Though you might prefer to be a gym rat all the time, the fact is that there are only so many hours you can spare beyond your job and other personal commitments. So it’s important that you get the most out of the time you spend at the gym.
With so many routines and exercise options, you might be tempted to keep trying different things. However, the best results are gained only when you stick to a routine. If you’re looking to maintain your fitness level, your number of gym days depends on how active you already are, but in general, four to five days a week is a good start.
So here’s what a perfect workout week should look like:
Why more muscle is good for you, you ask? The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate. By increasing your muscle mass, you begin to burn calories even when you’re not working out. And when you work your muscles, you also end up strengthening your bones and joints.
How Often: Three times per week.
How Long: Strength-training session for 45-60 minutes followed by foam rolling and at least a five-minute warm-up beforehand.
How To Do It: The goal should balance things out with upper and lower body moves, and pushing and pulling movements. A pushing movement would be a chest press, and a pulling movement would be a row. You should do different moves in each of the three strength sessions, but repeat them every week. To see results, stay with a program for four to six weeks and progressively increase the weight. And it’s not just about the machines; strength training can also incorporate bodyweight moves like squats, dumbbells, kettlebells, or TRX suspension trainers.
While there is no substitute for strength training, one just cannot ignore cardio. Doing cardio keeps your circulatory system working optimally which in turn helps you to recover faster and increases your endurance. Cardio also helps increase your VO2 max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption as measured during incremental exercise).
How Often: Two times per week.
How Long: The American College Of Sports Medicine recommends logging 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity per week. How you split that up will depend on what type of training you’re doing (longer, steady-state sessions vs. shorter HIIT workouts).
How To Do It: There are many options to choose from when it comes to cardio training: spinning, an outdoor jog, HIIT workouts, or the good old elliptical machine. Cardio exercises should focus on increasing your heart rate and keeping it there for a certain period of time. Target heart rates are different for everyone, but a good baseline to aim for during your cardio routines is between 120 and 150 beats per minute for 45 to 60 minutes. Some exercises like kettlebell swings fit into both strength and cardio training. If you do more reps within a certain time span, your heart rate gets elevated making it more aerobic.
As driven as you might be to work out, you need to incorporate rest days into your routine. Taking a break lets your body recover and rebuild so you can get back to your workouts refreshed. However, rest day does not mean sitting on the couch all day. It is a day you should use for active recovery by doing some physical activity you enjoy. This also helps in mental recovery which is as important as physical recovery.
How Often: Two times per week.
How Long: Aim for 30-60 minutes.
How To Do It: The first thing you should consider is that active recovery is no about exerting yourself like you would in the gym. While your body needs some movement, do not push yourself. A restorative yoga class, a walk, or a swim should be good. Make sure it’s something you enjoy doing and not worry about performance or endurance. If you like to workout Monday through Friday, take the weekend off for recovery. Or you could also take them mid-week.
While this article is meant to be a guide, your perfect workout week may be slightly different based on your fitness goals. However, the idea is to stick to the routine.