When you are starting any total body training program it is important to balance your general fitness with strength training to ensure you are getting the most out of your exercise. Before we discuss some of the specific methods recommended to help you balance your weights and cardio there are a few main components that we need to further define which are body composition, cardiovascular endurance, and strength.
Body Composition – This relates to the overall make up of your body including your body fat vs. lean muscle. You can measure your body fat percentage by using a body fat scale or more accurately using the skin fold caliper method, with a nutritionist or weight loss professional who can help you calculate it. As we all know body fat is unsightly and bad for your overall health so your first step to starting any program should be identifying your body composition levels so you can appropriately set out your weight loss/ muscle gain goals.
Cardiovascular Endurance – This is the type of fitness that has to do with your cardio efforts. Your cardiovascular endurance can be measure by calculating your V02 max or more easily by how long you can run on the treadmill before you get that winded feeling in your lungs. To count as a cardio an exercise must be continuous movement that raises your heart rate and is at least 20 minutes in length. Multiple studies all lead to the same conclusion, cardio is the best thing you can do for your heart and overall well-being so make sure you get at least 30 minutes of cardio in each workout.
Strength – Your overall muscular strength can be measured by the maximum amount of weight you are able to lift. Even if you are not a bodybuilder it is important to maintain a good level of muscular strength to help ward off muscle deterioration and joint pains that can come with aging. Aside from a nice set of bulging muscles, strength has a very practical purposes in everyday life such as moving large objects, opening jars and nameless other tasks we do throughout the day.
If you have outlined your starting baseline of body composition, cardio fitness and strength you can then move onto goal setting and figuring out the right workout to achieve those goals. More than likely you will fit into one of the following categories: 1) weight loss, 2) general fitness or 3) muscle gain. If you’re overall goal is something like losing 30 llbs. of fat and gaining 10 llbs. of muscle you should use the following cycle.
1) Weight Loss – If you have identified that you are carrying more than 20llbs of excess fat you will first want to start burning that off before you can get to gaining muscle. A gradual progression will ensure that you will get the results you want so it’s best to stick to the program. When you are trying to burn fat you will need to increase your cardio and still incorporate some strength training so you will probably be about 70% cardio and 30% strength.
2) General Fitness – After you have successfully lost the weight congratulations you have made it to the next phase. Now if you don’t want to continue on to gain more muscle it is recommend to keep a 50/50 split for weights and cardio. This is what you would call an even balance. You will want your cardio vascular efforts to match your strength efforts so an example would be to spend 1 hour performing your weights, abs and other strength excises then follow that up with a 1 hour jog or other cardio exercise.
3) Muscle Gain – Once you have established your cardiovascular fitness levels and strength levels for a few months while maintaining your weight loss you can then start thinking about packing on the muscle. Depending on the level of muscle you plan to gain your strength efforts should be increased from 60-70% and your cardio decreased to 40-30% of your total workout time. You will want to pay close attention to your body composition during this phase to ensure the extra pounds you put on are indeed muscle and not regaining fat due to a decrease in cardio.
Follow these simple tips and you should be well on your way to an amazing physique that makes you feel good and look great.