Whether you're a weight room newbie or an iron-pumping pro, you may wonder how to best organize your workouts. Some people opt for marathon total-body workouts, while others meticulously divide each muscle group to ensure that they all get plenty of attention. The best type of routine for you will depend on a few factors. Once you determine which is best for your schedule, fitness level and goals, get ready to sculpt yourself sexy. Talk with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine.
Benefits of Total-Body Workouts
If you're short on time or can only dedicate two to three days per week to working out, total-body workouts may be your ticket to fitness. A total-body workout involves training all of the major muscle groups in one session. These workouts are a good option for people who engage in other types of fitness or sports besides resistance training. They're easy to schedule, can be performed at home with body-weight and functional exercises and are great for fat loss, since each workout stimulates every muscle group.
Benefits of Training Splits
If you plan to train three or more days per week, a training split is probably better. A split-day workout usually involves training just one or two muscle groups. With training splits, you divide your workouts each week and only train planned body parts on their designated days. Training splits help you reach a higher level of intensity for different muscle groups because you're dedicating more time to each. For instance, if you train your chest on the first day of a five-day split, you'll work your pecs longer, more intensely and with more exercises than you would if you were integrating your chest into a total body workout.
Variety is Key
The American Council on Exercise says that you should vary your exercise routine, regardless of whether you choose to train with a split or with total-body workouts. Variety will keep you from becoming mind-numbingly bored. Let's face it: the less interesting your workouts are, the less likely you are to stick with them. Changing your routine regularly will also help prevent reaching the dreaded plateau. The reason for this is pretty simple: your body is lazy. It wants to exert as little energy as possible when you train. As soon as it adapts to a particular exercise and intensity level, it settles back into its comfort zone -- a zone where changes are unlikely to take place. Next thing you know, you've been training for months, and you can hardly see any progress. Avoid this exercise problem by constantly varying the equipment, weights, sets, reps and rest periods of your workouts.
Feel the Burn
Everyone wants to get the most bang for their workout buck in the gym. Unfortunately, if you're dragging your feet from one exercise to the next or are halfheartedly training on the elliptical while watching your favorite soaps, you're not making the most of your gym time. No matter what type of workout you choose, you can amplify the intensity by minimizing rest between sets and performing supersets and giant sets instead of one exercise at a time. With total-body workouts, this would be a high-intensity circuit training workout. Aim to keep your heart rate between 60 and 85 percent of your maximum throughout your workout. Subtract your age from 220 to estimate your maximum heart rate.
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.