In the past, the cornerstone of most resistance training workouts has been performing exercises in a straight set format. Essentially, this means you perform a certain number of reps for a certain number of sets of a given exercise, and then you rest anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes based on your training goals before repeating this set/rep combo again. This is actually a traditional body builder program. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and most “regular” folks you see at the gym are doing just this type of a program. If they’ve got 60-90 minutes to get their strength workout and their cardiovascular training in, and they’re getting the results they want, well then, they should probably keep doing what they’re doing! However, there is a quicker way to get a great workout in.
A much more effective and time-efficient approach to ordering your exercises is utilizing the alternating set format. Here you’ll perform one exercise, rest for a very short period of time, then perform another non-competing exercise, rest for a short period of time, and so forth. Alternating sets allow you to work different areas of your body when you would otherwise be resting with the straight set format. Plus, by working another area of your body with a non-competing exercise you allow your body to recover from the previous exercise(s). The result is improved training economy and density: more work accomplished in less time, the cornerstone of any sound fat loss program.
There are several ways to perform alternating sets outlined below:
1.) Supersets: Alternate between two different non-competing exercises (e.g. upper body and lower body such as push-ups and lunges). I really like this format and use it for my personal training customers in San Jose, as well as for many of my own workouts.
2.) Trisets: Alternate between three different exercises (e.g. push, pull, and lower body such as push-ups, rows, and lunges).
3.) Circuits: Alternate between four or more different exercises
Though supersets and trisets are excellent alternating set options, I believe circuit training is by the far the best option for time-crunched recreational exercisers who want to boost their metabolism and decrease body fat . That’s one reason why we incorporate a strength/cardio circuit into about 90% of our monthly bootcamp workouts in San Jose and Los Gatos. They incinerate calories, as well as develop lean muscle and cardiovascular endurance.
Here’s an example of a 6 station cardio/strength circuit:
Exercise#1- Jump rope
Exercise#3- High knee jog in place
Exercise#4- Pull-ups (if you don’t have a pull up bar, you can do an inverted row at home by putting a broomstick across two chairs)
Exercise#5- Fast lateral shuffle
Exercise#6: Push ups
Exercise at each station for 1 minute, and take a 10-15 second recovery break between each station. At the cardio stations (1, 3, and 5) you’ll go “all out” for one minute. At the strength stations (2,4, and 6), perform sets of 8-12 repetitions of the exercise, and then take a brief rest. Beginners might get in 2 sets, advanced folks might get in 4 sets during the 60 second time frame (due to less rest time).
Perform this circuit up to four times for an excellent fat burning workout.
The key to creating the optimal hormonal environment for fat loss is to perform each exercise with maximal intensity while separated by brief rest periods in order to accumulate a high volume of total body work in the shortest amount of time possible. Circuit training provides for the best of both worlds and is thus simply unmatched for simultaneously maximizing fat loss and lean muscle gain.
When you’re short on time (and who isn’t these days!), nothing beats a high intensity circuit training workout.
Committed to your success,