How to Train Your Body

Four Parts:Preparing to TrainTraining Your Body with Cardio ExercisesTraining Your Body with Weight-Bearing ExercisesTraining Safely

Training your body and getting in shape requires a lot of work, dedication and motivation. What types of exercises you do or how often you perform them will depend on your exact training goals. For example, if you want to train for half marathon, you might spend more time running and participating in other cardiovascular activities. Regardless of your goal, you'll want to start out with a plan and include the exercises that will best train you body.

Part 1
Preparing to Train

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    See a doctor. Anytime you want to start a new training or exercise program, it'll be a smart idea to see a doctor first. He will be able to tell you whether or not your plan is safe and appropriate for you.
    • Make an appointment or call your doctor. Tell him about what your goals are and your exercise plan to help you reach them.
    • Also tell him whether or not you're having any joint or muscular pain in addition to having any pain or shortness of breath.
    • Also consider seeing a personal trainer. This is a fitness professional that will be able to help you set goals, design a plan to meet them and teach you how to do a variety of exercises safely.
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    Set your goals. Training your body is a fairly broad goal. To increase your chances of meeting your goal, you should work to make a more specific goal. Try using the S.M.A.R.T. goal system. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based have a higher chance of being an appropriate and reachable goal for you.[1]
    • In addition, add in information about how you're going to reach your goal.
    • Spend some time thinking about what you want to train. Do you want to just get in better overall shape? Are you training for a race? Do you want to build more strength or lean muscle? Do you want to lose some weight? How much? By when?
    • An example of a good goal would be: I want to run a 10 mile race in five months. I will run three to four days a week and increase my mileage by one mile every two weeks until I reach 10 miles.
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    Start a journal to track your progress. Regardless of what you're training for or what you've set for yourself, tracking your progress in a journal may be a motivating part of your plan.[2]
    • Write out your goals and your plan in your journal. This may help keep you focused and track.[3]
    • In addition track your progress each day or week. If you're training for that 10 mile race, maybe you write down how many miles you ran each week and how easy or hard it's been.
    • You can also keep a little calendar or chart of where you plan your exercise of the week or month.
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    Join a gym or purchase fitness equipment. Some training plans may need a gym or specialized equipment to meet. Not all physical activity will need this, but you may want to consider what equipment you need to best meet your goal.
    • Consider joining a gym. Many memberships are as low as $10 a month. Gyms offer you the ability to do most exercises inside. You can do a variety of cardio, strength training and even take classes. Even if you may not need the equipment at the gym, it might be nice to have the option to workout inside if it's a rainy or cold day.
    • If you're not a fan of the gym, maybe you could consider purchasing some at-home gym equipment. You can start small with just a few items like hand weights or resistance bands or buy more expensive equipment like cardio machines or home gym machines.

Part 2
Training Your Body with Cardio Exercises

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    Do 150 minutes of cardio weekly. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend getting at least 150 minutes or about 2 1/2 hours of cardio activities each week for the minimum amount of health benefits.[4] This breaks down to just five 30-minute sessions a week.
    • Studies have shown that when people participate in 150 minutes of physical activity, they see a variety of health benefits including: decreased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, weight loss, improved sleep and mood habits and even improved circulation.[5]
    • The types of cardio activities that you can include for this 150 minutes can be anything from walking, running, biking, or doing a kickboxing class. However, the activity you do during the day (baseline or lifestyle activity) does not count towards your 150 minutes.
    • If you're just starting out with physical activity, one of your first goals may be to meet this general recommendation.
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    Include both steady-state and interval training. There are two main types of cardio exercises — steady-state and interval exercises. Both offer a variety of benefits, so try to incorporate both into your workout.
    • Steady-state cardio are the activities that you do for at least 10 minutes and are maintaining your intensity. The goal is that you maintain a steady heart rate during your activity.[6] For example, jogging for 20 minutes or using the elliptical at a steady speed for 30 minutes counts as steady-state cardio.
    • Some of the specific benefits of steady-state cardio are: improved and faster recovery, maintenance of lean muscle mass, significant increases in cardiovascular and aerobic fitness levels, and immediate decreases in blood pressure and blood sugar.[7]
    • HIIT or high intensity interval training is another type of exercise that has become more popular lately. It's a shorter workout in total and combines both short bouts of very, very high intensity exercises with periods of more moderate exercises.[8]
    • The benefits of HIIT differ slightly than steady-state cardio and can include: a more efficient and faster workout, increased ability to burn calories from fat and increased metabolism for eight to 24 hours after you've completed the workout.[9]
    • Regardless of which type of exercise you choose to do predominantly, it's better to do a combination of both HIIT and steady-state as you can reap the benefits of both.[10]
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    Increase your baseline activity. Although baseline doesn't come with as many benefits of steady-state or HIIT types of workouts, it's still an important part of being active.
    • Baseline activity or lifestyle activities are things that you do on a typical day — walking to and from your car or doing household chores.
    • These activities do not burn many calories by themselves or increase your heart rate, but when you increase them as much as you can, over the entire day they do burn some calories and can help support your fitness levels.
    • Increasing your baseline makes your body function more efficiently in day-to-day activities (which burns more calories with less work).
    • Think about ways that you can be more active or include more movement in your day. You could: park farther away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, take short walk breaks during your lunch break and stand or do light exercises during commercial breaks.

