Spend as much time in gyms as I do and one thing will become very clear to you, most people go to the gym without a clear purpose. There isn’t anything wrong with this – I’d sooner see people go to the gym for the sake of going than have them never go – but going to the gym without a purpose isn’t going to allow you to make the most of your time there.
The human body is an amazing thing with a fantastic ability to adapt to its environment; it takes an average person about 6-9 weeks adapt almost completely to an exercise program. For this reason, people need to approach their training or gym time in phases that have a distinct purpose and end goal. For example, many gym goers are there to drop a few pounds of fat and increase or tone muscle – basically, they want to look good naked. I think this is a fantastic goal because it is going to help someone feel better about themselves and it is going to improve the quality of their life significantly. The issue with it is that very often, trying to tackle two goals at once will prevent you from making much progress in either one.
For those individuals looking to lose body fat and increase or tone muscle I would suggest that they separate these two goals into distinct phases – one for fat loss and the other for muscle building or toning.
For example, the first 6 weeks are for fat burning and will consist of metabolic workouts aimed at increase calorie burning and cardiovascular fitness through the use of interval training. During this phase you may do 20-30 minutes of varied speed and resistance (or incline) running, cycling or elliptical machine 3-4 times per week along with some strength training – 1 or 2 full body workouts per week consisting of 1 or 2 sets of 8-10 reps per body part. Your diet will be modified and carbs will be reduced. After about 6 weeks, your body will have adapted to the workout and the reduced carb diet and you will move to the next phase with is for muscle growth.
The next 6-9 weeks will be for muscle development. During this phase you may do 3-4 full body workouts per week consisting of 3-4 sets per body part. The rep range will be different on each day and will range from 6-8, 9-12 and 12-15. The exercises will change every 3 weeks and you will lower the amount of cardio you perform. In some cases you will eliminate the cardio to allow your body to become de-conditioned to it so when you enter the 3rd phase, fat loss, you will find the movements taxing on your body again.
You will repeat this cycle of fat loss, muscle building over and over again until you achieve your fitness goals. The good thing about this approach is that you will rarely get stale or bored with what you are doing in the gym because it is changing constantly and when you start each phase, your body will be shocked into adapting to the new stimuli.
If this seems completely foreign to you or you do not know where to start, consider getting in touch with a good trainer to help you plan your workout phases.