10 Ideas for Making the Most of Your Fitness Plan
Sticking to your fitness plan is easier when you have a set of attainable goals. For example, if you want to be able to do several push-ups within a month, this is a goal that you can realistically achieve.
Be creative in how you meet your workout goals. You don’t need to do all your exercise at once; short sessions throughout the day can still have aerobic benefits.
1. Increase Your Range of Motion
Having a good range of motion is important for your muscles, joints and overall health. In fact, one of the most common fitness problems is a loss of flexibility as you age, which can be a result of poor posture and joint pain. Fortunately, it’s easy to improve your range of motion with some simple exercises and strategies.
One way to increase your range of motion is by performing static stretches. This is when you move a muscle as far as it can go without feeling painful, then hold that position for 20 to 45 seconds. Incorporate these into your workouts to help you get the most out of your exercises and prevent injury. A good time to do these is during your post-workout cool down while your muscles are still warm.
2. Increase Your Strength
Whether you’re interested in sculpting bigger muscles or performing better at certain sports, you need to focus on increasing your strength. The best way to do that is by gradually increasing the amount of physical stress placed on your muscles over time.
The right amount of weight differs depending on the exercise you are doing, but generally, choose a weight that tires your target muscle or muscles by the last two reps, while still allowing you to maintain proper form. Then, keep challenging your muscles by slowly adding weight or resistance.
Avoid criticizing yourself for not meeting your fitness goals; that’s the quickest way to give up on your plan altogether. Instead, reward yourself for sticking with it. For example, buy a new workout outfit you couldn’t fit into previously or treat yourself to a massage for sore muscles.
3. Add More Resistance
If you’re stuck in a workout plateau, try adding more resistance to your exercises. It will challenge your muscles more and help them grow bigger and stronger.
The best way to do this is with supersets, giant sets and drop sets. These high-intensity techniques involve doing a number of reps in a short period of time with minimal rest between each set. They are a great way to increase the intensity of your workout, but you shouldn’t use them every time you do a resistance training session or you might overtrain your muscles.
Another way to add more resistance is by using resistance bands. You can place them around a dumbbell or kettlebell to make it harder to lift. Scott likes to use them for bicep curls, lateral raises and overhead tricep extensions. They can also be used to make pulling movements, such as bent-over rows and deadlifts, more challenging.
4. Do a Dynamic Warm-Up
A dynamic warm-up is a sequence of movement-based exercises performed prior to exercise. It’s meant to increase blood flow, optimize available muscle flexibility and familiarize the body with the movement patterns of the upcoming workout.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, extend your arms to the side and move them in a circular motion. Start small and gradually enlarge the circles. Perform this exercise two to three times before activity.
This dynamic upper-body stretch targets the muscles in your shoulders, back and core. It also improves hip mobility and helps you become more comfortable moving in different planes of motion. Start with this version and then add a band for added resistance for an advanced variation of the lateral walk. Aim for 20 rotations on each side. —Kate Bramble, Elite Training.
5. Do a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Session
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts alternate between periods of intense exercise and recovery. The workouts are shorter in duration than traditional endurance workouts, but they reap similar fitness benefits and burn more calories, too.
In a HIIT session, you can perform exercises like burpees, jumping squats, and sprinting. But before you jump into a HIIT session, it’s important to warm up for at least five minutes. This will help prepare your heart and lungs for the higher intensity workouts.
You’ll also want to ensure you have a pre-workout and post-workout snack to fuel your body for the workout, reduce fatigue, and promote muscle recovery afterward. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, too. If you start feeling fatigued, cut back on the intensity of your workout. This might mean using a lower weight or decreasing the speed or number of reps you do.
6. Do a Strength Training Session
It’s easy to think that a workout program needs to be hard to be effective, but you can get an extremely good workout in 30 minutes if you know how to maximize your time. You’ll end up stronger, fitter and leaner without spending long hours at the gym.
Start by finding an exercise you enjoy. It’s easier to stick with a workout when you look forward to it. Consider joining a fitness group or exercising with friends. Studies show that people work out longer and harder when they’re in the company of others.
After your warm-up, do a strength training session that works all major muscle groups two times a week. Aim to do one set of 12 repetitions of each exercise, working the muscles until they feel tired and cannot lift another rep. You can split your strength routine into upper and lower body days if you’d like.
7. Do a Cardio Session
Cardio — or aerobic exercise — is a vital part of any fitness plan. This workout helps get your heart pumping and blood flowing, which improves your overall health and can even boost your longevity.
It’s important to find a cardio routine that fits your fitness goals and schedule. If you’re not able to work up to 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, consider breaking your cardio workout into 10- or 15-minute bursts throughout the day.
While some cardio exercises require specialized equipment, others can be done at home, like running or cycling. And if you’re short on time, try a workout like Shaun T’s Morning Meltdown 100 or Transform :20, which is designed to be performed in just 20 minutes. It’s also a good idea to vary your workouts to avoid overuse injuries.
8. Do a Yoga Session
Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and get a full-body workout. Yoga sessions typically last from 30 to 60 minutes. However, they can be longer for advanced yoga styles or shorter for people with health limitations.
Beginner’s yoga sessions are often shorter than the average to allow the body to adjust to exercise. Additionally, those with lower back or joint problems may prefer shorter sessions to avoid any discomfort or injuries.
Regardless of the length of your yoga session, make sure to set aside some time for it in your day. This is important because if you don’t schedule it, chances are that you won’t stick with your fitness plan long enough to reap its benefits. Plus, scheduling will help you stay accountable for your workouts and increase your accountability and commitment. Also, try logging your yoga sessions to keep track of your progress.
9. Do a Stretch Session
A good stretching session is a key component of any workout. Whether done before or after your workout, it can help to prevent injury, improve flexibility and aid recovery.
Athletes and fitness fans should aim to stretch both major muscle groups, as well as the smaller muscles that support them. It’s also important to choose stretches that are safe. “Stresses that offer poor leverage or isolation can lead to injury,” says the website SynerStretch. Likewise, exercises that strain the joints can cause injuries to other muscles and bones in the area.
Lastly, when performing a stretch, remember to keep your movement smooth. Bouncing as you stretch can not only hurt your muscles, but it can actually contribute to tightness. Instead, try to hold the stretches as long as possible without pain. For example, hold a leg swing for 30 seconds.
10. Do a Stretching Session
Static stretching should be done after your muscles have been warmed up (see section Warming Up) or as a way of “cooling down” after exercise to reduce post-workout muscle fatigue and soreness. It is also helpful for reducing tension and spasms in injured muscles.
Aim to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, or whatever length of time is appropriate for your fitness level. Remember not to bounce as you stretch, since this can cause injuries.
You can also incorporate movement into your stretches, such as those performed in yoga, tai chi or Pilates. This type of stretching can help improve flexibility and may even reduce the risk of falls in older adults. It can be a great addition to your routine. You can do it alone, during a class or in the privacy of your home.