An effective exercise regime should achieve results (sounds pretty obvious!) but so many don't. One principle that I want to cover in this section is exercise order. Many people start their programs with cardio-vascular (aerobic) work and move on to resistance (weights) work afterwards. This is not taking advantage of the body’s natural order of utilising energy substrates (ATP/CP, Anaerobic - with glycogen, Aerobic - primarily with fats).
A simple, yet amazingly effective, rule is simply to reverse this order. After doing 5-10 minutes warm-up you should carry out your weight-training program (to improve strength, posture, stability, lean muscle tone etc) and this requires sugars for energy (in the form of blood sugar and stored glycogen from muscle and liver stores). Then you should move on to your cardio-vascular work. Because your sugar stores have been depleted the body is forced to utilise more fat-stores as an energy source – this results in more fat loss. Sounds pretty good, huh?
The stimulation of muscle from the resistance work will increase your resting metabolism, providing you have adequate rest and nutrients (e.g. protein). So this program will result in an increased metabolism, increased fat breakdown and better posture, tone, strength and so much more…and don’t forget your stretches! As far as resistance exercise routines are concerned there are an array of formulas for reps, sets, sequence etc. I am not going to prescribe any set routines as I feel that this should only be done after assessing each individual. What I will say is that a few simple guidelines make help you on your way:
Beginners may do well on a whole body routine to start. Only 1-2 exercise should be carried out per body part. This is to practice correct exercise technique, post instruction. I would suggest starting with larger muscle groups, such as the chest, legs and back and descending in size and complexity of movement. The heavier compound exercises are more taxing on the central nervous system and stabiliser muscles (co-ordination, posture etc). I also work opposing muscle groups in sequence. For instance putting chest and back together, hamstrings and quadriceps, biceps and triceps etc. This is to ensure that you do not cause imbalances in muscles, which can negatively affect movement and posture. I would maybe suggest that you complete the exercises for the chest and back followed by the legs and then return to shoulders and arms. This gives an upper-lower-upper body sequence to instil some rest periods for those areas during the workout.
Always finish your workout with abdominals as starting with them will weaken your integrated support structure and can easily lead to lower back injuries, especially if undertaking overhead work or heavy work such as squats. To strengthen your stabiliser and core section you should consider some exercises specific to these areas such as swiss ball work. This is not a blueprint for all workouts and as you progress you should move into split routines etc to intensify your workouts without over training. Never let your weights session last longer than one hour and ensure adequate rest between workouts!
So why do so many people get it wrong? – I don’t know!