Components of a Balanced Exercise Program

To be healthy we all know that we need to do some form of exercise on a regular basis. But choosing what type of exercise we should be doing, how long should we be doing it for and how hard should we be working while we are doing it can be a little confusing? A complete fitness and exercise program should incorporate three basic components: Endurance (Aerobic), Flexibility, and Strength. Each of these components has specific guidelines, which govern their effectiveness.

Endurance, specifically Aerobic Endurance, is probably the most frequently participated in aspect of fitness due to its wide-ranging benefits. To be effective aerobic exercise should be optimally performed four times a week for 30 minutes or more at a training heart rate of 50-90%. People who are just beginning may need to start at 5 minutes and then gradually add time on until they reach 30 minutes or more. Exercise should be one that elevates your heart rate into your target range, is continuous in nature, and uses large muscle groups. Some examples of aerobic type exercise are Walking, Jogging, Running, Swimming, Bicycling, Stair Climbing, Rowing, Jumping Rope, Aerobics class, and Dancing.

For whatever reason Flexibility is one of the most often neglected aspects of a fitness program. We need to remember that muscles that lack flexibility do not move as well, which can restrict the movement of our joints and increase the risk of injury. Flexibility type exercise is best done when the muscle is warm. Warm muscles perform better. Active short duration flexibility exercises of 5-10 seconds, can be performed as part of a warm-up. Static flexibility exercises, where the exercise is held for longer duration’s, 30-60 seconds , should be performed at the conclusion of the exercise session.

Resistance training allows the body to retain and increase muscle mass. When we lose muscle mass we not only lose strength but decrease our metabolism. Increases in strength allow us to perform our everyday activities a little easier. Resistance training sessions can be performed two or more times a week and should incorporate all the major muscle groups. The amount of resistance and repetitions are dependent on what your over all goals are. The same muscle groups should not be exercised on successive days. Forty-eight hours rest should be given between strength sessions of the same muscle groups.

Each of these components is inter-dependent on the other and are necessary for a complete fitness program. They all can be incorporated into one exercise session. Contact your local fitness professional if you need additional assistance in organizing your program.

Utilizing Resistance Machines

Since the invention of the first variable resistance machine in the late 1800’s, machines have become a major part of resistance training programs throughout the world.

Why have they become so popular? For one, they offer many users a larger degree of safety as compared to using other forms of resistance training. Users do not have to worry about being trapped by the weight or having a weight fall upon them. So safety is a big plus but do not be lulled into a false sense of security. Any piece of resistance equipment can cause injury if used improperly with poor technique and too much resistance.

Secondly, machine users often feel using such equipment allows them more ease of movement. They can change resistance quickly and efficiently and do not for the most part have to worry about coordinating and stabilizing their body, which can be a plus in some instances.

Lastly, variable resistance equipment through it’s design can provide users with the opportunity to train some body movements which would be nearly impossible to do by other means, i.e. hip abduction and hip adduction.

What should we keep in mind if we want to utilize variable resistance equipment?

1) Learn how to adjust the piece for you. Many pieces of equipment can be adjusted to fit your limb and torso length.

2) Learn the mechanics of the exercise. How to apply force effectively, how you need to stabilize, and know what your posture should be while performing the exercise.

3) Learn at what speed of movement you need to be at to receive the most benefit. Most if not all weight stack style need to be performed at a slow consistent speed to maintain a consistent strength curve. Not only can going too fast increase your chances of injury, it can also decrease the overall benefit of the exercise performed. Exercise speed should be somewhere from 2 seconds or more on the contractive phase (weight moving off the stack) to 4 or more seconds on the eccentric phase (weight moving back to the stack). Keiser type variable resistance equipment is one of the only styles in which you can perform the exercise at any speed and still retain a consistent strength curve.

4) Make sure to contact a Fitness Professional if you have questions. Ask for assistance. It will increase your success and decrease your risk of getting injured.

If used properly variable resistance training equipment can enhance any routine and provide you with many different training options. Train smart and be safe.