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Top Five Exercise Questions
The five most common exercise questions clients ask.

Over the last two decades I’ve been training, there are a few questions I get asked repeatedly. I’ve decided to answer them in the simplest way possible: five questions about exercise this week and four about diet next week.

When is the best time of day to workout?

People who exercise earlier in the morning tend to be more consistent because they have fewer distractions and schedule interruptions. Weight training is best done in the afternoon or evening. Your body temperature and strength are at their highest later in the day.

However, the best time of day to workout is a time that you can regularly make, regardless of when that is, day or night. Consistency is the key. Do not schedule your workouts at a time you can’t realistically keep.

When Should You Workout?

Is cardio in your “fat-burning zone” the best way to lose weight?

No. First, to lose weight, you’ve got to take in fewer calories than you burn. The primary way that happens is through diet. No weight loss program can be successful unless it deals with the calories you eat.

Second, traditional steady-state cardio is a waste of time. People who exercise in short bursts, with rest or recovery periods in-between (known as Interval Training), do better than people who do continuous cardio exercise. Subjects who exercise all out for 45 minutes a week see the same results as people who exercise continuously for 360 minutes weekly.

Interval Training - Shorter Cardio Workouts for Better Results

Should we try to get 8-12 reps for every set?

Strength - If your goal is just to get stronger, don’t do more than 2 to 6 reps. Rest 2 to 4 minutes between each set, so you fully recover and keep the total number of sets to just 2 or 3.

Muscle Mass - For those who want to get more size, 6 to 12 reps is better. Keep the rest between 20 seconds and 1 minute between sets, and vary the sets based on the bodypart you’re training. If you’re working larger groups like the back or legs, as many as 4 to 8 sets can help. If you’re working smaller muscles like the biceps, only 1 to 3 sets are needed.

Fat Loss & Muscle Mass - This is a little trickier because to burn fat, you need to introduce an aerobic element to the routine while still building mass. 15-20 reps work well for the first set (this part is more cardio), decreasing the number until you’re as low as 4 reps, pushing your muscle group to failure. 2 to 4 sets work well as long as you don’t overtrain any particular muscle.

Sets and Reps - Breaking the 3 Set, 10 Rep Mentality

Should you train to failure to build bigger muscles?

A study was done in 2010 at the Research Center of Rowing Club Orio in Spain. In an 8-week program, the group that did only a moderate number of reps, not to failure, achieved the “[greatest] enhancements in strength, muscle power, and rowing performance when compared with...training volumes of repetitions to failure...”

Higher reps, when done to failure, help with endurance. Lower reps build bigger muscles. You still have to push yourself; it just doesn’t have to be to failure.

Will Training to Failure Build Bigger Muscles?

Do you have to workout every day of the week to see results?

Nope. Exercising just three days a week for 30 minutes at a time can produce results. Here are the optimum recommendations.

When fat loss is your primary goal, you should consider cardio exercise four to six times a week, for at least 20 minutes per session. Don’t do this for more than an hour though, because after an hour, your body will start eating into muscle to keep fueling your body. Resistance train three days a week for about 30 minutes per session, so you don’t lose muscle mass as the weight drops off. Total Time Commitment: Minimum 3 Hours Weekly.

If you want to see even greater weight loss, increase your resistance training to as high as 60 minutes per session. The reason is simple. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is. A higher metabolism burns more calories throughout the day, making weight loss easier. Total Time Commitment: Minimum 4.5 Hours Weekly.

When building muscle is your primary goal, drop the cardio activity down to three to five days a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Engage in a resistance training program for at least three -- at most five -- days a week. Your resistance programs should last between 30 and 60 minutes. If you’re short on time, schedule cardio exercise on the same day as your resistance training and put it at the end of your workout. Total Time Commitment: Minimum 3 Hours Weekly.

How Often Should You Workout?

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.