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Find an exercise schedule that you'll be able to stick with.
Determining the best workout schedule for you should be based on your time commitments and fitness goals. Not everyone can dedicate a couple of hours to training each day; you might not need that kind of workout volume to achieve the body or fitness level you want. A look at some of the basic types of workout schedules can provide a good starting point for designing your customized plan.
Total Body Workout
If your goals are just to get active and improve general fitness, total body workouts can be an effective way to get your "feet wet" in the gym. Total body workouts are only performed two or three days a week, so if your schedule doesn't allow for daily trips to the gym, this type of schedule may be your best bet. Every muscle group should be worked during a total body workout, including the arms, legs, back, chest, shoulders and core. Try to do a couple of exercises for each body part, and rotate them so you're not completing the exact same routine for every workout. An example schedule for total body workouts may be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and you should be able to get a solid workout in about an hour.
Body part training splits divide up all the muscle groups according to how many days per week you intend to train. The fewer days you work out, the more muscle groups must be trained per workout and the longer you'll be in the gym. For example, a three-day split may look like this: legs and abs, back and arms, chest and shoulders, and require about an hour for each workout. A five-day split, on the other hand, would dedicate one day to each major muscle group, tossing in abs at the end of one or two of those workouts. These workouts may only be about 40 minutes.
Push-Pull and Upper-Lower
Push-pull workouts basically divide the body's muscles into two groups: those located on the front of the body and those located on the back. For example, chest and quadriceps would be pushing muscles, while back and hamstrings would be part of your pull workout. Similar in nature to push-pull workouts are upper-lower schedules. This regimen divides the body into two groups: those located above the waist and those below it. For both push-pull and upper-lower schedules, aim to complete each workout once or twice each week. Because you're still training a significant number of muscles for each workout, plan to dedicate at least an hour for each training session.
No matter what type of workout schedule you follow, it's important to make sure you provide your body with adequate recovery time and sleep. The process of increasing strength and muscle mass involves the tearing down and repairing of muscle fibers. According to sleep expert, Dr. Lisa Shives, much of the body's muscle repair occurs during non-REM sleep. It is during this time that the body releases the most growth hormone, helping the body to regenerate cells. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of rest each night, and allow 48 to 72 hours of recovery between training the same muscle groups.
A Word on Cardio
If you're looking to improve cardiovascular strength or burn fat, it's a good idea to integrate a few cardio sessions a week. Perform cardio before or after your weight training sessions. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderately-intense cardio, five days per week. If you don't have time to do cardio and resistance training together, perform one in the morning and the other at night.