One of the most frequently asked questions I get as a Fitness Professional is; “What is the best exercise/program to do?” My favorite answer is always; “The one that you will do.” There are so many different types of training programs out there and certainly, no one size fits all. So, you could say it is a different strokes for different folks type of approach that is taken when putting a program together. I want to share with you in this article a couple of the different types of training programs out there. Think about your own personal fitness goal(s) and see if one of these strikes a chord with you and that you feel may help you in your fitness journey.
Interval Training is a very popular format. This type of training is defined as training in which an exerciser alternates between two activities, typically requiring different rates of speed or degrees of effort. In simpler terms, it is alternating a higher intensity work period with a lower intensity work period. This also can make your workout period a faster one. You may have heard someone say they were exercising in a HIIT program, which is the acronym for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT training could be a running only based program or it could be used in your strength training program or both. In a running program, you would simply alternate walking/jogging with running. You always start with a warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes. Start out walking at a comfortable pace. This can vary depending on your fitness level. If you are not on a treadmill where you may be able to check your heart rate, use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to measure your intensity. This is a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being completely at rest, like sitting on the couch. Different sites will give you slightly different range definitions, but for the most part an RPE of 1 to 3 is measured as light exertion and an RPE range of 4 to 7 covers medium to moderate exertion. Once you feel like you are working hard you have crossed over to an RPE of 8 with your hardest effort hitting the top of the scale at 10. To put your HIIT program together, you want to be moving up and down this scale for different amounts of time at each level. A roughly 20 minute cardio workout, incorporating RPE, would look something like this:
• Warming up for 5 minutes at an RPE of 2/3
• Take it to a jog for 30 seconds to 1 minute at an RPE of 5/6
• Fast walk or slow jog for 2 minutes at an RPE of 4
• Take it to a jog for 30 seconds to 1 minute at an RPE of 6/7+
• Fast walk or slow jog for 2 minutes at an RPE of 4/5
• Back to a jog for 30 seconds to 1 minute at an RPE of 6/7+
• Fast walk or slow jog for 2 minutes at and RPE of 4
• Walk to recover/cool down up to 5 minutes at RPE 2/3
A strength training program following this format could be time-based or rep based. I have performed both of these formats when working with my clients. A timed format will have them going as hard as they can, while maintaining form, for 30 to 60 seconds and then a recovery period. The time utilized is based on their fitness level and training experience. I recently took my coaches through an intense workout that involved only 7 movements. This particular format was designed by Todd Durkin of Fitness Quest 10 and is part of his IMPACT challenge. My team worked for 60 seconds all out and had 120 seconds to recover and then performed the next movement. They repeated this format for all 7 movements. I will tell you that they were definitely feeling the IMPACT of this workout and it was only 21 minutes in duration. They had a 5 minute warmup and a 5 minute cool down. The total workout was 31 minutes and they loved it. If I was doing a rep based workout, I would just replace the clock time with a rep count of 15 to 20 reps and then a recovery period.
Another popular format is Circuit based training. This too, can be done as a time based program or a rep based program. A circuit is performing all the exercises set up for the program and then repeating them one or more times. In this format, I like to have clients alternate between upper body movements and lower body movements. I have them make a complete run through the circuit that has been set up and then give them a recovery period where they perform a few stretches and get some water and then back in the circuit we go. I have them generally perform the circuit 3 times. The total number of movements in the circuit can vary. I have used as few as 5 exercises and gone as high as 9. I like picking the pace up in this format to promote a cardio workout with their strength training.
These are just a couple of samples of the many different training formats that are available for you to incorporate into your own training program. You can see from both of these that you do not need to spend hours in the gym. If time is a major influencer on your ability to get your exercise training done and you are in good shape, then a higher intensity, shorter training period may be a great option for you. For someone who is more sedentary or it has been awhile since you have had a focused training routine, I would recommend starting out with less intensity and working a little longer to build yourself back up. If you would like more information on designing a training program that will work for you, please give our training center a call, we would be more than happy to setup a time for you to meet with one of our awesome Certified Fitness Professionals. I wish you awesome health and great success in your fitness journey. Bob