We all start out on a workout program with great expectations. Weight loss, a lean and toned body shape and stronger muscles are goals that many of us strive for. We put in the hours, tirelessly working away at our routine, but how many of us find that when we hit the scales – or the mirror – we are no closer to our goals than when we started!
While any form of exercise is good for a fit and healthy lifestyle, variety in your routine is a must, regardless of your objectives. It is also important to understand that just concentrating on exercising a particular body-part or having a ‘set’ routine will not achieve results – and may even take you further away from your original goals.
A balanced exercise program, with routines tailored to meet your objectives and a focus on improving your overall body fitness – not just one muscle group – will get you to where you want to be. But, where do you begin?
Understanding Fat & Muscle
A good starting point is understanding how fat and muscle work. Fat is burnt off uniformly. There are no short-cuts to losing fat in local ‘trouble spots’. An overall program with plenty of variety that encompasses cardiovascular, strength training and stretching is required, so your body becomes used to change.
Building lean muscle mass (check this: http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/11-training-tips-gaining-lean-muscle) is the foundation for weight loss and toning your body. Lean muscles are efficient calorie burners – just one pound of lean muscle mass will burn off 50 calories per day while you are resting. Compare this to the same amount of fat, which only burns off five calories per day in your resting state, and you’ll quickly see that the more lean muscle mass you have, the faster you’ll achieve your goals.
Strength Training – Get a Bench
The number one way to build extra lean muscle mass is through strength training (lifting weights). However, there is one golden rule to follow –
If your objective is to lose weight and increase your endurance, then you MUST always train with light weights in a high repetition of 15-20 sets, and frequently (4-6 days per week). Always try to vary the routine – i.e. straight lifts, squats, lunges, etc. – concentration on an area over and over again will only bulk up muscle, making you appear bigger and heavier.
If you want to get bigger and build muscle bulk, then you should train with heavier weights, using fewer repetitions and leave plenty of time for muscles to recover before the next workout. Strength training will also heighten your metabolic rate, and keep it ‘above the average’ for up to 15 hours after exercise. You’ll want something like a preacher curl bench (http://preachercurlbench.com for example) to make the most of your workouts.
Adding a cardio routine to your program will give you yet more variety. Cardio is great for your heart and will help you shed weight and tone your lower body. It is important to realize that a cardio routine won’t build lean muscle or prolong the effects of an increased metabolic rate. They are good in the short-term but should be built alongside a strength-training program. Again, a variety of cardio workouts is best if you want to avoid bulking up muscle in a particular area.
Don’t Forget Stretching
Often overlooked, stretching exercises in your routine will help tone muscles, adding flexibility and definition to your body shape. Stretching all the major muscle groups is advisable three to four times each week.