Want to know how to create an effective and balanced workout?
Check out this informative and interesting guest post from Timea Jones at Train Strong Blog.
“You are probably reading this article because you would like to give your workout routine a fresh boost or are looking to get (back) onto the fitness wagon. Regardless of your background, you are probably familiar with at least one of the following:
- You spend too much time sitting during the day and move too little;
- You have experienced some niggles, or even injuries at some point in your life;
- You have experienced boredom in your workout routine;
- Your progress and overall performance has been stagnating for a while.
There are lots of freely available workouts which we can access when we want to exercise, thanks to the Internet, smart phone apps and social media. However, unfortunately, some of these workouts I have seen seem to be lacking in good design. An effective workout for me not only means an intense session. It must also be fun, and something that benefits me in ways that enable me to counterbalance many of the woes of modern life, resulting in the above mentioned symptoms.
Sadly, both ends of the spectrum (too little or too much of the same old thing) can lead to health issues – such as weak glutes, chronic back pain, knee aches, weak core, instability, hip immobility, just to mention a few examples. Just to illustrate the scale of these problems, according to the Office of National Statisctics, in the UK back pain is one of the most common causes of sickness absence at work, and 80 per cent of the population will suffer with back pain at some point in their lives!
The key problem I see is that most workout programs mainly feature exercises which are performed in what we call the sagittal pane (when you move backwards and forwards). Quite often, some of these workout programs tend to be lacking in the frontal plane (when you move side to side) and the transverse plane (where you perform rotating moves). If we didn’t already spend most of our days moving in the sagittal pane, this might not be such a huge issue. The bottom line is that our bodies are designed to move in all the ways – bending, rotating, reaching, rolling, jumping, crawling, pulling, pushing, and so on, and if we do not perform a balance of movements in a variety of planes, our bodies will end up feeling less balanced and healthy. In worst case scenarios, we may even start to develop some niggles which could add up over time and develop into an injury.
The solution is to perform exercises where you can move in numerous different ways – by doing this, you will not only be able to improve your form, mobility, speed, but also build a solid foundation of strength to help you tackle everyday challenges, such as: moving heavy armchairs and sofas around so you can hoover underneath them; lifting your heavy suitcase onto the belt at the airpirt check-in desk, pushing a broken down car off the road, carrying heavy shopping bags through your front door.
How To Create a Balanced and Effective Workout
When I design my workouts, I follow a certain formula to ensure it is balanced and effective.
1.Decide the style of the workout
Firstly, I decide on the style of the workout, for example metabolic conditioning (cardiovascularly challenging with minimal rest periods, aiming to increase fat burning capacity long term) or strength (using heavier weights and lower reps, aiming for muscular hypterthorphy long term), and so on.
There might be times when I just want to focus on a particular area, such as core, lower body or upper body, rather than do a full-body circuit.
2. Decide how long you have for the session
Next, I decide on how much time I can devote to the exercise session, and working my way backwards, I calculate the number of exercises, sets and reps, rest periods. Depending on the equipment available, I will pick a few to work with (such as kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, TRX, rowing machine, slam balls, giant exercise ball, skipping rope etc.), alternatively, I go minimalist and just do a bodyweight circuit.
3. Pick exercises from each of the 3 planes of movement
When picking my exercises, I try to pick one from the following sub-categories, to ensure I move in each of the 3 planes (backwards/ forwards, side-to-side, rotating). I have included some examples as well for illustration (obviously, some exercises target more than one primary area of the body, so they could fit into more than one category):-
- Knee dominant: squats, lunges, prisoner get ups/surrenders etc.
- Hip dominant: classic or Romanian deadlift, kettlebell swings, good mornings etc.
- Upper body pulling: bent over rows, renegade rows, sled pulling etc.
- Upper body pushing: weighted prowler, pushups, overhead presses, chest presses etc.
- Core: plank, side plank, curnches, toe reaches, bicycle abs, mountain climbers, plank jacks, Russian twists, side slam balls etc.
- Bridging: glute bridges, barbell/sandbag hip thursts, hamstring curls etc.
- Miscellaneous: lateral lunges, side by side skater hops, courtsey lunges, battle ropes, around the worlds, dive bombers, wood choppers etc.
- Explosive moves: such as box jumps, burpees, jumping jacks, froggers, slam balls, etc., to build even more intensity.
To bring this all together, here is a free HIIT style lower body workout for you to try!
(KB = Kettle Bell)
If you have enjoyed reading this article (and can forgive me for blasting your legs and bum with this workout), why not connect? Visit, Train Strong to Live Strong and follow on twitter and instagram.
Words and infographic by Timea, the blogger behind Train Strong to Live Strong. Timea is a qualified personal trainer and says that her mission as a fitness blogger is to help people become strong and grow into the best version of themselves, inside-out, no matter what life throws at them or what they choose to throw themselves into.
P.S. If you’re not sure on any of the moves in the circuit then leave a comment below or on the Healthy & Psyched facebook page and I will explain for you or find a link to a video of the exercise for you.