Do you work out for a living? Chances are that you don’t and you don't have a limitless number of hours to spend in the gym every week. Workout variety is an awesome thing, but endless moves, classes, and online programs sometimes make knowing where to start a battle. Cardio, strength training, and rest are all major aspects of living an active lifestyle, but how much of each should you be doing?
If you're looking to maintain your fitness level, your magic number of days depends on how active you already are. For body change you need a minimum of of two to three sessions PLUS a very strong focus on diet, around 70% diet and 30% exercise is the general ratio. But if your body is used to six days a week, two days probably won't cut it.
Alex Strong, Manager of 12 ROUND Fitness, can help. The breakdown varies depending on your specific goals, but in general, four to five days a week will do the trick if you're aiming to increase your fitness and stay in shape. If you're going for the full five, then three days should focus on strength training, two days should focus on cardio, and two days should be active rest. If you only want to work out four days a week, think about your goals: If you want to add muscle tone, cut a cardio day. If you want to improve endurance, skip a strength day. Or, switch it each week.
Here's how to nail it at each one:
"Makes you massive! Just kidding, says Alex. (12RND leads to increased lean muscle mass, not bulk). An increase in muscle mass will lead to an elevated metabolic rate which means that you’ll burn more calories when you're not working out. And it also strengthens joints and bones".
How Often: Three times per week.
How Long: A strength training session should last at least 45 minutes. Add at least a five-minute warm-up beforehand and foam rolling.
How To Do It: Include upper and lower body moves, you want to have a balance between pushing and pulling movements. For example, a pushing movement would be a chest press, and a pulling movement would be a row. Do different moves in each of the three strength sessions, but repeat them every week. "Stay with a program for four to six weeks and progressively increase the weight". The week before your last week, drop off a little, to give your body some recovery, and then in the last week, really push it hard." Machines re great but bodyweight moves like squats, dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX suspension trainers are also great. What’s awesome is that 12 ROUND incorporates all of this in every session without you thinking about it.
Bonus Tip: You can improve other elements of your fitness with strength training. "Incorporating flexibility work in the warm-up and during your workout will make sure you are completing the full range of the movement". By working on coordination during the warm-up with non-linear movements and patterns like crawling your balance can be improved (engage your core!), doing single-leg exercises like scissors are good too.
Strength training is important but cardio has its place in a balanced workout routine, too. Doing cardio keeps your circulatory system working, will help you recover and improve your endurance. What it does for your body is increase your VO2 max which then helps your body utilize oxygen. How good.
How Often: Two to three times per week.
How Long: Depending on which sports medicine body you go to recommendations are for logging around 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity per week. Longer, steady-state sessions vs. shorter HIIT workouts like 12 ROUND will lead to variations on that.
How To Do It: What’s awesome is that you have heaps of options available to you and many can be done outside the gym. The summer weather is here so why not advantage: an outdoor jog, the rowing machine, a swim in the ocean. Whether an exercise is cardiovascular depends on where your heart rate is at and how long you’re doing it for". Target heart rates are different for everyone, that’s why we recommend using a MYZONE because it will work that out for you. There’s heaps of apps that do it too and fitbits are now inexpensive too. A good baseline to aim for during your cardio routine is between 120 and 150 beats per minute for at least 45 minutes. "I’m a big fan of doing functional movements to keep my heart rate up" says Alex. For example, consider kettlebell swings: while they can also fit into strength training, they have a place in a cardio workout, too. The aim is to do more reps within a time span to keep your heart rate elevated. It also improves your agility, while getting in your cardio.
Bonus Tip: Another option is bringing interval training into your workouts. It will help you burn more calories in the same time as your steady state. Doing an intense 30 seconds of hard training work followed by 30 seconds of active recovery is good. You can apply this to almost anything.
A rest day should be considered active recovery, meaning you don't have to hit the gym or break a serious sweat, but you should do something like a walk. It’s about a physical and mental recovery. Your body can recover and rebuild and this means that when you get back to your workout you’re refreshed and ready to hit it hard.
How Often: Two times per week.
How Long: Aim for 30-60 minutes.
How To Do It: A yoga class, a walk with friends or the dog all counts, it just needs to get you moving.
Bonus Tip: Rest wherever is convenient. If you do your workouts Monday through Friday, then take the weekend off. It’s all about having good fitness habits.
Want results? You’ll need to have fun and be inspired that will mean you have the best chance of having a routine you can stick with. "I’ve seen so many people try to fit workouts in inconsistently and they don’t end up achieving the results they want and have negative experiences," says Alex. So, no matter what you commit to your goal should be to stick to it. Engage with those around you that want to help or someone you look up to, they’ll help get you where you want to be.