The ins and outs of a balanced exercise program

Have you ever found yourself wondering whether it would be more effective doing resistance training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? Have you ever wondered if you should train with high repetitions or low repetitions? Should you lift heavy weights or light weights? Maybe you have wondered if you should superset your exercises. Deciding on the right mode of exercise can be challenging and complex because none of these options are actually wrong. It’s your goals and interests that will ultimately determine the right mode of exercise for you.

 Resistance training

Resistance training is a form of exercise that is structured to improve muscular strength and muscular endurance. Most people associate resistance training with bodybuilding. Although resistance training plays a large role in improving body aesthetics, a person can also improve his/her muscular strength, which doesn’t result in getting bulky, but will give a lean look with the right program. Resistance training has many benefits such as:

1. Improves intramuscular coordination or the ability of many muscles working together to generate and control high levels of force.

2. Boosts our metabolism. The more we build our muscles, whether in strength or size, the higher our metabolisms are because muscles burn a much higher percentage of calories at rest.

3. Improves cardiovascular health. Strength training regularly helps blood-pressure levels and regulates triglyceride levels.

4. Lowers injury risks because strength training leads to better coordination and body function. Also, strength training builds collagen fibrils.

5. Increases muscular development both in size and strength

These are just a few benefits of resistance training. Much of the culture around resistance training and bodybuilding revolve around gaining muscle and strength while minimizing fat, which is also a product of a good diet. Depending on a person’s goals, a person may lift heavier weight with fewer repetitions or will lift less weight using higher repetitions. Many times bodybuilders and physique trainers will use the latter, but again it depends on the end goal. If done right, a program will be progressive with different variations of high and low reps for maximal gains. For someone who just wants to be healthy, resistance training doesn’t need to be so detailed and complex. Most people will get results using a three-set, 10-repetition training program as long as it is challenging. A challenging set of 10 repetitions can be gauged by how much work you put into that set. If a person struggles, but completes 10 repetitions with good form then that is a good place to be.

High Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training is a different style of training that focuses more on large volume repetitions and longer rest. There is less of a focus on building bigger muscles and strength. HIIT is more cardio based using power and muscular endurance. It is recommended that HIIT be done two or three times a week to avoid overworking the body. HIIT is the type of workout for people looking to improve cardio and reduce fat. HIIT also has many benefits:

1. Build endurance.

2. Burn a large number of calories in a shorter amount of time.

3. Gain some muscle in the muscle groups used the most.

4. Improves oxygen consumption. Oxygen consumption is important because it is the ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles for better performance.

5. Increases a person’s metabolism due to the increase of oxygen consumption.

6. Improves cardiovascular health.

HIIT workouts can last anywhere from 20-30 minutes, which means it is efficient for those who lack time to workout. HIIT training can require a large amount of coordination, stamina, mobility and strength. Novice gym goers can be at risk of injury if they aren’t used to this style of exercise.

1. Start with resistance training and build a habit of going to the gym.

2. Practice the movements that are commonly done in HIIT training.

3. Strengthen the muscles around your joints to improve joint mobility and stability.

Both of these styles of training have their purpose and can lead to different outcomes, which is why it is important to identify which goals are most important to you — strength and muscle development or cardio. Choose resistance training if you want to gain and sustain strength and muscle while minimizing fat. Choose HIIT if you want to improve your muscular endurance and power, while burning more calories in a shorter amount of time. If you don’t have a preference, then combining the two modes can be effective. Doing two to three days of resistance training and two days of HIIT can lead to great muscle development, athleticism and improved cardiovascular health. Remember, before beginning any type of exercise program, consult with a doctor. For more guidance about what style of training is better for you, contact a personal trainer to assist you on your journey to becoming healthier and performing better. 

Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer through her business Vigor Vida Fitness & Wellness. She is an energetic and positive person who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness. She works out at Optimal Sport 1315 in Center City and Optimal Gym in Queens Village. She also offers in-home training in Philadelphia and on the Main Line.