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this is a great post. I would add on to frequency, you want to ensure that you are giving your muscles 2 to 3 days of rest between stregnth training sessions. You can do cardio on repeating days of the week.
Whether you are brand new to exercise or a seasoned pro, you might be asking yourself how you know if you are working at the right intensity level for you. Results and safety certainly dictate how intensely you work and what work you do, but that still leaves a huge grey area and lots of questions.
As a newcomer, you need to progress slow enough to allow your body to adapt to these new demands. As you progress, doing exercise with correct form will allow you to get the results you want. Lets examine the very popular FITT formula explanation as a guide for answering some of these questions.
Research is now indicating that training 5 times per week is truly the best way to improve fitness gains and 3 times per week is sufficient for maintenance.
If you are a beginner, 3 training sessions per week might be sufficient to start on your journey towards your goals. But if you are more experienced and looking to attain specific fitness goals then you will need to aim for the 5 session per week range.
Intensity is a variable that will change dramatically based on your fitness level.
As a beginner, cardiovascular training starting at about 55-65% of your maximum heart rate is appropriate. As you gain experience and fitness, you will be able to work at levels as high at 85% of max heart rate and more. As you near your max heart rate, you will most likely do so during interval training periods of fluctuating intensity within one workout.
As for strength training, once your body has mastered movement patterns you will most likely complete each exercise with a rep range of 9 to 12 in order to add some muscle to your frame and increase your metabolism. After a phase of this (hypertrophy) you may vary you rep range from very high (20+ reps) to very low (4-8) depending on the phase you are in and what your Personal Trainer recommends.
The American Heart Association has set the standard of a minimum of 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week at a moderate level, or 75 minute of vigorous work (you will be unable to get out more than a sentence at a time at this intensity).
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a range of 150-250 minutes of exercise per week at a moderate to vigorous intensity to maintain health and prevent further weight gain. Their studies show that total exercise time of 225 to 400 minutes is preferred is you are looking to lose weight and/or fat. This equates to anywhere from 45 -75 minutes of exercise per session depending on your level. If you are brand new to exercise, you might need to start with 15 minutes of work and progress from there.
Again, there is tremendous variety when it comes to type of exercise. What a beginner will feel comfortable with versus an experienced exerciser will dictate what activities make up each exercise session. Newcomers will likely feel more comfortable walking, using the elliptical, strength machines, and being directed towards GoodLife orientation Group EXercise classes (Newbody, BODYPUMP, BODYFLOW). As one gains confidence, they will want to experiment with running, more advanced bootcamp exercises, spinning, free weights, and the wider variety of Group EXercise classes available.
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