Have you thought about the time you put into your workouts each week? Are your exercises efficient, effective, and geared towards your goals? Many people perform the same workouts mindlessly week after week because it’s comfortable and familiar. If you want to stay healthy and strong, you may want to re-evaluate your fitness program.
Do not start your workouts without a goal or workout plan? A fitness plan can ensure that you have a well-rounded program that includes stretching, weight training, and cardiovascular work. If you do random workouts each week, you run the risk of overtraining some body parts and neglecting other areas, putting you at risk for muscle imbalance and injury. Consider creating a fitness plan to help you schedule your workouts, add accountability, and help you incorporate variety into your fitness routine.
Plan your workouts at the beginning of the week and make sure to include cardiovascular work 2-3 times per week, weight training 2-3 times on non-consecutive days, and flexibility training 3-5 times per week.
Are your workouts structured to help you attain your goals or are you blindly going through the motions each week without results?
It’s important to evaluate your current fitness routine and determine if it’s working for you or against you. Crosstraining is vital for health and longevity. Our bodies thrive on new activities that challenge us to change our normal routines. When you constantly perform one activity and neglect other muscle groups, you are setting yourself up for plateaus and overuse injuries. If you’re still doing the same routine you were doing last year, it’s time to tweak your program to include cardio, strength, and flexibility components.
When evaluating and setting up your program, ask yourself these five questions:
1. Does my program include resistance/weight training, cardiovascular work, flexibility, and balance (stabilizer) work?
Many people perform their favorite weight training workouts, go to the same group fitness classes, or do the same elliptical or treadmill routines week after week. Body builders, dancers, yogis, runners, professional athletes, or anyone who performs the same activities each week are more prone to muscle imbalance and overuse injuries.
Consider hiring a personal trainer to design your program if you need professional advice. If you don’t have sufficient knowledge of what exercises to do or an understanding of proper form and technique, your workouts will be ineffective and increase your risk of injury.
A certified fitness trainer can create a well-balanced fitness program by considering your goals, current fitness level, and assessing any areas of weakness. For example, if you are a runner, you may have tight hamstrings and weak quadriceps, which can lead to poor performance and injuries. A trainer can suggest you incorporate other activities, such as yoga and weight training to improve hamstring flexibility and increase strength in the quadriceps.
Therefore, it’s vital to include resistance training, cardiovascular work, and stretching into your current routine. Also, don’t forget to incorporate balance exercises to help strengthen your stabilizer muscles and joints.
Many people, when starting their fitness journey, are drawn to the machines at the gym that are only isolating a single muscle at a time. This is really common and, the truth is, we don’t really know any better. We think we are “supposed to go to the gym” and we see all the machines when we get there – it makes sense, right? Wrong! The truth is, the foundation of your fitness routine should be stability and balance training in order to activate and strengthen the core and the many stabilizing muscles, improve coordination, decrease the risk of injury and work to eliminate overcompensations that probably have developed over time.
2. Do your workouts contain an appropriate warm-up and cool down?
A proper warm-up is essential to help prepare your muscles and joints for a more intense workout. Neglecting the warm-up can lead to a pulled muscle, strain, or other injuries. Your warm-up should include movements you will be doing during your workout. Therefore, begin your warm-up at a slow pace and gradually build up the intensity over a period of 8 to 10 minutes. For example, start with a slow-paced walk, transition to a faster pace walk, and then a jog.
The cooldown and stretch are just as important as the warm-up. A proper cool down allows your heart rate time to return to normal. Stretching will help elongate the muscles, improve flexibility, and help promote better muscle recovery.
Always allow for at least a 20 to 30 second stretch for each muscle group at the end of your workout.
3. Do you evaluate your progress and change your program periodically?
Make sure to monitor the progress of your fitness program. Consider starting a fitness journal to set goals and track your progress. A journal is a great way to monitor improvements such as increased strength from lifting heavier weights, improved endurance when running, or participating in an intense Crossfit workout.
Change your workouts approximately every six weeks to create muscle confusion. If you constantly do the same activity week after week, your body becomes adapted to your routine. You will develop strength that is specific to the exercise you are doing. However, repeated use of these same muscles and joints can lead to overdeveloped muscles in some parts of the body and weak underdeveloped muscles in other areas. Muscle confusion is simply changing your workouts on a consistent basis to prevent plateaus and adaptation.
A good time frame for changing your workout routine is every 4 to 6 weeks. For instance, if your current weight training workout is heavy weights, you could switch to increased reps and lighter weights the following month. If you are a runner, you could do long runs for 4 weeks and then switch to a month of shorter and faster interval runs. This creates muscle confusion and is great for increasing overall fitness and performance.
Being able to visualize your goals and progress on paper is a great motivational tool to help you get progressively stronger and increase your fitness level.
4. Does your weight training program address all the major muscle groups: Chest, Back, Biceps, Triceps (all three heads), shoulders ( ex. medial, lateral, and anterior deltoids), quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, core, and lower back (erector spinae). I hear many clients tell me they want a six-pack and they only want to work abdominals or men who only care about a big chest and biceps, but neglect their lower body. However, it’s important to work all major muscle groups to stay strong and injury free. Check out the following link for setting up a well-balanced fitness program:
8 Reasons for Building a Balanced Body
Here are 8 reasons why you MUST focus on building a balanced body:
- Prevents injuries
- Symmetrical appearance that is more pleasing to the eyes
- Improved posture
- No muscle imbalances in size
- No muscle imbalances in strength
- Prevention of aches and pains
- Get stronger faster because all muscles are strong and contribute to overall strength
- Build muscle faster due to greater strength and targeting all major muscle groups
5. Do you evaluate your exercise selections in your workout program? Or could some of your exercises be on this video “Most Dangerous Gym Workout?”
Some exercises may look cool but – is it appropriate for you ( age appropriate and fitness level)? Is it safe and effective or is there a better alternative? Always evaluate risk versus reward.
Unfortunately the current fitness climate is hot for something I call enter-trainment. Much of what we see in the gym is fueled by social media. You only need to look through any fitness feed to see a multitude of handstands, olympic lifts, human flags, couples squatting each other, 1000 rep challenges etc etc.
Better to be safe than sorry and stick with the basics to avoid injury. There are countless safe and effective exercises that will help you reach your goals.
For more information on crosstraining, check out my blog: Crosstraining is important for overall fitness