You have decided to improve your physical fitness. Good for you. For most people, achieving physical fitness requires lifestyle changes. The best place to start is an exercise and nutrition program that will form the foundation of your improved physical fitness.
You join a gym and begin to exercise. Any level of exercise is good, but gaining maximum benefits from your exercise program requires more than working hard. You have to work smart, and understand results do not happen overnight. Here are a few ideas to help you improve the effectiveness of your physical fitness program.
A Strong Core is Essential to Overall Physical Fitness
Physical fitness begins with core fitness. Ignore the core at your own risk. Core muscle fitness is vital to lean, attractive physique. Whole body strength and power does cannot happen without core fitness.
There are twenty-nine muscles in your torso that make up your core muscle group. These muscles stabilize your spine and allow your midsection to transfer force from your powerful lower body muscles to the smaller, more flexible upper body muscles. The core muscles are also essential to balance, motion, and maintaining posture. The core keeps your midsection steady when you sit, or stand, or twist, or jump, or even when you throw a ball.
A strong core also helps you maximize the effectiveness training with weights (resistance training) by helping you maintain correct form.
There are many exercises designed to increase core strength, and flexibility. Consult with the fitness professional or trainer at your gym for suggestions on how to improve your core strength for overall fitness.
Improve Physical Fitness by Combining Cardio Exercise With Resistance Training
If your primary exercise goal is weight-loss, by all means hit the treadmill, elliptical, bike, or Arc trainer. But do not limit yourself to cardio training. The most effective training programs combine calorie burning cardio programs with resistance or weight training. Try to incorporate resistance training into your program at least two days a week.
Cardio exercise burns fat by burning calories, but in the process it also burns lean muscle tissue. Resistance training enhances cardio training because it builds lean muscle tissue. Building lean tissue and burning fat at the same time reduces your overall body fat percentage more efficiently.
Free Weights are More Effective than Machines
Most gyms have a wide assortment of machines to exercise every part of your body. Using a machine for resistance training is better than no resistance training at all, and they are particularly helpful for beginners. But for a superior workout, head to the free weight area of your gym.
If you are like most people, one side of your body is stronger than the other. Most machines will allow the stronger side to do most of the work and gain the most benefit from a particular exercise. As a result the dominant side becomes stronger and the weaker side does not improve as much. Free weights correct this situation because each side must work independently and push the same load.
Exercising with free weights also forces you to balance and steady the weights as they are lifted, which activates muscles other than those targeted by the exercise. An example of this effect are squats, which target the muscles of the leg and rear end, but also strengthen the core muscles as they work stabilize the torso during the exercise. A leg press machine will work the legs and butt, but will not involve the all-important core muscles.
Correct Form Is More Important than Lifting Heavy Weight
Correct form is essential to receiving the maximum benefit of resistance training. Every exercise is designed to work a specific muscle or muscle group. Attempting to lift too much weight will often result in poor exercise form, leading to a less efficient exercise and possible injury. Use enough weight to be challenging (perhaps enough to make the last repetitions of your final set difficult), but not so much that you have to “cheat” to complete the exercise. Your movements should be smooth and even.
Muscle workload while weight training can be increased by raising the weight quickly, but lowering it back to the starting position slowly. This keeps tension on the targeted muscles longer and increases the breakdown of muscle fiber. Some fitness professionals recommend taking one “count” to raise a weight and three “counts” to lower it.
Do Weight (Resistance) Training Before Cardio Training
When combining weight training and cardio training into a single workout, do the weight training first. If you do the cardio training first your muscles will be fatigued before you start the weight training. You will not be able to lift as much weight, reducing the muscle building goal of your weight work out. Fatigue also is likely to result in incorrect form while exercising, which has already beeen disscussed.
Attaining a high level of physical fitness takes knowledge, time, discipline, and dedication. Incorporating these ideas into your exercise routine will make your time at the gym more effective.