Less is more.
An issue with many people’s exercise program is they work out too much. Yes, I am telling people to stop working out so much. They think that more time in the gym is better when in reality most of the time ‘less is more’.
Efficiency is better than quantity. So what I wanted to talk to you about was what to do on your workout days and what to do on your off work out days – basically what a program could look like in the real world.
Depending on the training phase that you are in, 3 to 4 days a week of weight training is ideal. It is better than even five and six days training. Regarding cardio, 2 to 3 times a week is what I recommend. And by cardio, I mean high intensity intervals or very short distance and duration – in other words sprint work followed by long rest periods.
You need to take at least one day per week and let your body rest. On this day, you can do soft tissue work such as foam rolling or get a massage or simply stretch. I have told clients that it is okay to do fun activities such as tennis on these days, as well. But ultimately, I'm looking for at least one day a week where your body can rest and recover.
Your weight training bouts should be no longer than 45 to 60 minutes. I see people in the gym all the time who exercise upwards of three hours. This is a waste of time. These workouts typically include a lot of talking, a lot of texting on the cell phone and are overall very inefficient. Your workouts can include supersets, compound sets and other variations but you should be efficient with your time and you should be finished within an hour.
Regarding cardio, coach Charles Poliquin says your cardio bouts should be no longer than 42 minutes in duration. This includes your warm-up time. Scientific studies have backed this philosophy. Remember the majority of skeletal muscle in the body is type II fibers which means they want to be worked quickly and briefly. So however you divide up your cardio, they should be really short interval bursts anywhere between 8 to 30 or 45 seconds in length.
This protocol will give you 5 to 6 days of exercise with 1 to 2 days off. One of your off days, as well as some of your workout days, you can participate in activities that could be strenuous but which you don't see as exercise such as playing softball or riding bikes.
I see this as a proper training plan for life. And don’t look for the closest parking space to the store. Just park your car and enjoy the walk.
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About Phil Gephart:
Phil Gephart is a certified personal trainer with a Master's Degree (MS) in Exercise Science with a focus in Coaching & Athletic Administration, received in 2009 from Concordia University in beautiful Irvine, California. Phil’s passion for fitness is reflected in his involvement in sports throughout his life—in high school, he played basketball, baseball and soccer, in college he continued playing basketball and soccer. Phil also played basketball professionally for five years.
Phil Gephart is currently a professor in the exercise science department at Concordia University, where he teaches an Advanced Personal Training course to undergraduate students.