To Your Health
April, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 04)
What Are Your Goals?
When setting a fitness goal, it is best to consider achievable changes that you would like to see over a 30-day time frame.
Gaining or losing 2 pounds per month is considered a safe level. Individuals who are just beginning or are untrained are likely to notice a much more drastic change in the first 60 to 90 days. As time goes on, the percentage of change will be much more difficult to attain and the 2-pound-per-month rule will take on much more realistic meaning.
Consider that if you want to lose 20 pounds, it is likely to take you approximately 10 months to achieve that goal. If you are trying to gain 10 pounds, you will not likely gain that weight as lean body mass in less than 5 months, and that will eventually begin to taper off. No matter what your goals, keep them realistic and realize that it is safer in the long run to achieve them slowly.
Are You Training for a Specific Sport or Activity?
The question of what type of workout to do is particularly important if you are training for a specific sport or athletic activity. For example, if you play tennis, consider the average time spent for each point - anywhere from 1 second (for an ace) to 40 seconds (for a long rally). If you are a high-school wrestler, consider that each period lasts approximately 2 minutes, whereas if you are a college wrestler, they will last approximately 3 minutes each. If you play football, the average length of any play is approximately 6 to 16 seconds. You should do exercises that train your muscles and body to perform well under these specific circumstances.
Depending on the speed of the exercise that you are performing, the number of repetitions of any given exercise that you should be doing should directly relate to the amount of time required by your particular sport. Football players will often train with 6 to 10 repetitions, depending on the time of the season and their particular position on the field. This will help develop strength and power for short exercise bursts - the equivalent of an average play. A tennis player will usually play between 10 and 20 seconds before a short pause between points. This means that their training exercises should last between 20 to 30 reps. A wrestler may participate in an exercise that will require 25-100 repetitions, since they are competing for several minutes at a time with no break; this is why calisthenics are often the exercise of choice for the in-season grappler. Advanced training techniques will include a series of exercises that are performed at different speeds and offer some dynamic, explosive movements, while others will produce a more static and stable format. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish.
For most people who have been training for a while and are considered a novelist or advanced lifter, the common format of 8 to 12 repetitions is standard. Depending on your body type, age, health conditions, and other factors we have discussed, variations of that standard can be incorporated into your workout routine.
Day One Starts Today
Once you've answered these six important questions, you can develop the workout that's right for you. Remember that fitness level, age, weight and goals are all important considerations, not only in terms of the types of exercises you choose to do (aerobic vs. anaerobic; short burst vs. endurance, high rep vs. low rep, weight-resistance vs. body-weight only, etc.), but also how many repetitions and sets you choose to perform for different exercises. Talk to your doctor before beginning any new fitness program, particularly if you have a medical condition that may limit the types of exercises you are able to perform, and consult with a qualified fitness trainer to help determine the best workout to achieve your fitness and health goals.
David Ryan, BS, DC, a former two-sport professional athlete with more than 20 years in the health care field, is on the editorial review board of Muscle & Fitness magazine and is a chief feature writer for BodyBuilding.com. He has been the medical director and co-chairman of the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] Sports Festival since 1997.