Updated: Jan 17, 2021
I've talked to hundreds of people over my career as a personal trainer about their health and fitness.
The overwhelming majority of them want a well-rounded body and a fitness level that enables them to be pretty good at most things.
In other words, they want to be lean, strong, resilient and able.
Think strong and muscular but not a bodybuilder.
A good, comfortable 10k runner but not a high-level marathon runner.
Able to sprint with the kids without pulling up with a torn hamstring.
Get out of bed pain-free in the morning but not practise yoga for hours a day.
Lose the belly fat and look good naked but without the
In other words, most people want to be balanced. It's not about being the best, but being good enough.
Most of us would benefit from becoming more resilient and well-rounded. We’d love to be able to respond to any given situation or challenge.
For example, wouldn’t it be great to have the capacity to run a 5k and then go and do some heavy lifting
at the gym?
Or, maybe you want to play a fast team game at the weekend and then follow it up with a hike in the hills? Whatever you enjoy, it pays to be ready for it.
Do everything, don't specialise
Most of us tend to lean towards what we enjoy and what we think we are good at.
Be that endless cardio, a bodybuilder split in the weights room, speed work or some other sport. However, to be primed for any activity, you need to expand and improve upon each training aspect. For the improvements to occur, you also need to consider and implement a recovery protocol.
There’s no point in overexerting yourself during every single training session and then not allowing your body and mind sufficient, quality recovery time. What follows is a simple system that will help you to achieve one pillar of total wellbeing and longevity. A system that is designed to fit perfectly into your busy lifestyle. The beauty of it is that it is totally flexible and can be suited to your needs. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
All-round fitness programme
Long Duration Endurance – Once or twice a week When we think about endurance training, we’re talking about the ability of our heart, lungs and blood vessels to provide our muscles with oxygen for a sustained period. Our suggestion is that you perform an activity that challenges your cardiovascular system for 30 mins of low to mid-level exertion, performed without a rest period.
You shouldn’t feel exhausted after your session. We want your heart rate to remain between 60 to 80% of your max which, if you don't use a tracking device, is aimed at 3-5 on the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale (see below).
If your sessions are longer than 30 minutes, aim for a reduced heart rate. Activities such as biking, rowing, running, hiking or football would be suitable here.
Speed – At least once a week Research suggests that keeping your fast-twitch muscle fibres active and ready allows you to age well. However, those whose fast-twitch fibres decline through lack of use become frail, less mobile, and liable to crippling falls. You can help prevent this by complementing your strength sessions by training speed and power. I like to recommend as a minimum doing 5-10 minutes of speed work, at least once every week. This could be a standalone session or you could combine it with your strength session. After a thorough warm-up, do your speed and power work first. Go for 2 to 4 exercises such as sprints, box jumps, clap push-ups and ball slams. If you prefer to swim, try 15 to 25 metres as quickly and as powerfully as you can. 2-4 sets of 3-5 reps is an ample amount with as much rest as you need in between sets to be able to perform at a similar level in your next set. Your speed work should be done without fatigue, so rest and recover between sets and aim to be as fast and as powerful as you can. Flexibility and Mobility Stretching helps your body become more supple and flexible whilst also offering many other physical benefits. Such training allows for easier movements while building strength and stability. Stretching your muscles and joints leads to a greater range of motion, improved balance, and increased flexibility.
Some of the advantages of becoming more flexible include fewer injuries, fewer aches and pains, greatly improved posture and balance, a positive state of mind if you partake in something like Yoga or Pilates, greater strength and improved all-round physical performance. Becoming more flexible takes time and practice. Follow a full-body stretching routine at least on your training days,
during your warm-up and cool down. We strongly recommend finding a quality yoga teacher and taking classes.
High Heart Rate Interval Training – Once or twice a week Interval training is typically used as a way to work harder than you would during a continuous effort endurance session.
Your aim is to take your heart rate all the way up and then rest whilst it comes back down again. An example would be 15 second flat out bike sprints with a 1-minute rest between each.
There’s significant scientific evidence that this type of high-intensity session is the most efficient way to exercise to improve overall health.
The benefits overlap those with endurance training, with some notable differences, so you should ideally aim to do both each week. Strength – Twice or three times a week Strength training is a key pillar of overall health, fitness and longevity for everyone, with muscle mass and strength; two of the highest predictive factors of all-cause mortality. Strength training is also invaluable in averting sarcopenia, i.e. the age-related loss of fast-twitch muscle that jeopardises vitality. Lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age. You'll increase the percentage of your body fat if you don't seek to replace the lean muscle you lose as you age. It’s not about aesthetics but rather keeping a high level of bodily function for life.
Focus your efforts mostly on compound exercises (multi-joint movements involving several body parts) like squats, deadlifts, lunges, kettlebell swings, overhead presses and pull-ups.
(Because you never know when you might be called upon to deadlift a colleague on national TV.)
Keep your sessions relatively short - no mammoth 2-hour slogs (unless that’s your thing). 30 - 45 minutes is long enough to provide the required stimuli without hammering your body with too much volume. Be patient. Progress may seem slow but it’s quality rather than quantity that we are striving for.
Three-Day Plan for a Busy Week
If you only have time to train 3 days a week, here’s a simplified version of the programme to follow, which ought to give you everything you need to Move Well.
Monday: Speed and Power + high heart rate (intervals/circuits)
Friday: Long duration endurance
Remember that the principles we’ve discussed are few; there is an infinite number of ways to implement them.
I’ve simplified the principles, and from here, it’s up to you to experiment with them.
Don’t be afraid to try something new and see what works best for you.
Ben Yates is a personal trainer based at Places Gym Hinckley and Hinckley Leisure Centre in Leicestershire.
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