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Many people go into the gym with little idea of what they are going to do on that particular day. This kind of speculative approach to exercise can still be beneficial and is far better than not exercising at all, but if you want to see progress from your workouts, it really pays to have a program. Personal trainers can write a program for you and many websites and fitness magazines have ready-made programs for you to follow, but you can also write a program yourself, which is customized to the equipment you have available as well as your exercise experience, likes and dislikes.
Choose a challenging exercise for your legs. Ideally this should be a variation of the squat, lunge, deadlift, leg press or step-up. Your legs are made up from large muscle groups that use a lot of energy, so it pays to place this exercise at the beginning of your workout when you are feeling fresh and capable.
Select a vertical pushing and pulling exercise. Vertical pushing exercises such as overhead dumbbell or barbell presses emphasize your shoulders, while vertical pulling exercises target your latissimus dorsi or side back muscles. These two exercises will also involve your triceps and biceps, the muscles on the back and front of your arms, respectively.
Choose an optional second leg exercise. Make this one a little simpler and less challenging to allow any fatigue hang over from your first leg exercise. Leg extensions, leg curls or supine hip bridges are all good choices.
Choose a horizontal pushing and pulling exercise. Horizontal pushing exercises work your chest muscles, while horizontal pulling exercises target the muscles of your upper back, the rhomboids and middle trapezius. Bench presses, pushups and dumbbell flyes are all examples of horizontal pushing exercises, while wide-grip seated rows to chest, face fulls and reverse flyes are all horizontal pulling exercises.
Select two core exercises. Core is the collective term used to describe the muscles of your midsection, which control and stabilize your spine. Keeping these muscles in good shape may reduce your chances of suffering back pain. Don't just focus on the rectus abdominis on the front of your abdomen; include exercises that target your lower back and waist as well. Crunches, side bends, dorsal raises and cable Russian twists are all effective core exercises.
- Perform two to four sets of 12 to 20 repetitions of each exercise. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets.
- Use a challenging weight but one that still allows you to perform the exercises in good form.
- Repeat your workout two or three times a week on nonconsecutive days.
- Change the exercises every four to six weeks.
- Combine exercise with a good diet for best results.