Figuring out how to meet your fitness goals can be confusing, given all the opinions out there. Here I’ve answered some common questions about getting to your goals.
Can I lift weights and do cardio on the same day? Which should I do first?
If possible, do cardio and weight lifting on separate days so that you have enough energy for each workout. If you can’t, try doing them at opposite ends of the day to ensure that you have the needed energy reserves.
If you’re exercising for weight loss and muscle gain, experts recommend that you lift weights before cardio. You’ll use your glycogen stores first and then tap into other energy stores (such as fat) by the time you get to aerobic exercise. You may need an energy drink after your weights workout to help replace those glycogen stores or you may not have the energy for cardio.
Should I do full-body workouts or target different muscles each session?
A full-body workout can consist only of functional, multi-joint exercises (such as squat-to-press) or it can simply mean training all muscle groups in one session (such as legs, chest, etc.). Beginners do best with full-body workouts twice a week, moving to three times a week as they progress. You’ll burn more calories and have moderate muscle growth.
Intermediate to advanced lifters can use split routines, which train specific muscle groups (such as back and chest) each session. In general, this approach takes more time and allows you to focus on specific areas for muscle growth. I use a split routine because I love weight lifting and targeting specific areas, and I enjoy spending lots of time in the gym.
How do I know I won’t get bulky?
Not to beat a dead horse, but this is still a common question among women. Look, I’m not going to try to convince you that women won’t get big muscles. Of course they can, but you will not see women bulking up like bodybuilders (unless they are using steroids). And you’ll only build size if you train a certain way. There’s a science to attaining goals through weight lifting.
When lifting weights, your goals are usually one or more of the following, each having a different training method:
- Build size
- Build strength
- Build endurance
Should I do cardio before breakfast?
A recent study found that exercising before breakfast can prevent insulin resistance (leading to diabetes) in people eating high-fat diets as well as prevent weight gain. Since exercising after a 10-12-hour fast has these benefits, do work out before breakfast if you’re trying to lose weight. (See more about the research.)
How often should I do cardio if I’m trying to build muscle?
Most of us know that at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, 5 days a week is recommended for general fitness. But if you’re trying to build muscle, you simply can’t be doing intense cardio every day – you’ll be using up energy stores needed to build muscle.
If you need to lose weight, concentrate on diet, cardio, and weights, but don’t expect to build size during this time. When you get closer to your target weight, decrease the cardio and increase the weight lifting volume.
If you’re not trying to lose weight, stick to 20-minute cardio sessions four times a week or two to three 30-minute sessions. And use power walks or other light aerobic exercise to stay active on your rest days.
How do I break through a weight loss plateau?
If you’ve stopped losing weight, keep in mind that the first pounds come off relatively easily due to water loss and your body responding to new stimulus. So check these possible factors:
- Many times I discover that the person hasn’t been consistent with working out and diet. This is issue number one.
- Your metabolism can become unbalanced when you’re restricting calories too severely or if you’re gaining/losing weight frequently.
- You may not be pushing yourself enough or changing your workouts regularly enough. If you do the same cardio week after week, your body will work more efficiently and burn fewer calories. Use intervals to confuse your body into working harder and vary the type of cardio you do (treadmill, cycling, elliptical, stair stepper, running, etc.). The same is true of weight lifting: You need to continuously challenge your body in new ways to see changes.