There are several things you need to take into account when you’re starting to plan an exercise program, in order to get the best possible results. An improperly designed workout can stop you from seeing the progress you want, and can even result in injury. There are four basic components to a successful workout: stretching, warm-ups, exercise, and avoiding injury. Let’s take a look at why each of them is so important, and some strategies for how to do them properly.
Your body needs to be flexible in order to handle the motions you’re about to put it through, and stretching is the way to make this happen. Stretching should be gentle, so that you’re gradually elongating your muscles and ligaments, helping them become supple without pulling a muscle and shutting your workout down before it even gets started. Proper stretching will incorporate all the muscles that you plan to call into play during exercise, and increase each one’s range of motion.
To get the most out of your stretching, precede it by five minutes of walking so you don’t stretch your muscles while they’re “cold”. Then, stretch each muscle group individually, spending 20 to 30 seconds holding each position. If you can’t keep your balance for certain standing stretches, it’s okay to stabilize yourself using a chair or wall. Finally, don’t make sudden movements—focus on slow, gentle motion.
Now that your muscles are limber, it’s time to get them warm with some light cardio. The right warm-up will have you breaking a light sweat, but won’t tire you out. A few ideas: a quick jog (not a sprint), jumping jacks (enough to get your heart rate up for a few minutes), swinging movements like arm circles and cross-body arm and leg swings, or some dynamic yoga for fluid movements that are a natural follow-up to stretching. Remember to not over-exert yourself during the warm-up, because the main portion of your workout is still to come.
Once you get stretching and warming up out of the way, it’s time to begin your actual exercise! Aim for at least thirty minutes of exercise every day. A decent portion of your exercise should be aerobic: health professionals recommend raising your heart rate to about 70% of your maximum, and keeping it there for at least twenty minutes. It’s a good idea to do this every day, but every other day will meet the minimum basic requirements for adult exercise.
Whether or not you do the 20 minutes of aerobic exercise every day, your daily total should still clock in at half an hour, at least. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll be better off doubling that number. But what should you be doing for the rest of your workout, then? Well, there are so many workout moves and systems out there that to find the one that meets your needs and goals, you’ll be better off developing a workout plan with professional assistance. Many gyms offer personal training services and have fitness experts on hand to help you develop an exercise plan that works. Whether it’s weight lifting, swimming, or body weight exercises, you have lots of options.
A workout should challenge you, but it shouldn’t hurt you. While properly stretching and warming up will go a long way toward preventing injury, you should take a few more simple steps to avoid getting hurt while exercising. First, don’t jump right into an intense workout before you’re ready for it: work your way up to it with less intense exercise. Next, stay hydrated—dehydration definitely isn’t fun, and if you’re sweating a lot, you need to replenish that liquid. Lastly, listen to your body. If you feel light-headed, weak, or experience sharp pain, take a break!
Follow these simple guidelines, and you’ll be able to create a fun, effective workout plan that’s just right for you.
For more tips to a successful workout, check out our FREE infographic that includes key points and plyometic training exercises designed by trainers and scientifically proven to help increase your vertical jump.