The Best Gym Workout Schedule

Fitness experts field a barrage of questions: "What's the best way to bulk up?"; "When's the best time to stretch?"; and the perennial favorite, "Can you lose weight eating nothing but donuts?" The most overlooked question, though, is "What's the best gym workout schedule?" Many people are pressed for time, looking for a way to streamline training by doing a little bit here and there, but a haphazard approach is likely to result in failure. With a little planning you can create a bulletproof schedule designed to maximize your fitness gains.

Make time to work out. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Pick a Time and Stick With It

Many experts extol the virtues of working out at a specific time of day. Some prefer the early morning because you can use your fasted prebreakfast state to your advantage. Others opt for later afternoon. However, the American Heart Association points out the best time is really dependent on your schedule and preference. If you loathe being up at 5:30 a.m., you'll rebel against a morning training regimen. If your afternoons are crowded, early mornings or late evenings will work better for you. What matters most is committing to a set pattern of workouts at a given time.

Simple Strength Training

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, most adults only need two to three days of strength training per week. If you're pressed for time, preoccupied with athletic performance, or have a goal of fat burning, it's best to stick to compound movements, such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and bench presses. Two to four sets will suffice, with a range of 10 to 15 repetitions per set for beginners using a reduced weight. Rest 48 hours between strength-training sessions.

Focused Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is a vital part of the best gym workout for fat burning. Much like strength training, you have some options here. Beginners can accrue 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio sprinkled throughout the week and see results; 30- to 60-minute sessions five days a week is sufficient. If this strikes you as too much time, high-intensity training is a viable option. You won't need more than 20 minutes three times a week. Instead of steady state cardio such as treadmill jogging, do four to six sets of sprints. Each interval should last between one and two minutes. Your rest period is equal to double the time of the work sets.

Finish With Flexibility

Start and finish each workout with a few stretches. After a five- to 10-minute aerobic warm-up before beginning your workout, do a few dynamic stretches, meaning movements that imitate the type of workout you'll be doing -- for instance, leg swings if you'll be running on the treadmill. Then after your workout, stretch out each major muscle, holding for 10 to 30 seconds. Give extra attention to chronically tight muscles. For a more intensive stretching workout, take a class such as yoga.

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