How can I excercise 'smarter?'
October 16, 2007 9:53 AM   Subscribe

[Exercise Filter]: What's your exercise routine? Should I change mine?

Currently, I do three "area-specific" weight training days, (two of which include 20m cardio afterwards), one 30m cardio day, and one full-body weight training day. I like my current routine, but want to make it more efficient so i can go 3-4 days a week instead of 4-5.

My main goal is to get stronger/bigger without sacrificing general health exercises like cardio.
1) Does 3 days a week of swimming breaststroke for 30m replace the majority of what I am already doing?
2) What is your exercise routine? What does it focus on (health, strength, etc..), and how effective/time-smart is it?
posted by doppleradar to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
1) No. Hell no. You will get the cardio in, maybe. You have to have really, really good breaststroke technique to get the kind of cardio response you'll get from middling butterfly, backstroke, or freestyle technique. When I swam competitively only our best breaststrokers could come out of the pool doing breaststroke with a decent burn. The rest of us just floundered. You will not get the muscle-building in you will from weight-bearing exercises.

2) I suggest Crossfit. I always suggest Crossfit for these general fitness questions, because darnit, it works! You won't get as big as quickly on Crossfit as you will doing bodybuilding type workouts (i.e. using machines and doing bicep curls and crap), but you'll get a lot stronger. Start slow and use their scaled workouts. Don't go too crazy and risk injury.

It is VERY time effective. You will find most of the workouts last under 20 minutes, with a 15-20 minute warmup beforehand.
posted by Anonymous at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2007

Crossfit would be nice if it didn't cost $150 a month.

I go every other day, 30 min of cardio (usually treadmill) plus 5 min cooldown. Followed by a series of about six machines depending on what area I'm targeting that session (lower or upper body. Plus crunches, squats, and some pulls on the captain's chair every session.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2007

I care mostly about health, energy and mood, so I spend most of my time doing cardio+stretching, with a little lifting thrown in.

4-5 days a week, weights for 15 minutes, cardio on the elliptical 35-38 minutes, stretching 10 minutes. I never lift two days in a row; on off days I replace it with 100 crunches (as opposed to 80 reps on an ab machine with resistance on the lifting days.) Yoga every once in a while, I keep meaning to go more often.

Verdict: good for cardio, muscle tone, flexibility. I've definitely built muscle, but slowly, and only because I focus on specific muscle groups. Slow improvement on abs too.

Feels time-efficient to me, and it works - I need more variation though.
posted by lbergstr at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2007

Crossfit costs $150 a month? Maybe if you're going to one of the local Crossfit facilities. I do mine at my university gym.
posted by Anonymous at 12:14 PM on October 16, 2007

I used to think Crossfit was flat out stupid. Why do all my working out at once when I could isolate cardio and weights and gain more? (My theory being: work out for more time, get bigger gains)

Holy shit was I wrong. In a twenty minute Crossfit workout, I usually feel more spent than an hour of lifting and an hour on the bike. I still do those things to target the areas that I feel Crossfit neglects, but I have to do them less often. The best part about Crossfit is that it frees up more time during my day than my old workout, so if I'm extra-busy, I don't skip working out for that day. Metafilter is very "rah rah rah Crossfit", but for good reasons, I learned.

Most days, I lift in the morning, do Physical Therapy in the afternoon (torn ACL) and then do Crossfit in the evenings. My muscles always ache. It feels so good.

In my opinion, the Crossfit classes are worth it, right now. With my ACL being torn, there's lots of stuff I can't do and my Crossfit instructor is awesome about coming up with good substitutions to protect my knee. Plus, it's just plain fun to have a group of people to compete against and cheer on. I like the classes!
posted by jstef at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2007

I thought that to really get a cardio workout you need 30 minutes of sustained heartrate...?
posted by lbergstr at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2007

Response by poster: I've never heard of crossfit, but I'm checking the links right now. And lbergstr, I used to do a minimum of 30m but scaled it back on the advice of fellow gym members who thought it would help me gain 'good' weight.
posted by doppleradar at 3:50 PM on October 16, 2007

I don't know that you can realistically get more efficient than going 4-5 days a week unless you are fairly active in the rest of your day-to-day life. I do usually 5/sometimes 4 days a week of 30-45mins/day, and that is enough to keep me very fit. I think you can get either a decent amount of cardio or a decent weight routine in 3 days, but you would be hard pressed to do both.
Are you interested more in getting bigger or getting stronger? There are workouts that will do both (HST is a popular and efficient one) but generally the workouts to maximize one do not maximize the other. Considering you have already done things to try to gain 'good' weight, I suggest that whatever you do you look into your diet and make sure you are eating enough. Eating too little is a great way to stall out your progress no matter what your routine.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:30 PM on October 16, 2007

Erm, that should be "sustained elevated heartrate". I like a full 24 hours of heartrate every day.
posted by lbergstr at 4:44 PM on October 16, 2007

No, you don't need to do 30 minutes to sustain heartrate. If you want to improve cardiovascular capacity you need to do metcon/interval training. Work your ass off for 15 minutes and you will see far more gains than you would for 30 minutes of slow, steady cardio. It's also stimulates more body fat consumption than long, single-rate cardio (yeah, the "body fat burning" zone on cardio machines? That's bullshit). You can find exercise studies proving this.

Anyway, Crossfit is perfect in the respect of improving cardiovascular capacity. If you're training for, say, a marathon that's something different. But Crossfitters have found even their 5K and 10K times have drastically improved from doing Crossfit without extra runs.

If you really want to do straight cardio sessions though, you can't go wrong with this interval training progression. It takes you from relatively normal (they will still be ass-kicking) intervals to Tabata intervals.
posted by Anonymous at 6:24 PM on October 16, 2007

For what it's worth:

2) What is your exercise routine? What does it focus on (health, strength, etc..), and how effective/time-smart is it?

A typical week involves some or all of the following:

a) daily weekday cycle commuting - approx 15-20 min each way.
b) up to 30 min of cardio & stretching after the morning cycle, before showering & hitting the desk.
c) 2-3 capoeira training sessions per week, usually 2-3 hours at a time.
d) 3 relatively light lunchtime weight training sessions, of 30 min to 1 hour apiece.
e) recreational cycling and/or swimming on weekends.

The first sessions that I shed, if my body is yelling 'fatigue!' are some of the weight training sessions, especially towards the end of the week.

The overall focus is cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, weight maintenance & toning. Capoeira is also good for flexibility, balance & coordination, as would be any martial art. A degree of strength & toning is an almost unavoidable byproduct.

Time-smart? YMMV, but for me cycle commuting is quicker than any other way of getting to work, and ensures at least half an hour of exercise per day. Stretching afterwards while (leg) muscles are warm is also the best way to do things. You also get your metabolism up nice & early in the day. The weights sessions are handy because I can do them at lunchtime - there's a smallish gym downstairs in my office building.

Capoeira takes up massive chunks of my time, but I find it 'effective' in the sense that because it's so much fun, you can put in hours of cardio/x-training without noticing it all that much. I can't think of any gym class that doesn't get boring after half an hour, in contrast. I think this is key: if you do something fun - some kind of game or sport - rather than just regular classes or sessions, then it's just so much easier to stay motivated.

Unless you're specifically wanting to bulk up in a massive way, I'd recommend any similar kind of martial art, that works most of the muscles in the body at the same time as delivering cardio & flexibility benefits.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:41 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

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