A big-picture view of workout essentials

There are many ways to study exercise and fitness. At the macro or micro level, or in layman’s terms – the big and small picture.
Today and Tuesday let’s take a big-picture view of workout essentials.
Here are five keys to make sure you’re going in the right direction:
1 Stretch when warm
I’ve talked about this before, but let’s get started by re-hashing this biggie: don’t do your thorough stretching cold. Do some real light stretching, 5-10 minutes of walking, light running or biking and then stretch it out good. It’s also important to stretch after the workout.
2 Mix things up
Don’t keep grinding your muscles with the same basic workouts. The concept of muscle confusion is very important – it will keep your muscles guessing and also growing stronger. You can also think of it as cross training – finding different ways to exercise the different body parts.
3 Don’t skip the big three
For serious weightlifters and even novices, don’t get so focused on individual body part lifts that you skip the “big three.” Every workout program should include the squat, bench press and dead lift. These multi-joint exercises can help a wide array of people.
4 Quality, not quantity
Some think that highly fit people put hours and hours each day into working out. That may be true for some, but certainly not all. You can also achieve great results in a lot less time. Even 30-minute workouts four or five times a week can really help. Work as hard as you can for a shorter time, then go home to allow rest and recovery and go at it again the next day. The key is consistency, not marathon training sessions.
5 Same goes for cardio
The same philosophy goes for cardio. I see people at the gym riding an exercise bike for an hour and barely putting any energy into it, or walking on the treadmill at a snail’s pace. That will help, but you know what, they’d be a lot better off and get done quicker by going at it hard for half the time by using High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Walk, run or ride at peak speed for a spurt (say 1-2 minutes), slow to a recovery speed for 30 seconds and repeat. Go harder for a longer period if you can and then slow down.

Tomorrow we’ll look at four more simple, but important tips to point your workouts in the right direction.