The key to figuring out which workouts will best help you achieve your fitness goals is to consider your end result: What specific results are you looking for?
If your goal is to lose weight, your workout regimen will look very different than the fitness plan of someone who wants to bulk up.
To make it easy to figure out which workouts are best for you, we’ve broken down different types of workouts by end-goal (and later, we explain why bundling your workouts with your Personalized Protein Powder can be useful for achieving these goals).
For increased muscle and strength, incorporating weight training (or resistance training) into your fitness routine is a must.
According to the New York Times, a person’s muscle starts to deteriorate around the time he or she turns 30. After age 40, the average person loses 8% of his or her muscle mass every decade, with this muscle loss accelerating at an even faster rate after age 60. Weight training or resistance training helps counteract this phenomenon and can allow you to build muscle and increase your strength at every stage of your life.
To properly build muscle and strength, you’ll want to ensure you’re hitting all of the body’s major muscle groups. (You don’t want to build muscle and strength in just one area, right? Chances are, you’re looking to become strong and muscular from your shoulders down to your calves.)
You can follow full-body workouts that aim to hit all the major muscles in your body (like your chest, back, arms, hamstrings and abs) in a single session, or you can target muscle groups by dividing each day into upper and lower splits. Upper body resistance or strength training focuses on boosting muscle strength and endurance in the arms, back, chest and shoulders specifically, while lower body workouts build strength and power in the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves specifically.
A compound exercise is a strengthening exercise that involves multiple joints and works multiple muscle groups at the same time, making compound exercises a great way to build muscle and strength efficiently. If you’re new to compound exercises, you might want to start with the “Big Five”: squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell row and overhead press.
You can do your resistance training exercises using equipment or just using your bodyweight, though you can build muscle mass and strength more efficiently by doing workouts with equipment. If you have access to equipment, a full-body resistance training workout might involve:
Dumbbell chest presses
Dumbbell or barbell overhead press
Tricep kickback with dumbbells
Machine leg press
Machine lying leg curls
Lunges with weights
Dumbbell bicep curls
Dumbbell hammer curls
If losing weight is your goal, cardio is known for jumpstarting weight loss. A basic cardio workout involves doing aerobic exercises that promote cardiovascular health. Short for “cardiorespiratory training,” cardio refers to an exercise that raises your heart and breathing rates, which strengthens your heart and lungs.
According to a study published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, frequent aerobic exercise alone can result in clinically significant weight loss. (That means that even if cardio is the only type of workout you do, it’s still possible to lose weight.)
Another great workout to add to your routine is high-intensity interval training, or “HIIT.” For purposes of this breakdown, cardio workouts refers to steady-state, aerobic workouts; HIIT workouts, on the other hand, are anaerobic. HIIT workouts don’t rely exclusively on oxygen and are fueled by mostly stored carbohydrates — it’s easy to see why they’re great workouts for weight loss goals.
For a HIIT workout, you want to perform a brief activity as hard as you can, the pace being 90-100% of maximal capacity.
While you have rest intervals in HIIT, these high-intensity workouts typically make you breathe harder and can burn more fat than steady-paced cardio. In fact, research published in the journal Obesity Science & Practice suggests HIIT can result in greater reduction of body fat compared to traditional cardio exercise.
That said, both cardio and HIIT have a place in a weight loss-focused workout routine.
Also, don’t skip out on weight training. It might be tempting to ditch the weights when you want to slim down, not bulk up; however, weight training is crucial for promoting muscle growth to help increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR).
Your RMR is how many calories your body burns at rest. A 6-month study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, doing just 11 minutes of strength-based weight training exercises 3 times per week resulted in an average of a 7.4% increase in RMR among participants. That increase is equivalent to burning an extra 125 calories per day, which makes a huge difference when trying to lose weight.
If you want to gain weight or bulk up, your best bet is to do strength or resistance training with heavy weights.
