Design a strength training program that will improve your health and help you reach your fitness goals. The process isn't difficult, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your workout is both safe and challenging.
Types of Programs
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) identifies three basic designs of strength training programs: full body workouts, alternating upper and lower body workouts, and routines that split training by specific muscle groups.
When doing a full body workout, you will work the major muscle groups of both the upper and lower body in one session. This design works for beginner to advanced exercisers and is effective at improving your health and fitness. It serves as a convenient way to workout because you can do cardiovascular exercise one day and strength training the next.
Splitting upper and lower body workouts can serve two purposes: 1) The exerciser can develop the upper or lower body to benefit sports-specific needs, or 2) It can make workouts shorter. While you will need to train most days of the week to meet recommendations, you can make these sessions shorter by doing exercises for the lower body one day and for the upper body the next.
Separating workouts by muscle group is a practice most often used in bodybuilding. It allows you to give each muscle group more attention to develop strength and muscle mass.
The right exercise order is important to ensure that you don’t wear out the smaller muscle groups that assist larger muscle groups in movement. Begin your workout with exercises that target larger muscles and that involve multiple joints. For example, chest press, lat pull-down, and squats should be performed at the beginning of the workout. Then proceed with exercises that target the shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps, triceps, and calves. According to general guidelines from the NSCA, when performing a full body workout, exercises that target the core can be worked in between sets during the rest period of other exercises.
Days, Sets and Repetitions
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that adults perform resistance training for all major muscle groups 2 to 3 days per week. Positive strength gains are seen with 2 to 4 sets of each exercise, but research shows that new exercisers can improve strength with as little as 1 set. For general fitness, aim to perform 8 to 12 repetitions for each set. If muscular endurance is a major goal, you can perform 15 to 25 repetitions, but the ACSM recommends limiting the number of sets to 2.
Progression and Strength Gains
As your muscles grow and you gain strength, you will find that lifting the same amount of weight you started with becomes easy. If you continue to lift this amount, your muscles will no longer be challenged. In order to continue gaining strength, you must progressively increase the resistance or weight. You will know you are at the correct weight for your fitness level when you feel muscle fatigue after lifting 8 to 12 repetitions of an exercise. This does not need to result in complete exhaustion. If you do feel complete muscle exhaustion, you may be lifting too much weight. If the exercise is so easy that you feel no fatigue, it’s time to increase the resistance.
While it may seem that every food you encounter this time of year is loaded with calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, there are plenty of holiday foods that are healthy. Eat these seasonal favorites to give your holiday eating plan a nutritional boost.
Since citrus can be found in the supermarket year round, it’s sometimes forgotten that it is truly a winter fruit. Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are most delicious during the holiday season. They contain flavonoids that may have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells. Citrus is also rich in vitamin C, which improves the absorption of iron and acts as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage to cells. Whether eaten whole or juiced, citrus is a healthy addition to holiday meals.
Cranberries are often served as a sweet sauce or dried with added sugar. But the natural, tart flavor of fresh cranberries can be enjoyed with little sweetener. Cranberries provide vitamin C and fiber, and they are full of disease-fighting antioxidants. Cranberries have been found to block bacteria that leads to urinary tract infections, and preliminary research shows they may also block bacteria that leads to stomach ulcers. Chop fresh cranberries and add them to salads or cook them with steel cut oatmeal. Whole cranberries can also be roasted in the oven and added to savory side dishes or blended into sauces.
While it’s still loaded with sugar, molasses has some qualities that make it stand out among other sweeteners. Blackstrap molasses contains iron as well calcium and potassium. When you need to add a touch of sweetness during cooking, try adding some blackstrap molasses and experiment with it as a sweetener for holiday baking.
Nuts provide a lean source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Research shows that eating nuts can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts offer a unique variety of nutrients, including vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber. Choose lightly salted or unsalted nuts to reduce sodium intake, and enjoy a few as a snack or added to a holiday side dish.
Pomegranates are available October to January, making the holidays the perfect time to find the whole fruit in the supermarket. Pomegranates contain vitamin K and potassium. They are also loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, including punicalagin which is unique to the fruit. These antioxidants have been found to protect cells from the free radical damage that may lead to some chronic diseases. The crunchy, edible seeds in the arils also supply fiber. Sprinkle them into salads or onto your morning oatmeal.
Potatoes have long been labeled as unhealthy because they are most often eaten as French fries. The truth is, potatoes are rich in potassium and provide vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, and iron. There are also many varieties available, which allows you to get creative when preparing healthy meals. Try roasting potatoes with herbs and olive oil, or make mashed purple potatoes for a flavorful side dish that is perfect for a holiday meal.
Sweet potatoes are a healthy holiday staple as long as you go easy on the sugar and butter when preparing them. They supply calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. For a healthier side dish, try cubing and roasting sweet potatoes, or you can also bake them and then stuff the sweet potatoes with your favorite healthy ingredients.
