Historically one of the main training motivators for people was training for aesthetics. With Lockdown, many of us have turned to fitness to maintain our mental and physical health. In the past, when we mustered the courage to go to the gym we would see on one side, a sea of cardio machines and the other a whole host of weight machines and we would be faced with a choice, cardio vs weights. Now, these things are limited by physical space and available equipment but the question is still the same, what will keep me healthier in lockdown, weights or cardio?
Many people find the CV (cardiovascular) machines less intimidating, and we’ve found that these are what people feel most comfortable with at the beginning, and that’s fine, they are a fantastic starting point. Not only are they great for a warm-up, but they are great for a workout too. Some CV machines can be better than others depending on your goals and if you are carrying any pre-existing injuries. For instance, the treadmill is a fantastic piece of kit to walk on and get a fantastic jog or run on, however, for those with slightly dodgy knees, ankles or backs running on a treadmill might not be best for them.
Lower impact options like the Cross-Trainer, Rower and Air Bikes might be a better fit and as they recruit more muscles under resistance end up providing a little more bang for your buck. Some questions likely to come up when using CV machines are:
How long do I spend on the machines?
How fast should I go?
How much resistance should I use on the machine?
These are dependent on your current levels of fitness, your goals, and how much time you have to complete them. Let’s explore further.
If you are going to the gym for general health and wellbeing, then starting by doing steady state aerobic work will build a great aerobic base. This will help the heart and lungs get healthier, and more efficient, meaning you feel less breathless in everyday life. Steady-state is a nice way of describing longer duration cardio work, generally done at low intensity (think of a scale of 1-10 and you would choose a 6 or a 7).
If, however, you are training specifically for fat loss it might be an idea to add in some higher intensity cardiovascular work in the form of interval training. There are several options to choose from, one of our favourites is the 30:30 format of work: recovery. The beauty of these intervals is that they can be done on any piece of CV machines with the rower and bikes being staples in our gym. Each 30-sec work bout is performed at a high intensity (think of that scale of 1-10 again and this would be a 9/10) followed by 30 seconds of active rest at a low intensity usually for 4-6 rounds. This would be immediately followed by a period of full rest before attempting the second block of this type of intervals.
To know which type of CV work is right for you try the following fitness test. Perform 1000m on the rower if it takes you longer than 6 mins, then I would work on building an aerobic base and focus on steady-state work for a while. If you can perform in under 5-mins, then chances are you ready to tackle some intervals. Always double-check with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine to make sure it is right for you.
The weight training side of a gym can be more intimidating, especially if you are new to training. In most gyms, this area is divided into two sections; resistance machines and free weights. The easiest way to get over any fears regarding training with weights is to book onto an induction or beginners course this way you get instructed on proper technique and ensures your safety when using the equipment alone.
Some of the key benefits of training with weights are increased muscle mass, this won’t mean you get bulky, but rather leads to a faster metabolism and ultimately more efficient fat loss. Also not only do you get physically stronger, but your body also experiences improvement in bone density, and improved agility as you get older.
To make the topic, less intimidating we will start by breaking weight training down into 4 key movements, that will make it easy to incorporate into your routine.
Squatting - This is a functional movement involved in everyday life, and in terms of the gym, we can use simply a bodyweight squat as well as using barbells, dumbbells and Kettlebells to perform squatting movements.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight in your heels, send your hips backwards as you drive your knees open and keep your chest high and proud. Continue downwards, pushing your hips back until your quads are parallel with the floor, before driving through your heels and standing back upright again.
Pushing - From push-ups to overhead presses, to bench-press there are several options to choose from. Anything overhead such as an overhead press is a vertical press, and anything lying down such as a bench press or seated Chest press is a horizontal press. Alternate between vertical and horizontal presses each time you come into the gym for maximum results.
Hinging - Primarily used in picking things up with a tight back. The exercises for hinging such as deadlifts and kb swings are fantastic for shaping up the backs of the legs and working the glutes. The Deadlift is a bit more of a technical move so be sure to get a trainer to double-check your technique and avoid any rounding of your back.
Pulling - These exercises are primarily linked to good posture and decreased back and shoulder issues ranging from pull-ups, inverted row, lat pulldowns and any bent over row variation. These are always the areas most sought after by those wearing any kind of backless clothing or those looking for more of a v-shape to their physique.
So, what is the best to choose from when it comes to utilising your time at the gym?
Each one has its merits and fantastic benefits, however, to be efficient with your time in the gym and maximise your results both fitness-wise and aesthetically combining the two is a recipe for great results.
Start your session with a 5-10 minute warm-up at a gentle pace before moving on to the weights section and selecting 4 exercises from each of the sections above and performing 2-3 sets at challenging weights, then finish your session off with either the interval session or some steady-state cardio as a finisher.
Try this 2-3 times a week and your start noticing results very quickly.
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