A new year, a new beginning! For many people, becoming more active is part of their new year’s resolutions, which I fully approve of! In this post, we will take an in-depth look at the different types of training you can focus on, both for cardio and weight training.
If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to check out my recent post, Structure of a workout, for general guidelines to follow for each of your training sessions.
In plain English, “endurance training” means training your muscles to work for progressively longer periods of time. This is typically achieved by performing an exercise such as running or biking, at constant speed. As your muscles adapt to the stress imposed on them, you will be able to bike or run for longer periods of time. Endurance training is a great way to increase blood flow to your muscles, burn fat, build up your lung capacity and train your heart. This is also a great way for beginners to start their fitness journey, as it is typically lower impact. Focusing on endurance training also activates your aerobic system: that’s the one which primarily uses fats to generate energy. Bonus!
Sample exercise: Jogging at constant speed for 20-30min
Once you’ve built up your cardio endurance, it’s time to kick it up a notch with intervals: short bursts of intensity, followed by a period of “recovery”.
I typically start someone on intervals once they are able to complete a 20min run at constant speed without needing to take breaks.
As with anything fitness related, starting on intervals should be done gradually: I like to introduce intervals in a 1:4 fashion. That is, 1min of cardio at a higher speed, followed by 4min of “recovery” where you go back to your normal speed. So instead of doing your usual cardio for 20min at constant speed, you are now alternating between sprints and your usual speed. Once your body adapts to this, you can introduce 2:3 intervals, where you sprint for 2min, followed by 3min of recovery time.
The main reason why I love interval training is because I find it helps increase your overall speed when you do go back to running or biking at constant speed. Because you are stressing your body, you are forcing it to adapt to something it’s never done before. And that’s progress!
Sample exercise: 20min run, consisting of 1:4 intervals (1min sprint followed by 4min running at usual speed)
Ok, now that we know a little bit about cardio training, let’s take a look at weights. As with cardio, there are different ways to do this, depending on your goals. It is incredibly important – no, it is crucial! – that when you lift up that weight, you what you are training for.
Cardio is fairly simple: you just go outside and go for a run. But, when it comes to weight training, unless you are using the appropriate weight, you are wasting your time. I know it sounds brutal. But it’s true. Just lifting weights and winging it without any guidelines and plan will get you nowhere.
Even though we are now talking about weight training, the definition of endurance remains the same: training your muscles to work for longer periods of time. Or, since we are now in weight training land, training your muscles to perform a larger number of reps. Similar to cardio, when you first start out with fitness, this is where you begin, because you need to build a strong foundation before you can do crazy hand stands.
Here’s the magic number to remember for endurance: 15 reps.
That’s what you want to aim for. But when I say 15, it doesn’t mean stopping at 15 when you could go up to 30. It means choosing the appropriate weight that will allow you to perform 15 reps, but at the same time make the last 3 reps HARD. Hard. Intense. Challenging. Whatever adjective you want to use.
It will take a while to figure out the different weights to use for each exercise, and it will take time to figure out what “HARD” means. But “HARD” is incredibly important, because, as you get stronger, you will need to increase your weight or intensify the exercise somehow, otherwise the last 3 reps will stop being “HARD”. And remember: you don’t want to go over 15 reps!
Endurance training is great for general toning and health. It helps with weight loss and is great recovery after performing more intense exercise, to give your body a bit of a break.
So here are your guidelines for endurance:
Endurance training: 15 reps with lighter weights. Last 3 reps need to be HARD!
Hypertrophy refers to building muscle mass. While focusing on endurance will give you that lean look, hypertrophy training will help build muscle. But don’t think of it as just that. Hypertrophy training is also a good way to challenge your body beyond what it’s used to, when it comes to weights.
So what does that mean? With hypertrophy training you increase your weight and reduce the number of reps. As with endurance, there is a magic number for hypertrophy as well. The magic number is 10-12reps.
But remember: the last 3 reps need to be HARD. That rule still applies. Which means your weight needs to go up, because your reps are going down.
Now ladies, I know what you’re thinking. I don’t want to get big. I don’t want to look muscular and have veins popping out of my arms. Yup, I don’t either. Relax. You won’t. The reason? You are lacking the male hormone testosterone. It’s actually much harder than you may think to build a muscular look. It takes a rigorous training program and multiple workouts per day. So go ahead and challenge yourself.
Hypertrophy training: 10-12 reps with moderately heavy weights. Last 3 reps still need to be HARD!
So far we’ve explored Endurance and Hypertrophy training where the weights get progressively larger and the number of reps get progressively smaller.
With strength training, you’ve guessed it: the weights get even heavier and the number of reps get even smaller. The magic number here is 6-8reps. Which means your weights need to be pretty darn heavy.
If that sounds scary, remember you have to actually be able to complete 6-8reps, so the weight needs to be one you are able to lift.
So when do you need to do strength training? As the name implies, when you need to build strength! Maybe there is lifting involved, like when you’re dealing with a heavier and heavier baby. Or maybe you’re a runner and you already have great endurance but you need to build strength in your legs to prevent injury and improve performance.
For my own training, I don’t often focus on strength training, but I like to sneak in a session or two once in a while, just for the challenge. I always follow it with an endurance based session, where the weights go down and the reps go up, to allow my body to recover.
Strength training: 6-8reps with heavy weights.
Strength training and power training are often mistaken for being the same thing, but they are not. Strength training focuses on moves that are performed slowly, focusing on form and technique because the weight involved is so large. There are 6-8 reps involved. Power training consists of explosive movements aimed at generating the maximal possible force in a short amount of time. It’s mainly used in athletic settings but can be inserted into hypertrophy or strength routines for the extra challenge. The best example are plyometric (or jumping) based moves. I love to work with plyometrics because they get the heart rate up quickly and never fail to challenge the body as they use many muscle groups. Training in this way also makes my clients feel strong and powerful.
Cardio and weight training are crucial elements of fitness and it’s important to work on both. Build your cardio foundation by focusing on endurance based training and then challenge yourself with intervals. When it comes to weights, decide if your focus is on endurance (toning) hypertrophy (building muscle) or strength but don’t be afraid to experiment with all of them.
After being skinny unfit for the majority of my life, I discovered fitness by accident after having my daughter. A couple of years later, I started Tone Every Zone out of an overwhelming desire to help other busy individuals juggle a hectic lifestyle while staying active. My mission is to teach people about fitness and work with them as a team to make long lasting lifestyle changes. My personal values include being professional, honest and transparent in all of my doings but also being funny and silly because that’s what makes life (and your training sessions) fun! To learn about how I can help you reach your fitness goals, don’t hesitate to get in touch.