Egg rolls always go over well as a party snack or an appetizer, but meat fillings and deep frying increases the calories and unhealthy fat. These egg rolls are filled with healthy root and cruciferous vegetables, and then baked until golden brown. Serve them with your favorite sauce for dipping, like plum sauce or sriracha.
Yield: 10 egg rolls
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped onion
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup shredded daikon radish
2 cups shredded green cabbage
½ tsp dark sesame oil
½ tsp low sodium soy sauce
10 egg roll wrappers
Heat a ½ tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger and cook 1 more minute.
Add the carrot and daikon and cook for 1 minute. Next, mix in the cabbage and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat, and stir in the sesame oil and soy sauce. Let the filling cool for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or cover the pan with a silicone baking mat. Fill a small dish with about ¼ cup of warm water.
To assemble the egg rolls, place a wrapper on a flat surface with one corner pointing towards you. Transfer a ¼ cup of the vegetable filling to the center of the wrapper. Use a pastry brush to brush warm water along the edge of the wrapper.
Fold the bottom corner up over the filling. Fold in the right and left sides, and roll up the egg roll like a burrito.
Assemble the remaining egg rolls. Place the egg rolls on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the egg rolls with the remaining olive oil. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
Nutrition information for 1 egg roll: Calories 81; Total Fat 1.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 3 mg; Sodium 152 mg; Carbohydrate 13.9 g; Fiber 1 g; Sugar 1.3 g; Protein 2.8 g
Try replacing high-calorie cocktails with apple cider flavored with cinnamon sticks.
Step back from the high-calorie foods and stop stressing about missed workouts. Grab the family, and have fun with these healthy ways to celebrate the holidays.
Recipe Redo Competition
Everyone is looking for ways to lighten up favorite holiday foods without sacrificing traditional flavor. Create a competition within your family to see who can creatively adapt the most delicious dish. Assign everyone a recipe and give them the challenge of making it healthier. This might be by reducing the calories or saturated fat, increasing vitamins and minerals, or using fewer processed ingredients. Select a healthy reward for the person who creates the best dish.
Get Your Friends Moving
This time of year offers many opportunities to connect with friends. Instead of meeting for lunch or for happy hour, find ways to make your quality time beneficial to your physical health and emotional health. Sign up for a walk or run to support your favorite charity. Volunteer to pick up donations in your neighborhood or to make and deliver healthy holiday meals on bike or foot. The time together will allow you to catch up, incorporate activity, and feel good about helping others.
Create a Holiday-themed Workout
Get your workout in as a family and get into the holiday spirit. You don’t need much space to create a circuit workout, and if the weather is tolerable, bundle up and take it outside. Think of all the ways you can incorporate the holidays into the session. Play upbeat holiday music. Use a string of garland as a jump rope or as a marker on the ground for a side-to-side hop. Let a heavier, non-breakable wrapped gift serve as a weight to hold during lunges or squats. Make it fun and let each family member create a station. Do each exercise for 60 to 90 seconds, and then switch until you have completed a 20 to 30 minute workout.
Host a Party to Help Others
Invite friends over for your traditional holiday party, but change the focus of the afternoon. Grab the boots and coats and help shovel snow for neighbors who are unable to do so, or volunteer to help put up holiday decorations. There are many people who can use assistance this time of year, and the activity will help you burn calories.
Foods that fill you up faster and keep you feeling full longer help to decrease your calorie intake. With a few simple steps and minor changes to your meals and snacks, you can feel full with less food.
Eating quickly may cause you to consume more food than you realize. When you don’t take the time to focus on your meal, it’s harder to enjoy the taste and texture of each bite. Not only does this make the meal less satisfying, it disconnects you from your hunger and fullness cues. When you eat slowly, a practice common in mindful eating , it forces you to stop and evaluate how you feel throughout the meal.
Hormones are released and signaling occurs when you eat and the food is digested. These signals indicate to the brain that you have had enough. This can be easily overlooked if you are eating too quickly. You will fill up before your fullness is registered, leading to an increase in the calories you consume. Research has shown that eating more slowly results in feeling full sooner, and a decreased food and calorie intake.
Eat whole foods
A whole food is a food in it’s natural form versus it being heavily processed. For example, whole fruits and vegetables instead of juice. These whole foods contain dietary fiber and water, and they are larger in volume. All of these characteristics contribute to the ability of whole foods to fill you up and keep you fuller longer. Research shows that eating foods that are higher in volume, but lower in calorie density, results in eating less at a meal and throughout the rest of the day.
Add more lean protein
Research shows that including more lean protein in your meals and snacks can help you feel full. It may be even more beneficial if you include protein at breakfast. A study that compared women who ate a protein-rich breakfast with eggs versus a higher carbohydrate breakfast with bagels found that the protein-rich breakfast helped the women feel more satisfied and reduced calorie intake throughout the day. Switch to a higher protein breakfast by incorporating eggs, beans and smoothies, add chicken or beans to your salad at lunch, and replace drinks like juice and soda with higher protein cow or nut milk.