Last week, I started expanding on my list of ten “Back to Basics Tips” to help you get into great shape. Today’s tip emphasizes the need to follow a plan, before getting started with exercise if you want to achieve specific results beyond simple “maintenance”. While I recognize the value of simply becoming more active, I’m referring to a structured outline that leads to more strength, less fat, greater endurance and improved functional capacity.
When I meet with a client for the first time, I tell them that the body changes and becomes fitter and stronger when given a “stimulus” that it isn’t used to. The new stimulus is something that the body must adapt to. It does this is by increasing muscle, improving cardiovascular fitness and decreasing body fat. In simple terms, if you never change the way that you exercise and/or eat, you will hit sticking points where you just seem unable to make any new fitness gains.
In my Top 10 list, I recommend designing training protocols that cover 6 to 12 weeks at a time with specific goals for each week. In my experience, the best way to do this is to challenge yourself to go through “phases” of training; focusing on different fitness measures and even different body systems with each phase. While it might not always seem like it, the body is very good at adapting to new stimuli and because of this, I like to plan for phases that last only between 2 to 4 weeks before moving on.
There are 4 of these phases that I use with clients to help them achieve positive results in a relatively short period of time. The power of this style of training is that once complete, the process begins again since there have been several weeks since the first phase ended; meaning that the stimulus will be new and different again. Having completed several weeks of training, the client starts anew with a stronger, leaner, fitter body, more able to go further than they did previously. The 4 phases are as follows;
Conditioning The goal of the “conditioning” phase is twofold; it allows “over exercisers” who may be experiencing burnout to recover and to start moving in a positive direction while it helps new exercisers increase their level of exercise tolerance before adding intensity. This phase uses mostly bodyweight exercise, resistance bands and exercise balls for multi-joint movements.
Strength/ Muscle In this phase, resistance training will be the primary modality. The emphasis will be on increasing loads handled using weights or other methods like machines, bodyweight exercise or thicker resistance bands. The goal in this phase is too safely lift heavier weights in an effort to build muscle that will improve fat burning capacity, body shape and athletic and/or daily activity performance.
Endurance The shift to training for endurance means that cardiovascular fitness will be emphasized along with higher repetitions using lighter loads for building muscles more adapted for longer activity (as opposed to pure strength in the previous phase)
Metabolic/ Fat Burning The final phase uses appropriate high intensity training protocols, like circuit training, for maximizing caloric and fat burning. My favourite way to do this is to used timed “work to rest ratio” sets with full body workouts that always include a cardiovascular training component (as opposed to counting repetitions). I have found that 30 seconds of work to 15 seconds of rest works best for 5- 10 rounds of exercises, according to individual fitness levels.
Based on an individual’s personal goals, the duration and emphasis of each phase is subject to change. For example; to build muscle, the Strength/ Muscle phase will be highlighted and to burn fat, the Metabolic/ Fat Burning phase would last longer than the others.