How to Choose the Right Fitness Program?
Obviously your goal set is going to be the biggest factor in setting you up for success in choosing the right form of fitness programming for you. The good news is the breakdown is rather quite simple.
Fat Loss Goals
If your goal is strictly fat loss and aesthetics the choice is clear. You're going to want an even mix of cardio and weight training.
Cardiovascular exercise for enhancing your heart and lungs to function optimally and get those mitochondria up to speed in burning off extra calories stored as fat. This can be either long slow cardio that you can do for a long period of time, like biking or jogging or fast and quick burst of cardio as in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or sprint workouts. Either will work well, it just depends on who you are and where you're starting in your fitness endeavor.
You'll want to include strength training in your mix to preserve or build up muscle mass and build up a metabolic engine to enhance your overall fat loss potential. Overlooking the benefits of strength training to build up a foundation and prevent injury is a big mistake in a lot of peoples fat loss routines.
In some cases, it's often better to start with resistance training to build up a foundation of strength and movement skill just so you don't increase your risk of injury for say starting a running or high intensity program, but other lighter forms of cardio exercises may be added in to keep you progressing without tearing up your body. Again a case by case basis in this scenario.
Muscle Gain / Strength Goals
In the case of gaining muscle and strength, the choice is easy. Just lift heavy stuff! Done.
Now this says nothing about building the perfect program for you or the best program for each goal. There are a million different programs out there that will help you build muscle and strength.
The truth is that all of them will work. Will they be perfect? No. Part of the strength training game is the learning process of finding what works best for your body.
But any program that is well programmed and implemented with hard work and intensity will successfully increase strength and muscle mass.
Sports / Athletics
Fitness training for sports and athletics gets a little more complicated in the fact that athletes have a more demanding schedule of training. They have practice, games and still have to find time to train.
So their training has to be focused around big ticket weight lifting movements like the Olympic lifts and compound weight lifting exercises that are going to get them the most bang for their buck on the training field.
Additionally, conditioning or aerobic work should be more tailored to their particular sport and time periods of play. We call this metabolic conditioning or sport specific training. Ideally, we want to fit each athlete with a bit of the fundamentals in lifting, along with a few specialty movements that will benefit them the most on the field, ice or track.
This makes training athletes a bit more complicated than your average gym goer looking to burn fat and build muscle. Not to mention that you probably will need to alter training toward different periods of play, like off-season training will be much more weight room and conditioning focused than pre-season or in-season periods. Having a periodized program that will account for these training variables is ideal.
Preventitive / Rehabilitative Exercise
Now some other folks are just about preventing further decline from age, injuries or rehabbing nagging aches and pains. Training is definitely great for keeping people healthy and out of the hospital. If we had more people focused on eating better and getting more exercise, we have a lot lower health care costs throughout the world. Period.
So for preventing disease, injury or rehabbing injuries the best bet is a bit of light cardiovascular work, as in walking, jogging, biking and swimming for example.
Combine this with a bit of light weight resistance training with bodyweight, resistance bands, some dumbbells and barbell work and you've got a recipe for success.
So that's the short, down and dirty breakdown of how you should go about choosing the right exercise program for you. Depending on where you're starting off you just have to decide on the time periods and what level you need to focus on.
A good coach or gym facility should have an assessment protocol in order to decide what's the best program or course to put you into that way you can make quick progressions and get the most value from your training.
Jesse “Captain Smash” Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold’s Gym. He’s a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.