With benefits like better quality sleep, a boost in brainpower, and increased levels of happiness, it's no wonder why exercise is a major part of your daily routine. The fact that you're getting up and out is a win in itself, but science and experts agree: there are loads of benefits to diversifying your workouts, especially if you want to avoid injury.
"Variety is the spice of fitness," says Adam Rosante, celebrity strength and nutrition coach. "One of the surest ways to hit a plateau is to do the same workout over and over."
While it's not for everyone, you can work out every single day if you want to forgo a rest day—as long as you do so smartly. "You can do some sort of cardio or strength training seven days a week if you really want to," says Dennis Cardone, D.O., chief of primary care sports medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Especially if you're not doing max lifts, and opting for smaller sets of 10-or-so reps." (And be sure you're hitting that foam roller.)
So how do you structure your weekly plan to reduce injury and optimize results? (After all, the CDC's recommendation is pretty broad: 150 minutes of moderate activity every week with two days of muscle-strengthening.) We've got you covered with this perfectly balanced weekly workout plan from Rosante. "Give it a whirl, and you can get stronger and leaner while improving your overall conditioning and boosting your energy," he says.
Monday: Upper-body strength training (45 to 60 minutes)
It's no secret that strength training is a critical part of any weekly workout schedule. Sure, dumbbells and barbells may look overwhelming at times, but strength training can help build lean muscle, increase bone strength, and prevent injury. Try this upper-body dumbbell workout, or incorporate HIIT into your upper body training with this at-home bodyweight workout.
Just remember to change up your strength routine every three to four weeks to keep seeing results, suggests Holly Rilinger, celebrity trainer and creative director for Cyc Fitness. (Check out this 4-Week Strength-Training Plan.)
Tuesday: Lower-body strength training (30 to 60 minutes)
Since the general rule of thumb when it comes to lifting is to allow 48 hours of recovery time between working the same muscle group (when you train, you develop microscopic tears in the muscles that produce inflammation, and your body needs this in-between time to repair the tears), focus on lower body strength on 'day two' to give your upper body muscles a rest. Try this lower body fat-burning workout that uses a resistance band and dumbbells.
Wednesday: Yoga or a low-impact activity like barre, light cycling, or swimming (30 to 60 minutes)
"The general rule of thumb is that you don't want to do the same activity on successive days," says Cardone. "So, if you have a high impact day, follow that up with a low impact day." A low-impact workout will ensure you give your muscles time to recover before you hit the heavy weights again, but can still be a great way to burn major calories.
Thursday: HIIT (20 minutes)
Not only do these fast-paced workouts take half the time, but they can also provide the same health benefits as endurance activities, according to one University of Birmingham study. There's even evidence that those who pick up HIIT-style workouts are more likely to stick to their routine because of the variety of movements.
"HIIT could take dozens of forms, but a good start would be to pick something you like, like running, cycling, rowing, or dancing," says Rosante. "Then, do it for intervals of time. Short bursts of full effort work coupled with lower-intensity work of the same move." (Here, score six HIIT moves from Rosane that tone in 30 seconds.)
Friday: Total-body strength training (30 to 60 minutes)
"When it comes to strength training, you should aim to hit all of your major muscle groups like your quads, glutes, hamstrings, chest and upper back, plus core," says Rosante, who encourages a primary focus on heavier compound lifts like the deadlift, hip thrust, squat, bench press and weighted rowing movements (plus anti-movement exercises for your core). "Think plank and plank variations as well as exercises like the Paloff press," he says.
Saturday: Steady-state cardio (running or cycling for as long as feels comfortable for you)
Yes, HIIT workouts tend to get all of the attention these days (HIIT has a ton of benefits), but steady-state cardio is still important for your health. In fact, a recent study found that running just two hours a week can significantly extend your lifespan, providing some pretty convincing evidence that running deserves a place in your weekly workout schedule. Ditto for biking—one recent study suggested biking can help you live longer while reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease by nearly half.
Sunday: Rest (Don't forget to foam roll and stretch!)
"Think of fitness as a lifelong experience," says Rilinger. "When we're younger, we feel invincible and ignore the warning signs. Giving your body the time it needs to recover means you can stay in the game longer." (FYI, here's How to Hack Your Rest Day to Get the Most Out Of Your Workouts.)
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