowly roll back toward the mat, do not touch down before reaching five!
Warm Down and Stretch - Take full advantage of your “me time” with static stretches that target each muscle you worked. A stretch should feel like a gentle tug, not a hard pull. IF IT IS PAINFUL, STOP! I do not recommend a full yoga class immediately following a hard workout, but certain poses are beneficial to opening up the chest, back and hips and restoring fluid motion when sore. Whether you run or not, check out studios that offer yoga for runners because these classes often target the same tight areas that many people suffer from - low back, hamstrings, hips and upper back - without making you try to do a bunch of handstands or twist yourself into a pretzel.
So as you can see, there IS a method to the madness, but with plenty of opportunity for variety and customization based on each individual’s needs and preferences. If you are interested in training in the Midtown Atlanta or Decatur area, be sure to contact me here to schedule your free 30-minute assessment!