So if you only have 20-30 minutes to work out, what should you do? My sister Natasha recently posted this question...
"How much total time per day do you spend working out? I've noticed that you usually do some sort of cardio and then a pretty high intensity toning routine. For those times when you don't have much time (i.e., less than one hour), what should you do to get the most physical bang for your buck? I know that strength training and flexibility are important elements of physical fitness, but I tend to skimp on them and just resort to cardioWhat is your take?"
I admit that I LOVE to work out and most days I workout for about 90 minutes. But there are also days when I don't have much time so I have to scale things back a bit. I used to be an "all-cardio" girl. I figured cardio gave me the most calorie-burning bang for my buck, so that's what I would concentrate on. However, after studying about the wonderful effects of weight training, I started to slowly incorporate it into my exercise routines as well. And now I can honestly say, I LOVE weight training. Doing weight bearing activities is great for your bones and muscle (especially important as we get older) and the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn just sitting on the couch. Weight training is also important in building a higher metabolic rate and will help to make you look more toned and defined. Some women worry about bulking up too much, but in actuality, it is physically impossible for a woman to do so. We simply lack the testosterone needed to create huge muscle bulk. (The women you see in extreme muscle-building competitions and magazines most definitely take supplements in order to achieve that look.)
So the question is, if you only have a limited time to work out, should you do cardio or weights? I say BOTH!! Almost all of my weight routines incorporate periods of "active rest" so that your heart rate stays elevated. In this way, you are getting the benefits of weight-bearing activities while still increasing your cardio endurance. It's the best of both worlds and enables you to get a quality workout in even on your busiest days.
BEGINNER CIRCUIT WORKOUT #1
Do this workout 3 times each week on nonconsecutive days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday for example.) You will need some hand weights (or even milk jugs filled with varying amounts of water would work) and a stability ball (although you can do the workouts without one too.) I would also encourage you to get a workout journal to record your results in each time (a simple notebook will do.) This will allow you to show your progression each time and you can also take notes on which exercises were too easy (i.e. you need to increase the weight used) and how you felt afterwards. If you are a beginner, start out using your lightest set of weights for each exercise and then make a note of whether it was too light, too heavy or just right for next time. All of these exercises are done in a "super-set" which means two exercises performed back-to-back without resting in between (so do exercise 1A, then immediately perform exercise 1B and then perform your period of "active rest" before repeating the entire super-set again for a total of two sets of each exercise.)
1A: Dumbbell squat - 10 reps (Start with hands by your side, feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down like you're sitting back in a chair, keeping your chest raised and your core tight. Your knees should not go past your toes and concentrate on pushing your bum back behind you while attempting to go down until your knees form a 90 degree angle. Pause for 1 count because coming back up.)
1B: Push-up - 10 reps (Start in plank position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width on the ground. Keep your abs tight and your body in a straight line as you slowly lower yourself to the ground and back up. Note: If you can't yet do a full push-up, try raising the surface that your hands are on -- use a wall, desk, dresser, chair, step etc. rather than do them on your knees. The higher the surface, the easier the push-up will be and then work your way down closer to the ground until eventually you will be able to do them on the ground. Doing push-ups on a raised surface rather than on your knees helps to keep the core more engaged, a valuable component of the push-up.)
*Active Rest: After completing 1A and 1B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercises. After the second set, move on to the second circuit below.
2A: Stability ball hip raise - 10 reps (Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on a stability ball. Slowly push down on the ball while raising your bum (glutes) into the air until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees. Hold for one count before lowering back down to the ground. Try not to let your hands press into the ground while performing this exercise.)
2B: Stability ball crunch - 10 reps (Lie with your lower back on the top of a stability ball and your hands rested lightly behind your head. Squeeze your abs while slowly crunching up, hold for two counts and then slowly lower back down to the starting position.)
*Active Rest: After completing 2A and 2B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercise. After the second set, move on to the third circuit below.
3A: Dumbbell straight-leg dead-lift to row - 10 reps (This is a compound movement, meaning you are doing two exercises in one -- very effective and a great time saver! Hold two weights by your side and while keeping your knees softly bent and your back straight, lower the weights to your knees. Your body should form an "L". While in this bent over position, squeeze your shoulder blades while raising your elbows behind your back until the weight are right by your hips. Hold for one count before slowly lowering them back down and raising your body back to the starting position. You should feel this exercise in your hamstrings and your upper back.)
3B: Thrusters - 10 reps (Another compound move...start with your arms bent and the weights right by your shoulders. Squat down 90 degrees, then as you come back up, shoot your arms overhead into a shoulder press with your hands facing each other. Slowly lower your arms back down before performing another squat.)
*Active Rest: After completing 3A and 3B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercise. After the second set, move on to the fourth circuit below.
4A: Lunge with bicep curl - 10 reps on each side (Begin with feet together, arms by your side and take a giant step backward with your right foot while keeping both legs straight. Begin your lunge by lowering your body to the ground, being careful to go straight down rather than leaning forward from the hips. In the lowered position, your front knee should be bent 90 degrees, your shin making a straight line from your knee to your ankle and your back knee bent should be bent and almost touching the ground. In this lowered position, perform a bicep curl with both arms, lowering them back down and then rising up out of your lunge. Repeat 10 times on the right side before switching legs.)
4B: Triceps Dips - 10 reps (Sit on a chair with the heel of your hands resting on the edge of the chair. Slide your bum off the seat so that you are holding most of your body weight in the heel of your hands and your legs are bent at 90 degrees. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your bum towards the ground, being careful to go straight down and not push out. Hold at the bottom for one count before straightening your arms and returning to the starting position.)
*Active Rest: After completing 4A and 4B back-to-back, perform 60 seconds of jumping rope (with or without a rope) before completing set #2 of the same exercise. After the second set, you are DONE!
And that's it...a total body workout in about 20 minutes!! I know this may have been more detailed than most of you need, but I thought I would put it all in, just in case the moves were unfamiliar to any of you. If you would like a bit more challenging workout, try the following alternatives (do 2-3 sets of each super-set exercise)...
1A: One-leg dumbbell squat - 12 reps on each side (Perform the basic squat but using only one leg at at time to test your balance and core strength. You could make this even more challenging by keeping the weights above your head rather than at your side.)
1B: T-Push-up - 12 reps (Perform one push-up and as you raise back up, put all your weight on your right hand while twisting your body to the side and raising your left hand to the sky and finishing in the side plank position for one rep. Repeat entire sequence on the left side and then go back and forth until you complete 12 reps)
Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of squat thrusts (without the push-up) between sets.
2A: Hip Raise with one foot on stability ball - 12 reps on each side
2B: Swiss ball plank - 60 seconds (Keep elbows on a stability ball while holding the plank position for 60 seconds)
Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of jump lunges between sets.
3A: Dumbbell straight-leg dead-lift to row (x3) - 12 reps (Perform traditional exercise but do three rows before returning to the starting position.)
3B: Thrusters with bounce - 12 reps (Go down into squat, come part way up before going back down into full squat again (like a little bounce) and then shoot arms up into a shoulder press.)
Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of high knees between sets.
4A: Lunge w/ bicep curl and bounce - 12 reps each side (Go down into lunge, come part way up before going down into full lunge again (bounce) and then perform one bicep curl.)
4B: Triceps dips on one leg - 12 reps (Perform traditional triceps dip on chair but keep one leg straight out in front of you and one leg bent. Perform 6 reps then switch legs.)
Active Rest: Do 60 seconds of jump squats between sets.
Talking Point: Do you prefer weight training or cardio workouts?