If you know it’s time to get active, lose that weight, and start building full body lean muscle, you know that a solid exercise routine is key. But even if you’ve made a mental commitment to physical fitness, there are so many possible ways to work out that it can seem overwhelming, leaving you stuck on the couch with analysis paralysis.
When it comes to exercise, simplicity is the ticket to success, given you stick with the game plan and stay consistent. Here is a simple, effective workout routine that will get you in gear to start burning fat and sculpting the body you want.
Stretch Out and Warm Up
You don’t want to be that person at the gym who walks through the door and immediately jumps on the treadmill or bench press. Take the time to get mentally focused for the challenge to come, and go through a pre-workout ritual to get your body in exercise mode.
No matter your experience level or goals, stretching your muscles for at least five minutes is a necessity to prevent injury and enable blood flow throughout the body.
It’s not a very exciting or engaging part of the fitness lifestyle, but any professional trainer or athlete will tell you that proper stretching is vital to your long-term health and success. You won’t be able to shred fat and pack on muscle if you have a twisted ankle or pulled hamstring.
You probably already know how to stretch on an intuitive level. Spend 15 to 20 seconds in each pose and take more time if you’re especially tight in one area. You’ll feel more confident and relaxed at the same time, ready to push the workout forward. It goes without saying you should focus on stretching the areas you’ll be working out that session, but it’s never a bad piece of advice to nudge!
Get Your Heart Pumping
Once you feel loose and energized on a mental and physical level, it’s time to do some light cardiovascular work to get your blood flowing and ramp up the intensity a bit.
Some people like to hop on a stationary machine at the gym, whether it’s a treadmill, spin bike, elliptical machine, or ergometer (rowing machine). All of these tools share a similar purpose: to elevate your heart rate and prime your body for more strenuous physical activity.
Don’t tax yourself too hard, since this is still technically part of the warmup phase. Spend no more than 10 to 20 minutes performing your cardio of choice, and monitor your heart rate as it steadily creeps up each minute or two.
If you can’t access a gym or just feel like working out at home or outside, simply go for a quick jog around the neighborhood, do some jumping jacks, or jump rope for however long it takes to break a sweat.
The more endurance you build, the easier this part of the workout will become, and you can take things to the next level if heavier cardio is required.
Lock into a Circuit or Routine
With all the boring stuff out of the way, it’s time to get to the main event, which can be a strength training routine, a cross training circuit, a high-energy dance class, or whatever other type of exercise style suits your body type and fitness goals.
For a basic strength training workout, it’s all about sets and repetitions, no matter which muscle group you’re targeting. Pushups, for instance, are often performed in 3 sets of 10, for beginners, but you can do any variation you wish. It’s recommended you do two or three upper-body motions, the same amount for lower body (squats or lunges), then finish off with an abdominal exercise like sit ups or crunches.
If strength is your goal, be sure to pick up some basic equipment for at-home workouts, such as resistance bands or a pair of dumbbells you can easily handle for high reps. These will be a great supplement routine, but just remember that nothing beats the weight room during a gym workout for getting the best results, especially since they’ll often have additional equipment you wouldn’t want to buy for your home such as lat pulldown machines, barbell bench presses, and the weights needed for deadlifts.
Bodyweight exercises can be an effective full body workout program for weight loss and fat loss (though not quite as effective for muscle gain, which will — you guessed it — require some form of weight lifting and weight training using free weights or other machines.
Many trainers recommend a cross training program that mixes strength training with more cardio workouts in high-intensity intervals, often targeting the entire body within a single exercise program, usually led by a personal trainer that guides you on proper form so you can get the best workout. You’ve likely seen crossfit athletes doing burpees, pullups, and sprints to burn body fat and build muscle at the same time.
That’s an effective workout for intermediate and advanced folks, but for beginners, it’s smarter to stick with a fun and easy-to-follow routine like a dance class that allows you to express yourself without feeling pressured or judged.
The goal here is to set a long-term game plan to get results and keep them, not burn out in the first few weeks and become discouraged. If you can find a community that challenges you in a healthy and supportive way, that will definitely help you stay committed for the long haul.
Cool Down, Relax, and Recover
However you choose to exercise, you should spend at least 30 minutes pushing yourself to the limit, even if you need to stop and catch your breath here and there. The most significant progress happens in those moments where you feel like giving up, but don’t.
When the class is over or your routine is complete, shake out your limbs and breathe deep for a few minutes as you wipe down your sweaty station. Chug some water and hit the showers, because you’ve earned a bit of rest and relaxation!
Do some light stretching after you’ve cooled all the way down so your muscles won’t get too stiff, and be sure to eat a light, healthy meal to get nutrients back into your system.
The hardest part of working out is simply getting started, but this routine will help you ease into things without overcomplicating the process. It gives you a structure to follow and covers all your bases for a safe and sustainable workout regimen for months and years to come.
Experiment with a few main routines and see what gives you the best results for your body type and lifestyle! Write your own success story and be an inspiration to others following the path of health and fitness.