Variety. It's not only the spice of life. It's also the key to a killer fitness plan.
Whether your fitness goals focus on losing extra weight, building a better body, or lifting your mood, you'll need a variety of exercises to get you there. You may be new to the gym game or a fitness aficionado. But at every level, a well-rounded workout plan will help you get the most out of your hard work.
Naturally, most people have a favorite type of exercise. Perhaps you're a cardio-fanatic, a dedicated yogi, a weight-lifting warrior, or a devout runner. No matter what you love doing for exercise, you must have a balanced workout regimen. One-sided fitness habits can derail months of effort by increasing the chances of injury, burnout, or lackluster results.
To truly reap the fruits of your fitness labors, you'll want to incorporate four types of exercises into your playbook today:
- Weight Training
- Core Training
- Flexibility Training and Stretching
Where you should start depends on a variety of factors, including your age, fitness level, and fitness goals. Let's take a look at each category to explore how your workout can work for you.
Though cardio might be the most dreaded type of exercise, the fact remains: Cardio is the foundation of almost all effective fitness programs and is essential to your overall health. Plus, it doesn’t have to be a chore — as many avid runners will tell you, it can even be fun!
Cardio and aerobic activities increase the amount of oxygen in your blood through deep breathing and boost healthy blood flow to your muscles. They help improve your cardiovascular health, training your lungs, heart, and blood vessels to more easily move oxygen throughout your body.
Cardio includes any type of exercise that increases your heart rate. Walking, jogging, biking, and swimming are popular cardio activities. The possibilities are endless — from dancing in your kitchen to rowing on a machine to burpees on the beach. But the most tried and true form of cardio is a good old-fashioned jog. A run around the block or on a treadmill is the perfect way to get your heart pounding for your health!
Cardio may get all the glory for creating lean bodies, but truthfully, weight training will help kick your metabolism into a new gear. Weight training helps improve bone and muscle health.
People everywhere enjoy the body-sculpting benefits of incorporating at least 2 or more days of strength training into their routines using weights such as dumbbells and exercises such as squats. If pumping iron isn't for you, no sweat! You have many other options for strength training, such as:
- Resistance bands
- Bodyweight exercises
- Weighted ropes
Core training is an often overlooked but vital piece of the fitness puzzle. Your core is made up of muscles in your abdomen, pelvis, and lower back. This set of muscles:
- Protects your spine
- Connects your upper and lower body
- Coordinates motion
- Protects several vital organs
- Helps stabilize your body when performing physical activity
You use your core for nearly all imaginable motions — walking up the stairs, lifting your child, and even dancing. Many athletes have been held back by poor core strength.
Luckily you can strengthen your core with a variety of exercises. Planks, bridges, sit-ups, and balance exercises are just a few of the ways you can fortify your core from the inside out.
Balance training, while often recommended for athletes in specific sports such as gymnastics, martial arts, and ice hockey, is an extension of core training. Improve your balance using tools such as exercise balls to strengthen your core.
Flexibility Training and Stretching
People often ignore flexibility and stretching when they exercise. Flexibility helps improve your overall strength and range of motion to support various physical activities — such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises. Stretching is crucial for injury prevention and post-workout recovery and will help maximize your hard-earned gains. Don’t skip it!
One of the best times to stretch is after a cardio warm-up, after muscles are warm and almost ready to go. Also be sure to stretch after your workout, when muscles are tired and can use some TLC. As with any physical activity, be careful of overstretching. Know your limits and never stretch your body past the point of very mild discomfort.
If you don't know where to start, yoga is a popular way to incorporate stretching into your fitness routine. As a side note, stretching can help you relieve tension and stress. Namaste!
How to Build a Well-Rounded Workout
Now you know what all of the pieces in the fitness puzzle look like, but how do they fit together? Here's an example of an exercise plan to try today! This sample routine is intermediate, and you can adjust it to fit a beginner or advanced level. The routine focuses on working out the lower body — for us, that’s a typical Wednesday. Check out the well-rounded Wednesday workout for a well-rounded booty below:
Well-Rounded Wednesday Workout
- Jog for 5 to 10 minutes on a treadmill, on an elliptical, or around the block (Cardio)
- Hold a plank for 1 minute (Core)
- 10 Squats (Strength)
- 10 Alternating lunges on each side (Strength and Balance)
- 10 Glute bridges on an exercise ball (Strength and Balance)
- 15 Standing leg raises on each side (Strength and Balance)
- Wall sit for 30 to 60 seconds (Strength and Core)
- Take a 90 second break.
- Repeat each set 2 to 5 times, depending on your fitness level.
- 7 to 10 minutes of light, seated stretches (Flexibility)
- Focus on your glutes, hamstrings, hips, and calf muscles.
How to Keep Your Workout Interesting
Now that you know the basics to success, how do you keep things interesting? Once you've mastered the basics of a well-rounded workout, you can incorporate elements of each type of exercise into your regular training.
Though there are no hard and fast rules on how to combine exercises, plyometrics, Pilates, and compound exercises are perfect examples of ways to keep challenging your body in new ways. Remember to keep things fresh to get the most out of your fitness plan!