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How to Integrate Strength Training Into Your Fitness Program
There are several different approaches to strength training. Many people believe that exercise is an either/or proposition, meaning that you either do cardio or you lift weights. But unless you’re a competitive athlete, specializing in a particular type of exercise isn’t helpful. It’s better for lasting health and weight loss to embrace both strength training and cardio exercise. It also helps keep your fitness program interesting and varied.
As you’re exploring the possibilities the following approaches may work for you.
CrossFit is a fitness program that combines strength and conditioning. It’s a broad, general and inclusive approach that utilizes cardio, strength, gymnastics and other fitness approaches. The workouts are constantly varied, which means you’re never board.
It’s a workout program that is used by people from all walks of life, including police academies, military special operations units, professional athletes and individuals of all ages who are looking to improve their health. Any CrossFit workout is scalable, meaning that you can modify the workout to fit your current skill and fitness level.
For example, if the workout calls for pull-ups but you’re unable to perform a single repetition then you might add bands or perform a jumping pull-up instead. Everyone from the elderly to young athletes can benefit from a CrossFit workout.
Beyond the rapid results that many CrossFitters enjoy, you might also prefer this approach because the workouts are generally intense but short. Many CrossFit workouts are less than 15 minutes long. If you’re crunched for time but want to achieve overall health, CrossFit may be the way to go.
Many gyms offer CrossFit type workouts. You can also visit the CrossFit.com website review the workout and perform it on your own in your home gym or at your local gym. You don’t need to join a CrossFit gym to enjoy the approach.
Another approach to integrating strength training into your current fitness program is to alternate. For example, you might go for a three-mile jog on Monday and then do squats and sit-ups on Tuesday. There are a few challenges to this approach. The first is that you may not give your body enough time to rest.
For example, if you run, then do squats, and then run again you’re working your leg muscles without focusing on your core muscles or upper body. This can be balanced with careful attention to your body and planning. Also, consider taking one day off from exercise each week.
The other challenge is that you may not know what strength training exercises to do. You can turn to books, websites, or DVDs to help guide you to the right strength training approach for you.
Remember that bodyweight and resistance bands are all you need to get started. You don’t need to invest in a barbell and weight plates. You certainly can, but don’t let your finances stop you from getting started.
Finally, a third approach is to combine your workouts so that you’re doing both cardio and strength training in each workout. For example, you might begin with a warm-up on the elliptical or spin bike and then move to a series of strength training moves.
This approach means that you may have longer workouts. However, you may also enjoy a few more days off each week. For example instead of working out six days a week with one rest day, you might have two or even three rest days each week.
An example of an integrated training approach might look like this:
Monday, Wednesday & Friday – 15 minute warm-up, 30 minutes high intensity cardio, 30 minutes strength, 15-minute cool down/stretching.
Your high intensity cardio could be on the track or treadmill, on the elliptical or spin bike or even on a rowing machine. Your strength training would vary.
On Monday you might work on legs and core, Wednesday might be upper body and core, and Friday might be upper and lower body strength training. The cool down and stretching portion of the workout is important to help maintain flexibility.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the approaches you might take toward strength training, let’s finish up with some sample exercises and some tips to help you complete your program.