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Which Workout Style is Best?



If you’re on social media at all, you’ve likely seen a variety of different influencers and exercise gurus telling you that their style of workout or exercise reigns supreme in terms of weight loss goals, mood-boosting, performance improvement, yada yada. Well, I’m here to tell you no one style of training or a single exercise alone has all the answers. The perfect regimen lies in the variety of exercises you do, and specific exercises and their effectiveness are entirely contextual. I want to break down the different types of exercise styles, and why they matter, no matter what your goals or preferences are. This list is by no means exhaustive, at the end of the day, movement is medicine, and we at The Training Lab encourage you to find what works for you!


First, I want to throw you some definitions, just to set up the conversation. This is coming from a complete exercise science nerd but I will do my best to keep them brief:


Aerobic - relating to or denoting exercise that improves or is intended to improve the efficiency of the body's cardiovascular system in absorbing and transporting oxygen. Targeting the aerobic energy system requires long bouts of sustained effort (think 5+ min).


Anaerobic - relating to or denoting exercise that does not improve the efficiency of the body's cardiovascular system in absorbing and transporting oxygen. Targeting the anaerobic energy system requires repeated bouts of short efforts (think under 2 min).


Muscular endurance - the ability to continue contracting a muscle, or group of muscles, against resistance, such as weights or body weight, over a period of time


Strength - The body’s ability to exhibit force and overcome gravity


Power - The expression of said strength


Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, let’s walk through some training methodologies:


Cardio


Love it or hate it, it’s essential for long-term health and wellness. Cardio, or cardio-respiratory is exercise that gets your heart rate up and depends primarily on the aerobic system.


Intensities and HR Zones


The American Heart Association generally recommends these heart rate targets:


Moderate exercise intensity: 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

Vigorous exercise intensity: 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.


You also can get fancy with your training with different HR Zones, especially if you are looking to compete in something like a 5k or longer race.


To find your target heart rate without a wearable device, here is what the AHA recommends:


  • Multiply your age by 0.7 and subtract the total from 208 to get your maximum heart rate.

  • Calculate your resting heart rate by counting how many times your heart beats each minute when you are at rest, such as first thing in the morning. It's usually somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute for the average adult.

  • Calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR) by subtracting your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate.

  • Multiply your HRR by 0.7 (70%). Add your resting heart rate to this number.

  • Multiply your HRR by 0.85 (85%). Add your resting heart rate to this number.

  • These two numbers are your target heart rate zone for vigorous exercise intensity when using HRR to calculate your target heart rate zone. Your heart rate during vigorous exercise should generally be between these two numbers.


The two main fuel sources for aerobic exercise in the body include fat (in the form of adipose tissue) and glycogen. For high-intensity cardio, that is where you will see a lot of the fat “burning” benefits when programmed correctly. For moderate to low-intensity cardio, you’re going to be utilizing primarily muscle glycogen stores.


Types of Cardio


Some great methods of cardio are the classics - running, cycling, rowing, and hitting the elliptical in the gym. But a reminder that cardio can be anything that gets that heart pumping - pickleball, anyone? Or just a sport you enjoy playing or doing.


Risks


If I’m being brutally honest, the average person isn’t at risk of doing too much cardio, if anything they need more of it. However, if you are just starting, ensure you are playing it safe and listening to your body. It’s always great to consult a professional if you’re looking to incorporate cardio into your fitness routine. I would say a con to this is that for busy people, extended low-intensity cardio sessions may not be as time-efficient compared to other options.


HIIT


For all of you fitness warriors out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a type of interval training exercise. It incorporates several rounds that alternate between several minutes of high-intensity movements to significantly increase the heart rate to at least 80% of one's maximum heart rate, followed by short periods of lower-intensity movements. So this would be categorized as that vigorous exercise we talked about. While your heart rate is going to go up and you’ll be fighting for air during your circuits, it is categorized as an anaerobic activity due to its stop-and-start nature, but you can incorporate low-intensity activities in the rest periods. I like to consider it the best of both worlds - you’re hitting that vigorous intensity and it’s not uncommon to incorporate strength training implements.


Types of HIIT


Peter Coe regimen - developed in the 1970s by athletics coach Peter Coe. It involves sessions with repeated 200-metre sprints with 30 seconds of recovery between each sprint.

Gibala regimen - This method starts with three minutes of warm-up, followed by 60 seconds of intense activity and 75 seconds of rest. The cycle is repeated for a minimum of eight times.

Tabata - your classic 20-second “on” and 10-second “off” for 8 rounds that is repeated several times.


Risks


I would say to start slow with HIIT if you’re coming from a completely sedentary lifestyle. Some HIIT workouts out there can turn you into French Toast. Also, consider the different movements and your comfort level/technique, especially if you are incorporating those strength training movements. Also, HIIT isn’t meant to be done every day, just like all of these different regimens, it can be a great addition to a balanced lifestyle.


Overall, HIIT is a great option for those who want variety, want their butt kicked, and are short on time to get their workouts in.


Strength (Resistance) Training


Consider this my bread and butter. But I get that “strength training” in a traditional sense can be intimidating to people - but it can be as simple as doing push-ups in a bodyweight workout. As someone who used to fear the barbell but now coaches people on using it for a living, it is an essential part of exercise plans and can improve a lot of different areas in life, whether you’re training for performance purposes like strength and power, looking to improve your body composition, or just improving your quality of life. Ladies and gents, peak muscle mass (typically) happens around 30-35 and then declines as you age. Those muscles aren’t just for flexing in a mirror selfie, that muscle is gonna help you get up and down the stairs and pick up your grandkids when you’re older. Along with muscle, it helps keep your bones healthy as you age, decreases fat, lowers blood pressure, and improves brain health.


Types of Strength Training


It can be as advanced as using barbells and dumbbells for more technical lifts, or as simple as doing at-home bodyweight workouts. The number 1 thing for strength training is following a progressive overload plan. Here’s a great template that we at Training Lab put together for you to get started with your own, click here to download.


Risks


Just like anything, some risks go along with strength training. Consult with a professional cough cough Training Lab cough cough to discuss your goals and how to get started safely, especially if you are completely new. You don’t want to end up as a #gymfail, and you don’t want to get hurt. Start slow if you are adding weight, and always put the quality of your movement first.


Flexibility/Mobility Training

We love a little yoga in our day. Whether it’s hot yoga, following along on your laptop, or doing a Peloton workout, flexibility and mobility training is a great way to stay healthy and relieve some of those aches and pains. I don’t have much to say on this, but I encourage you to take a class, take time away from your desk and move and stretch!

To wrap things up here, there is no one exercise method that is the end all be all. The best regimen is one that works for you, is sustainable, and that you ENJOY! At the end of the day, moving your body is a quintessential part of your mental and physical well-being, so do what you like!


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