Part 3
Training Your Body with Weight-Bearing Exercises

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    Include two to three days of strength training weekly. In addition to cardio, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also recommends that you include about two to three days of strength training or weight-bearing exercises each week.[11]
    • Strength and resistance training offers you different benefits compared to aerobic or cardio exercises, such as: it protects bones and helps prevent osteoporosis, maintains and can increase lean muscle mass, increase your overall metabolism, improves balance and coordination, and boosts energy levels.[12]
    • Weight training exercises can include a variety of activities including: plyometric exercises or body weight exercises, free weights, using weight machines, or doing yoga or pilates.
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    Do a combination of compound and isolation exercises. When it comes to weight lifting or resistance training there are two basic types of exercises — compound and isolation exercises. Both offer different benefits and which one you choose will depend on your overall goal.
    • Compound exercises are activities that recruit multiple joints and multiple muscle groups in order to perform.[13] Examples of compound exercises include: barbell bench press, squats and lunges.
    • The benefits of compound exercises include: reduced risk of overtraining, less time spent overall exercising, increased gains in muscle mass, and increased gains in strength.[14]
    • Isolation exercises are those that only target one small group of muscles or use weight machines to target only one muscle group. Examples include using the bicep curl machine or seated tricep extensions.
    • For most training goals (even from basic to more advanced), spending more time with compound exercises is your best bet. Isolation exercises are best for fine tweaking once you have already met your goals.
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    Choose to do a low or high set of reps. In addition to choosing compound or isolation exercises, you'll also need to decide whether or not you want to do higher reps with a low weight or lower reps with a higher weight.
    • Higher reps usually results in bigger gains in muscle mass, not strength. If you're goal is to build mass, include exercises that have higher reps.[15]
    • Lower reps with much higher weights results in significant strength gains, not necessarily increased muscle mass.[16]
    • It's best to do a combination of both high and low rep exercises. However, tailor this depending on what you're goal is (bigger muscles or increased strength).

Part 4
Training Safely

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    Warm up. Before any type of workout, it's essential to warm up appropriately beforehand. Try to include even a short warm up before you exercise for the safest workout.
    • Warm-up exercises don't have to be anything specific. It's generally recommended to do a warm-up routine for at least five to 10 minutes. However, the longer you plan on working out, the longer your warm-up routine should be.[17]
    • The goal of warm-ups includes: slowly dilates your blood vessels in your muscle to help increase blood and oxygen flow, raises the temperature of your muscles for the best flexibility and efficiency, and it also slowly raises your heart rate which decreases the overall stress on your heart.[18]
    • Warm-ups are typically a slower version of whatever activity you plan on doing. For example, if you're planning on going for a run, walk for five to 10 minutes first.
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    Take a rest day or two. Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking adequate rest days is just as important as the actual exercise. Without proper rest days, it'll be hard to meet any training goal.
    • In regards to strength training, rest days are actually when your muscles grow in size and strength.[19]
    • If you do not take rest days, overtime, you will have poor performance and poor results.[20]
    • On your rest days, try to still include light-intensity activity. You don't necessarily want to lounge around all day without doing anything. Ideally do some walking or restorative yoga.
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    Stretch. A combination of adequate rest, warming up and stretching will put your body in the best condition for exercise and great results.[21]
    • Stretching has been shown to help reduce muscle stiffness and pain when done appropriately. In addition, it can also help improve flexibility over time[22]
    • Other benefits of regular stretching include: better posture, increased blood flow, prevent back and neck pain, and improve balance.[23]
    • You can do a slow stretching routine with moves like toe touches or you can take a restorative and stretching class like yoga.


  • If you feel any pain, discomfort or have difficulty breathing, discontinue exercise and see your doctor immediately.

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Categories: Personal Fitness