Which training method is right for you? 

There are so many choices when it comes to training programs. These options can range from wanting an active lifestyle to powerlifting. Often, it’s hard to decide what to pick. If you’re looking for a great training program let this guide you. If you’re a trainer or coach this post may not directly help you but that doesn’t mean it can’t help someone else in their fitness journey.

It’s well known that exercise is good for you. I don’t need to cite any stats or studies to show you. Why then, do people not exercise? Well – they could have some type of medical condition that prevents it. That’s reasonable. However, when questioned – most people respond that they “don’t have the time” to exercise. They theoretically do this knowing that they forego the benefits of exercising in order to have more “time” now. On the other hand some people don’t know how or what to exercise. I can’t fault them for that. You can easily hurt yourself by exercising improperly, especially while using weights.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to learn how to exercise. One is to hire a personal trainer – which I highly recommend – for at least a few months to get you started. Oddly, spending money is a strong motivator to get you in the gym. If you don’t have the money then you could join some type of group training which doesn’t cost as much. Group training has the same benefits, but can still offer variety and camaraderie. Another option is to ask a friend to help you. Preferably this friend knows a lot about exercise. If not one, then maybe a few friends who can all bring something to the table.

The internet can also be great (or terrible) in helping you figure out how to exercise. There are tons of great videos on YouTube that show proper form for every exercise. However, there are also a lot of people who spout misinformation or try sell you gimmicks. That’s a shame. The fitness industry’s goal should be to improve health rather than sell something. If you’re confused about your health consult trained professionals, don’t resort to a quick-fix supplement.

Below is a brief explanation of a few popular categories of exercise. This includes a summary and links to a few good programs. I encourage you to do your own research and follow the links to learn more. Hopefully this will help you find your fitness.

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General Health & Wellness

I realize this category doesn’t have a great name, but this is what most people want to do. You may not have a specific goal. Instead, you want to have a healthy lifestyle. How do you exercise then? Well – you’re not trying to get big, strong, or run long distances so you get to do a little bit of everything.

Here’s what I would recommend: 2-3 days of resistance exercise, preferably full body workouts with a focus on compound exercises. This group has the flexibility to choose tons of different exercises. Furthermore, you don’t have to rely on specific exercises since there are numerous exercises that can accomplish your goal. If you try something and hate it there is probably a different exercise that can replace it. Do things you enjoy so that you’ll keep wanting to exercise.

In addition to resistance exercise, complete 2-3 days of cardiovascular exercise. Examples of these include walking, jogging, swimming, rowing etc.  If you want a more in depth look at exercise prescription check out the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines.

I know it sounds like a lot of exercise. However, think about: You probably sit on your butt for 8-10 hours a day, so why not spend a 30-60 minutes a day exercising? I promise you’ll feel better. Remember, we’re aiming for health benefits here. You don’t have to do extreme workouts to get benefits. Nor do you have to beat yourself into the ground.

What are the benefits of this style? A healthy heart. Having the ability to do everyday tasks like carrying groceries or picking up your kid. Control of your body weight, HDL/LDL or blood pressure. Avoiding medications to fix all of these things. Aging better. The list goes on and on.

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Bodybuilding

Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Bodybuilding is frequently the first method that comes to mind when people think about a gym. Do you want bulging muscles? The physique of a Greek god?  If so then this is your style.

Although, you can do this style and not get huge. I often hear that people don’t want to “bulk up” or be “too muscular”. This is much easier said than done – just ask the huge guy in the gym how much time he puts into his workouts and nutrition. Don’t be afraid of any  methods of training because you don’t want to get too big. It’s much more difficult than you think.

Picking your program is probably the  most confusing part about bodybuilding. What you’ll notice in these programs is much more isolation of single muscles using different exercises. There’s also a good amount of volume. Here’s a few programs that I would recommend:

Beginner#1   #2  #3

IntermediateShortcut to Size, Power Hypertrophy, FST-7

AdvancedGerman Volume Training, Ph3. However, most people like to build their own program at this point or hire a coach.

These aren’t one-size-fits-all programs, but they are a great place to start. As you gain muscle and shape your body you’ll see areas that are lagging. Make sure to fix them to avoid injury. Also, as you advance you may want to compete. This is a great way to push yourself to another level.

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Powerlifting 

So you want to be strong? Like pick up a baby elephant strong? This type of training will do it. The main movements are the bench press, deadlift, and squat. In this training method the objective is to lift as much weight as possible.

But won’t I get injured?! No, there’s not a higher prevalence of getting injured in this sport compared to others.

 

Here’s a general overview on the foundation of powerlifting programs. After you read through that, take a look at these programs. Included below are some of the most famous programs for powerlifting broken up into three categories:

Beginners: StrongLifts, GreySkull, Starting Strength

Intermediate: MadCow, Texas Method, Westside Barbell

Advanced: Sheiko, Smolov 

What are the benefits of this style? Benefits include increased bone density, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis or joint problems. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. It has also been known to boost self-confidence, much like other types of exercise. Oh and did I mention you’ll get strong?

There are a lot more programs to choose from. Furthermore, I am by no means an expert on powerlifting.

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Olympic Weightlifting 

Want to pick the most difficult movement in exercise? Then perfect it while gaining strength, power and explosiveness? This is your choice. However, be prepared to spend plenty of time practicing. This is great for those of us who like to master very technical skills. It also happens to be an Olympic sport.

I’ve recently picked up Olympic lifting this year. One of the most rewarding feelings is when you snatch or clean & jerk a PR. This is definitely one method of training that you’ll need help with. Recruit a coach, trainer, or someone who really knows weightlifting to guide you. There is also a great series of YouTube videos to get you started with the Olympic lifts by California Strength.

A few programs to once you’ve got the movements:

Beginner: Catalyst AthleticsDan John, 70s Big

Intermediate: Stronger than Ever, Lift Big Eat Big

You’ll notice that there isn’t a ton of volume in these workouts. That’s because it takes a lot more energy to do these complex lifts compared to the other training methods.

What are the benefits of this style? Similar to the previously mentioned methods, this can help promote bone mineral density and muscle growth among many other things. This method also improves coordination and balance.

Here’s a great story on how someone became a national level lifter in a year. Another great resource for everything weightlifting based is Barbell Shrugged.

Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a basic idea about the different resistance training methods. There are a lot more methods of exercise, but these are some of the most popular lifting programs.

I would also like to point out that you don’t have to stick to one method. Lots of people mash and mesh different methods for different goals. Don’t think you’re stuck with one! A perfect example of this is Crossfit, which incorporates a multitude of training methods into one workout. It may not be for everyone but if it gets you exercising then go for it.

Lastly, here’s my advice on nutrition: You probably enjoy food and/or alcohol along with the freedom of choosing when or what you eat. You may want to continue to enjoy it, but not gain the body fat that often accompanies it. I give you one simple task: try to eat healthier. Whatever your definition of “healthier” is, I’m sure its better than what you’re currently eating. Start with very small changes like replacing a bag of chips with a piece of fruit. Start simple, its been proven that little changes can add up. Furthermore, do some research if you want to delve deeper into nutrition and please don’t fall for any fad diets.

I hope this brief overview helped you determine which training method you prefer. One thing I’d like to point out is that these are only a few options. To incorporate every type of exercise (i.e., yoga, pilates, etc..) would make this post enormous.  Therefore, I’ll be writing more in depth on each topic in the future for those of you who want more information.

Stay tuned.

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