Most of us know we need to exercise more. Still, finding the time to work out is often easier said than done. For most, the only time we need to exercise is on weekends.
The good news is that so-called “weekend warriors” (people who only train two days a week) can still enjoy the health benefits of regular exercise, even if their workouts don’t go well. only take place on weekends. But it’s important to make sure you’re doing the right kind of exercises to get the most out of these workouts.
Cardio exercise or strength training?
There are two main types of exercises that everyone should aim to do.
The first is cardio, which of course refers to aerobic exercise – like walking, jogging or cycling. Cardio is great for preventing and even treating a number of chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The second is resistance exercise, which involves any activity where the body or a particular muscle group must act against an external force – such as weightlifting or pilates. Resistance exercises are good for bone health and can improve muscle strength, size, or endurance. It also slows the rate of bone and muscle loss during aging. Resistance exercises can also be great for controlling body weight, blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Since these two types of exercise have different benefits, it is important to combine the two for good health and fitness. But with only so much time on weekends, the idea of squeezing the two together can seem a bit daunting.
For cardio exercises, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is particularly well suited for weekend athletes. HIIT produces cardiovascular health benefits similar to those of a 30-minute jog, but in a much shorter time. Studies have shown that four to seven bouts of intense exercise for one minute, followed by 60 to 75 seconds of rest, can improve fitness and well-being. So, in theory, as little as eight minutes of HIIT could benefit your cardiovascular health.
But to get the most out of your workout, it’s important to perform your HIIT alongside resistance exercises.
There are two main types of resistance exercise. The first type are multi-joint exercises (such as squats or a bench press), which are effective in increasing strength. Single-joint exercises (like a bicep curl) are more effective when trying to increase the size of a particular muscle group.
The exercises you do will largely depend on your goals. If your goal is to lose fat, multi-joint exercises may be best because they burn more calories because they use more muscle.
Likewise, the order of exercise is important. If your goal is to increase muscle size, performing single-joint exercises before multi-joint exercises that use similar muscle groups could hinder your progress. If you want to build strength, the order of your exercises doesn’t seem to matter.
For general health and fitness, it’s best to combine upper and lower body exercises targeting major muscle groups (chest, shoulders, back, hips, legs, arms, and core). For each muscle group, aim to do eight to 12 reps of an exercise for one to three sets, resting for two to three minutes between sets and exercises. You should aim to lift a weight that is hard (but not too hard) for the target rep range.
If you want to save even more time in the gym, try supersets. Perform a chosen exercise for eight to 12 repetitions, then move directly to your second exercise. Rest for one to two minutes afterwards, before repeating for your remaining sets. This method works best when the two exercises target different muscle groups.
Read more: Supersets save time in the gym, which can help you reach your fitness goals faster
Designing your workout
How you structure your weekend workouts will largely depend on your preferences, goals, and how much time you have. Whatever you do, be sure to include a good dynamic warm-up to avoid injury.
If your goal is to improve or maintain your overall health and fitness, mix it up. You might want to include a HIIT workout for cardio followed by a mix of upper body-focused resistance exercises on day one. The next day, you may want to start with continuous low-impact cardio (like a bike ride) followed by some lower-body resistance exercises. Each week, try to introduce new exercises or swap exercises each week – for example using different variations of a squat (like barbell squats one week then sumo squats the next).
If you find it difficult to fit everything into a single session, spread it out over the day. Try going for a walk, jog, or bike ride in the morning, then focus on resistance exercises later in the day. It’s important to find something that works for you and matches your lifestyle so that these workouts become a habit for life.
To lose fat, HIIT has been suggested as a quick fix. But remember that increasing your muscle mass leads to a higher resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories at rest. So be sure to include big multi-joint exercises that target more muscles, like the squat or bench press to enhance fat loss.
Of course, the more exercise you can get throughout your week, the more likely you are to see health benefits. Just make sure that when you do your workouts, you only do what your body can handle to avoid injury – and make sure you warm up enough.
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