Your workouts will be similar to the ones followed by people looking to build muscle and strength, but the key is to use heavier weights. Many individuals who are looking to gain weight in conjunction with exercise have a goal of building muscle mass, and using heavier weights will help increase muscle mass in an efficient way. Additionally, engaging in progressive overload is needed for building muscle mass. This can look like increasing things like number of reps completed, number of sets per exercise, type of movement done, number of days spent in the gym per week, etc.
(As stated above, many individuals who are looking to gain weight in conjunction with exercise have the goal of building muscle mass, but if you are someone who is underweight and is looking to gain weight in general, you may need to limit your physical activity until it is adequately fueled by your dietary intake and habits.
Of course, moving your body through daily activities is beneficial for overall health, but we don't want to begin or engage in any sort of fitness routine that will burn up a lot of sacred calories needed to gain weight. While trying to get into a healthy weight range, it’s important to listen to your body and possibly focus on light activities like stretching, yoga, light weights and movement that feels good.)
The traditional method for building muscle mass is to lift heavier weights and increase the amount of weight over time. Consider the strategy of powerlifters and bodybuilders, who pair very low reps with extremely heavy weights to bulk up. According to a 2012 study titled “Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health” published in Current Sports Medicine Reports, ten weeks of resistance training has been shown to increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, or around 3 pounds.
For a muscle mass-increasing workout, think back to those compound workouts. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell row and overhead press are some of the most effective exercises for building muscle mass quickly. Aim for four sets of 6-8 reps of the compound exercise in each session, progressively increasing the weight every few weeks.
Once you’ve reached your goal weight, your new goal is to maintain it.
If your previous goal was to lose weight, you should continue to do cardio exercises to maintain the weight loss. According to an article titled “The role of physical activity in producing and maintaining weight loss” published in the journal Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology & Metabolism, successful weight loss maintenance is achieved when the intake of calories and the output of calories (via exercise) are matched at the reduced body weight for a continued period of time.
You need to continue to engage in physical activity — aka, your regular cardio workouts — even after you lose the weight. Regular exercise is crucial for body weight management as you begin lifting some of the dietary restrictions you may have imposed at the start of your weight loss journey.
Per a 2013 article titled “The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance” published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, working out 200-300 minutes per week (that’s about 30 minutes per day) is effective for weight loss maintenance. People who continue to keep up with their cardio post-weight loss are more likely to keep the weight off.
For the maintenance of muscles, strength or weight gain, continue resistance training. As previously noted, muscle naturally starts to deteriorate around age 30, so regular resistance or strength training is necessary for maintaining muscle mass. The focus no longer has to be on progressively increasing the weight you use, though you may find you start naturally needing to increase the weight as your body gets stronger. You will be able to maintain your muscles and stay toned without continuing to bulk up by performing lower-weight, higher-rep sets.
Outside of working out, making sure you properly fuel your body is key for muscle maintenance. High protein intake helps preserve lean body and muscle mass. You want to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet to properly maintain those gains.
Just like your workout should be tailored to your goals, we believe your post-workout protein should also be tailored to your goals. Gainful offers a complete sports nutrition system that includes a Personalized Protein Powder made for your body.
Protein powder can help maximize the benefits of all types of workouts, as protein is one of the most crucial nutrients for both building muscle and fat loss. It can also help give your metabolism the boost it needs to stay raised all day long. Your body naturally breaks down protein during your workout, so consuming a protein supplement around the time of exercise is a great way to make up for the protein that your body breaks down.
Curious about bundling your workout routine with personalized protein? Start by taking Gainful’s quiz. In the quiz, you’ll answer questions about your dietary preferences, fitness level and overall wellness goals. Then the nutrition experts at Gainful will create your personalized protein powder that’s made specifically for your body.
Once your blend has been created, we’ll send you everything you need in the perfect amounts, making sure you’re getting enough protein to achieve your goals and fuel your workout.
When it comes to putting together a complete nutrition system for you and your goals, Gainful does the heavy lifting — all you have to do is sit back and let us bring your personalized system to you. If you have any lingering questions, though, you’re able to email RD@gainful.com and get in touch with a Registered Dietitian. Your RD is there to help you learn more about how Gainful can help you achieve your fitness goals.
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