Working out for advanced beginners
March 9, 2013 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I've been working out for about two months with a personal trainer. She started off having me do full body workouts that I quite enjoyed - they were sort of boot camp style, in that it was a combination of strength and cardio (ie. lots of burpees and mountain climbers and planks, mixed in with compound strength bearing exercises.) Much to my surprise i have gotten much fitter than I've ever been before, pretty quickly. Now my trainer is transitioning me to workouts that alternate upper body and lower body each day, with more of a focus on strength vs cardio. Is this better?

The rationale appears to be that as I've gotten stronger that I need to do more sets of each exercise to get a good workout on each body part. On the other hand I really enjoyed the feeling of working out my entire body and being exhausted at the end of the workout everywhere.

Is this shift in approach part of the natural progression of getting fit? Do i need to transition to these alternating workouts in order to keep building strength and muscle tone? What about adding in cardio separately? I could use advice about the most efficient way to progress without it taking over my life - I'm trying to keep my time at the gym to about an hour four times a week.

(Of course I can have this conversation with my trainer too, but I want to be better informed in preparation for that talk.)

(Miscellaneous details: I'm a 36 year old woman, no injuries or health problems, about a third of the way thru losing 25 lbs, tho I'm focusing on diet to achieve that goal)
posted by Kololo to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Full-body workouts won't build strength the same way, and the boot-camp style is pretty hard on your body. It's a good idea to build a solid strength base, and not get stuck in the "must feel wiped after every workout" mindset. That way lies injury and Crossfit.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:19 PM on March 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think this is a reasonable shift to make and will actually help you do more overall since you won't be wearing your entire body out all at once. Your upper body will rest so you can push the lower more than you could on a full-body day and vice versa. (I'm a woman of the same age, and a trainer at my gym recently suggested to me that since I've plateaued with full-body workouts, splitting upper and lower days would help me get past that.)
posted by dayintoday at 4:50 PM on March 9, 2013

I think a lot people underrate the importance of rest with any kind of workout. It is very, very important.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:59 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not better or worse. There's many different directions in which you can improve your fitness, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. If you enjoy full body exercises, that's awesome, and you should give other stuff a shot, but definitely keep them in the mix.

Full-body exercises are extremely efficient in terms of the amount of work they give your muscles, and so if you're one of the people lucky enough to enjoy them, they're a key to being able to spend less time working out while maintaining the level of strength and endurance you want.

I think 2-3 days/week of that kind of workout is pretty safe. I used to do them, and the only injury I got during that time was unrelated to that. As always, you want to make sure you get some rest and listen to your body.

All that said, building maximal strength in your legs makes full-body workouts easier. A lot of these things feed back into each other.
posted by ignignokt at 5:16 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your body tends to adjust to whatever you are doing to it in terms of strength workouts (I don't know much about cardio, but maybe there too). So if you keep doing full body routines with the same exercises, the quick gains you have made will stop. You can do the split your trainer has given you for a few months, and then go back to full body for a bit, and then try a different split, and so on. I tend to change workout routines about every six months nowadays, but when I first started off I switched it up more frequently to really make sure I was getting the maximum possible from every muscle, and to learn what my body responded well to, and what it didn't.
posted by lollusc at 5:24 PM on March 9, 2013

I should add that I don't think you should *never* do full-body workouts, just that it's a good idea to both build strength and to switch things up so you don't overtrain in any particular way.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:53 PM on March 9, 2013

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