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Stillfit: The 5 Criteria for a Good and Effective Workout August 3, 2010

Posted by Mike Clipp in Exercise, Fitness.
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You  may have noticed by now that I like to break things down into sets of rules, or guidelines. This helps me cut through all the crap that people spout concerning the best ways to eat and workout. All you have to do is flip open a magazine or go to a website to see some new supplement or exercise gadget that will lose that weight and get you in shape, with no effort. Those things don’t work. The only thing that’s been proven to get you in shape and healthy is to eat right and exercise right. You have to get out and burn some calories. To lose weight you only have to burn more calories than you take in. To become your healthiest and fittest you have to eat the right things and exercise properly. 

Forget about running endless miles or the standard bodybuilder’s workout of 3 sets of 10 that we all learned in our younger years. There’s a new school of thought developing that is moving toward a more functional, varied workout to attain the best fitness. You don’t have to do hours per week of running, or spend hours pushing weights in the gym. Besides that, as you get older, your knees and other joints start having problems with all that pounding and strain – I know mine do.

For almost 30 years my workouts consisted of 3 sets of 10, 3 times a week, using weight machines and barbells plus running 3 or so miles 3 times a week. It didn’t take long for me to get bored with the routine. Over the years I tried different routines – slow lifting, high intensity, pyramids, descending sets, etc. The problem was that they were all just variations on the same old routine that everyone did. Nothing I tried overcame the feeling that there had to be a better way to work out and keep fit. Then, about five years ago I started hearing about and seeing online a lot of talk about functional fitness. Crossfit, primal fitness, The 300 workout (from the movie), and natural movement type training were all just starting to generate some buzz. Functional fitness lets you run, jump, lift, push, pull, crawl, twist and stretch your way to fitness. There’s an infinite variety of exercises and routines available.

The 5 Criteria for a Good and Effective Workout, shown below, build on the functional fitness concept. Just don’t forget the three guiding principles of StillFit: Knowledge, Reason, Consistency.

      Knowledge – If you’re unfamiliar with an exercise or routine get some training. Most gyms have trainers who can help, although a lot of trainers aren’t familiar with functional training. Or you can keep watching StillFit. I’ll delve deeper into exercises and routines in future posts. You can also search online for tutorials and information.

     Reason – Remember, it’s important to work out to your ability and fitness level. If you’ve been a couch potato, are overweight, or just haven’t exercised in years, take it easy in the beginning. You don’t have to prove your toughness by going all out your first couple of times working out. Start slow and light and work your way up. I like to follow the concept of Just One More: Every time you do an exercise or routine, try to do just one more repetition than you did last time, or finish a second faster than last time.

     Consistency – Work out 4 or 5 times a week. Working out only once or twice a week just isn’t enough, you’re as likely to hurt yourself as you are to get fit. So get out and have some fun working out. I try to schedule my workouts Monday and Tuesday, take a rest day on Wednesday, then back to my workouts on Thursday and Friday. Sometimes I’ll fit in a Saturday workout also. You don’t have to spend an hour or more per workout. By following the 5 Criteria for a Good and Effective Workout you can get a good, efficient workout in only 30 minutes or so. You also don’t need to go to the gym to get a good workout. You don’t need ab machines, back stretchers, swinging doohickeys, funny shaped shoes or straps and belts. You can work out at home, in the park, on the beach, while traveling, just about anywhere.

5 Criteria for a Good and Effective Workout        

1.  Do multi-joint movements

2.  Exercise on your feet

3.  Variety

4.  High intensity

5.  Fun

Let’s take a closer look at the five criteria.

  1. Multi-joint movements – Perform whole body, multi-joint exercises instead of isolation movements. Do pull-ups instead of curls, push-ups instead of bench presses, squats instead of leg extensions. For example, squats develop not only your quadriceps (the muscles in the front of your thighs) but also your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back of the leg), calves, back, abs, and the all important core (a.k.a. your trunk, the muscles that hold you up). To keep yourself upright and balanced while you’re doing squats, you use and develop the stabilizer muscles in your trunk. This helps strengthen your overall musculature and balance. Instead of striving for big bodybuilder muscles, go for strong, functional muscles that can support you in your daily activities.
  2. Exercise on your feet – Don’t just sit at a machine and move stacks of weight. Go grab a barbell or dumbbells and push or pull them, or do some bodyweight squats, pushups, and pull-ups. Jumping and sprinting are some other activities you can do on your feet. Remember: the more you sit, the less fit you git, and the more you weigh (pardon the pun, but if it helps you remember, it’s worth it).
  3. Variety – If you use barbells to do squats and shoulder presses one day, the next day do box jumps and sprints. The thing is, don’t do the same routine all the time. Mix in some burpees and Turkish get-ups. Do some Tai Chi. Lift heavy weights one workout, then for your next workout do sprints and core work, for the workout after that do bodyweight exercises, then jump rope and bike the next workout. You get the idea – try not to do the same routine more than once or twice a month to keep your body and muscles from getting too complacent and you from getting too bored.
  4. High intensity – Don’t just amble along taking it easy. Exert yourself. We’ve all seen the person who spends hours in a leisurely walk on the treadmill, reading a book or magazine, but they never seem to make any improvements or speed up. If they’d just break into a short jog once in a while and maybe even break a sweat they’d be amazed at the results. You don’t have to run for a solid 30 minutes or more to get the best results. In fact, interval training can produce great results in much less time. A simple interval running workout goes like this: walk 3 minutes, sprint 1 minute, walk 3 minutes, sprint 1 minute. Repeat this cycle 5 or 6 times.
  5. Fun – Have fun. Pick exercises and routines that you like, maybe something you enjoyed as a kid. Having fun is a big part of life. Make it part of your workout.   

Once you accept the notion that you don’t have to do a bodybuilder-type routine to get fit and healthy, the world is full of fun and healthy possibilities. For instance, my workout today will consist of jump rope, pushups (done 4 different ways), jump squats, rope climb, box jumps, and other fun activities. I’ll complete it in 35 to 40 minutes. 

Okay, now that you’ve finished reading this, what are you still doing sitting in front of your computer? Get outside and crawl around your yard. If anyone gawks, just smile knowingly and wave at them.

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