When it comes to exercise, are you overcome with questions like what type of exercises to do, how often to do them, what order to do them in, and so on? Not knowing what to do can derail you before you even begin. You're not alone! 

The type and frequency of basic exercise is fairly straightforward.  If you're looking for a little more guidance, check out some of our tips for getting the most out of your exercise regimen.

1. Is it better to do cardio or weights first?

You should do the activity that you want to focus on the most first.  If your goal is to work on cardio, then you should do that first. If you lift weights first, your muscles will likely be tired and prevent you from being able to challenge your heart to meet your goals.  Likewise, if you want to focus on resistance, you should do that first (after a proper warm up, of course).

2. What order should I do my exercises?

Typically, you should train the larger and stronger muscle groups first and then progress to the smaller muscle groups. The reason is that often your smaller muscles act as suppporting muscles when you train the larger muscle groups.  If you fatigue them first, they won't be much help when you try to lift the heavier weights needed for the larger muscles.  You also might be at an increased risk for injury.

3. How many sets do I really need to do?

This depends on your goal.  If you just want to reap the minimum benefits, then performing one set to fatigue is fine.  The key is making sure you have proper form and truly reach fatigue.  Often times, it takes people 2 to 3 sets to reach fatigue.  Once you've truly fatigued your muscle, you won't gain any further benefit from doing more reps or sets; all you do is increase your risk of injury. Multiple sets may not produce significant increases in strength but you will burn extra calories.

Some people like to use lighter weight to start and perform 1-2 "warm-up" sets and then do their work out on the next 2-3 sets.  It's a personal preference, so just do what works best for you.

4. What is "muscle fatigue"?

Muscle fatigue refers to the point when you can no longer perform the exercise utilizing proper form.  When you don't use proper form, you increase your risk of injury.  Your goal in resistance training is to reach fatigue.  Remember, it doesn't matter how much you lift, it's whether or not you can lift the weight safely and with good form - that is what will produce results.

5. Will lifting weights make me bulky?

It depends on your goal, but odds are you won't.  Your muscles will reshape and become more toned and possibly defined. There may be a period where you are building muscle but haven't lost some of your "surface fat" where you may feel your clothes getting tighter, but that usually evens out within 2-4 weeks.  Some people naturally build muscle size easier than others.  If you know this applies to you, try performing slightly higher repetitions, i.e. 12-15 repetitions or you'll lose the benefits of resistance training.

6. What can I do if I'm pressed for time?

One approach used to keep the heart rate elevated and get through exercises quicker is called "super setting" or "active resting". This means you work one muscle group while the opposing muscle group rests.  For example, you could perform one set of a bicep exercise and immediately follow it with a set of triceps exercise; your bicep gets to rest while you coneinuously work and move to the next exercise.  After your set of the triceps exercise, you would perform our second set of the bicep exercise and repeat the cycle until you've completed all of your sets.  This also works by combining chest and back exercises and hamstring and quadriceps exercises.  You'd be amazed how much time you can shave off your workout, and your heart rate will be challenged, too!


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