Who doesn’t want to do the best workouts? But is there really such a thing? Ideally, they would include a cardiovascular portion at an ideal target heart rate range, a strength training section to work the major muscle groups and a flexibility component that incorporate multiple stretches.
Of course, the “best workouts” really depends on one’s goals, interests, equipment available and time. The best workouts for a marathoner, for example, are different than those for a bodybuilder, which vary from a senior working on functional strength or a bride-to-be trying to shed some weight. For general fitness, however, for someone who plans to exercise a few times each week to stay healthy, the best workouts have cardio, strength and flexibility included.
Cardio comes in the form of walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, stair climbing and using machines like elliptical machines. Ideally, you should exercise for at least 30 minutes with a steady-state heart rate or do interval training which alternates between higher and lower intensity levels.
Strength training includes exercises with dumbbells, barbells, resistance tubing, kettlebells, medicine balls and body weight to tax the muscles. Typical sessions for overall fitness include 8-10 exercises for the major muscle groups, with 8-12 reps and 1-3 sets.
Lastly, the best workouts don’t skimp on stretching to reduce the risk of injury, release stress and improve flexibility. Stretches are important to maintain range of motion, and they feel good. Typically, you should stretch the major muscle groups at the end of a workout session, and hold static stretches for 15-60 seconds each for maximum benefit.
Of course, you can combine these three elements for one workout, or choose to do one each day. The important thing is to perform each component regularly, either on its own or blended with the others. Including variety and maintaining consistency are critical to making progress and enjoying results.
If you need help getting started, you might want to consult a local health club or an online directory (such as that at acefitness.org) to find a certified personal trainer who can help you custom-design a program. Then get moving, add changes over time and never quit!