You may be one of the many people wondering, “what type of workout is going to yield the best results for me?” There are so many ways to train. Cardio (both high intensity and distance), weight lifting, CrossFit, combat sports, swimming, bodyweight exercise, the list goes on and on. There are many benefits to the various forms of training out there, but is focusing on only one type of fitness activity beneficial, or will it hurt your progress? The key is to find out what your goals are and then create a proper training program.
A very common goal is to lose weight while gaining lean muscle. This requires a varied workout plan in order to see the best results. There should be a balance between weightlifting and cardio, and your weightlifting routine should have variety in both the types of exercises as well as the amount of weight used.
With this being said, there are many dangers to strictly weightlifting, especially if you are only going heavy. Many people think the more weight you lift, the faster you will make gains, however this just puts you at more of a risk of seriously injuring yourself and being out of commission for a while, which will obviously hinder your progress. Improper use of equipment or alignment of your body also increases risk of injury, so it is important to learn proper form.
Dr. Joseph Mercola talks about machines vs. free weights, and states that one is not always better than the other. Keep in mind that machines are a fixed axis, and can lead to a lack of functional fitness. Free weights are the most effective for improving overall strength and making the best gains. Machines are still useful for targeting very specific muscle groups and are easier to maintain proper form on. Regardless of the type of weightlifting, using proper technique and not attempting to lift too heavy is critical to avoiding injury and keeping your fitness journey going.
What about bodyweight training? Bodyweight training is using your body’s own weight to build strength, is customizable to your liking, and can be done anywhere and at any time. Our bodies are dynamic and were not built to strictly lift weights in a gym all day every day. Bodyweight training has been shown to reduce joint and bone pain, increase energy, build stronger and more lean muscles mass, as well as increase overall cardiovascular health. Bodyweight movements help to increase your range of motion as well as balance in the whole body, especially in your joints.
So what is better? No one type of exercise is necessarily “better” than another, but it is important to keep our bodies guessing. We are physically dynamic and ever changing – we should keep our workouts changing as well to avoid plateaus. Using weight lifting to gain muscle, and using bodyweight training to train your body how to use your newfound muscle mass and increase balance is important. It is also important to get cardio into your routine as well. Cardio builds stamina, improves cardiovascular health, and is an important part of burning fat. Varying the types of cardio you do is important. Incorporating rowing, running, swimming, HIIT and other forms will yield the best results as they push your body in different ways. Just be sure to avoid excessive cardio, as this can lead to muscle wasting as well as increase risk of joint injury.
It is important to always listen to your body, and never force it to do what it is telling you it cannot do. There is a difference between pushing your body to exhaustion and pushing it to injury. Make sure your workouts are well-rounded and you are not always focusing on one muscle group all the time, or strictly weight lifting or strictly focusing on cardio. Talking to a personal trainer and a physician about your goals is beneficial. They can make sure you are performing workouts properly helping to avoid injury and achieve your goals in a healthy and safe way.