We all know that there are various activities one can practice in the gym: working out with weights, stretching, warming up, cardio, aerobic… For those folks that may find themselves a bit perplexed about what they are “supposed” to do in a typical gym, here is a short article on what seems to work best in practice.
Firstly, before engaging in any demanding exercise routine, you would want to “warm up” your body. The purpose of warming up is twofold – elevating body temperature for a few degrees which makes muscles and other soft tissue more elastic and therefore less prone to injuries, and moving bodily fluids around which lubricates joints and raises oxygen level in muscles. A warmup routine should be light and short. It typically consists of several minutes of mobilizing joints and jumping around. Cycling to the gym is an elegant way to burn a few extra calories and warm yourself up before even entering a gym.
A so called “resistance training” usually forms a central part of gym activities. It generally means moving some weights slowly up and down by using the power of a few targeted muscles. The purpose of a weighted training routine is to stimulate i.e. to “provoke” muscles to strengthen up and grow in size. The weight of the body alone is able to provide sufficient resistance in some exercises, but in others you will need to use weights or special “machines” with levers and cables.
Each muscle group in the body requires one or more dedicated exercises in order to be properly stimulated. Each such exercise is typically practiced in the form of three to four series, each series consisting of 8 to 12 repetitions or “reps”. Muscle growth takes place over the next two to three days following the workout, which is why you need to periodically remind your muscles to do so by repeating the same routine two to three times a week.
Stretching is what athletes do at the end of a training day. The purpose of stretching is to relax muscles after a period of intense activity. Muscle relaxation enables the blood to flow easily, bringing oxygen and nutrients in and flushing the metabolic waste out. It is important to remember that you should stretch only muscles, not tendons and ligaments that surround the joints – stretching should feel very comfortable in the muscles, and must never become painful in the joints!
There are infinite ways in which one can warm the body up, combine exercises in a training routine and stretch the muscles. But generally, what one wound not want to do is to mix up aerobic activity, resistance exercises and relaxation stretches with one another. In addition, you should not reverse the order in which a training day is supposed to be put together – that would not only be unproductive, but might actually lead to mishaps.
For example, stretching muscles prior to working out with weights or stretching them in-between the series would only make them less strong and less coordinated, and thus more prone to injuries. Similarly, engaging in intense aerobic activities after the resistance workout would consume essential nutrients for fuel making the recovery longer and a training day as a whole ineffective.
So the formula is:
WARM UP > RESISTANCE TRAINING > MUSCLE STRETCHING.
It is well worth remembering that resting after the workout is equally important for its effectiveness as the workout itself. Our bodies prefer to “clean up the room” when nobody’s at home i.e. when we sleep, so athletes are advised to sleep at least eight hours a day.
Finally, you should also be aware of the importance of proper nutrition and hydration. Because those topics deserve more than a few short lines, we invite you to read more about them in our next post.