What’s the best exercise?

How can I get in shape and what’s the best exercise?

In the zone

You may be thinking about getting in shape and wondering about how to go about it. Perhaps your New Year’s resolution stalled and you’re still getting your act together. There are a number of considerations about how you tackle the issue of getting in shape and there is an array of advice out there which may have left you overloaded and paralysed by inaction.

My preference is to keep things as simple as possible. When it comes to getting in shape there is one rule to bear in mind. ‘Run a calorie deficit’. If you’re expending more calories than you are consuming then eventually you’ll lose weight. You need to keep in mind what you’re eating nutritonally in order to improve your body composition in combination with exercise. Whilst you may lose weight on a calorie restriction diet you don’t want to lose valuable muscle in the process. That’s why body composition and bodyfat percentage is the key indicator to observe.

Measuring your initial bodyfat percentage needs equipment but Boots the chemist has in-store scales which when you grip the handles will measure your bodyfat percentage. It’s crude and not the best option but nevertheless you’ll have a starting point and you can also see your total weight in kilos or pounds as well as Body Mass Index.

Ideally, the equipment to measure bodyfat percentage should also give an indication of muscle mass or ratio of fat to muscle. This can be achieved by visiting a nutritionist or some gyms have installed better measuring equipment than what you’d find in a Boots store and more wide-ranging metrics.

Set a goal. You may have a target weight you want to reach but overarching this is the bodyfat percentage measure. You want this to decrease and you may find when you get there you weigh more than your goal weight but your body composition has improved because you’ve gained lean muscle. Lean muscle has a very metabolic quality. It burns calories whether you are exercising or not all-day and all-night long. If you can increase your lean muscle then you’re well on the way to getting good weight loss results and improving your bodyshape.

So what exercise should you do? – Cardio or weight training? Ideally both; regularly, although if you have a preference for one over the other, as long as your exercising regularly and eating healthily you’ll shape up. The advantage of weight-bearing exercise is that you’ll get stronger, be able to lift more, improve your core strength, increase your lean muscle and sculpt your body to a desirable shape. Cardio exercise alone will improve your heart health and combined with interval training will burn fat and boost endurance. The consensus now is that you need both forms of exercise in your regime.

So what weight bearing exercise should I do? I’d recommend starting with compound weight bearing exercises. These are exercises which work a number of muscle groups at once. So think barbell chest press, barbell shoulder press, bent-over-rows and squats. Even if you limited your workout regime to these 4 exercises you’ll get off to a good start and I recommend 2 to 3 sets done in a circuit fashion with little rest between exercises but rest for a short while at the end of the round or circuit. This means your are incorporating an element of cardiovascular training in your weight bearing workouts and will torch more calories rather than having long periods of rest between exercise. Ideally, on the last set or circuit if you want to, then you could push to exercise ‘failure’. This is where you reach a limit to the number of repetitions you can perform and so tear and recruit as many muscle fibres as possible in order form them to repair when you rest and grow larger.

Between compound weight training, try and add some cardiovascualr work. Alternate between intensities such as long walking, interval training which can be quite intense but burns a lot of calories however is only done for a short period which means it’s an efficient workout and you can fit it in if you’re busy.

On a nutrition front, try to have protein at every meal. Following a moderately ketogenic diet helps where you limit the amount of carbohyrate and compensate by eating proteins, healthy fats and some carbohydrate. See if you can make clever carbohydrate swaps such as sweet potato instead of ordinary potato – and if you are going to have carboyhydrate then choose wholegrain or wholemeal. Beans of most variety are a good source of energy and contain a decent level of protein. Lentil varieties are also a good food source and provide slow-release energy and promote even blood sugar levels.

In summary; a ketonogenic nutrition programme, healthy foods a combination of cardiovascular and weight bearing exercises will set you on the road to improving your bodyshape and body composition. A final word about exercise length. You should avoid prolonged torturous workouts. A compound exercise wholebody regime could be done in about 20 – 30 minutes two or three times a week supplemented with some decent amounts of walking or stairclimbing. It needn’t be so difficult that a. You never start or b. You are put off repeating it. Once you build the habits it should be self-sustaining, and if you fall of the wagon, don’t worry but restart as soon as possible. It’s normal to have setbacks or low motivation but re-commit and you’ll be on the way to getting the bodyshape you desire.