The Perfect Workout

Nadia Comaneci
Perfect 10. Getty images

 Is your Perfect interfering with your good? 

What is the Perfect workout? 

Is it the latest program, the next big fitness gadget, the jack-of-all trades cross-training program?  Does the perfect workout consist of Powerlifting, or Olympic lifting, or Kettlebell lifting, or Bodybuilding, or aerobics, yoga, suspension training or MMA-conditioning? Or maybe the program that incorporates all of these methods into one program?

The perfect workout is the one that you do, that you do consistently and that does not injure you. 

That’s it. It’s not about perfect, as the whole idea of perfection is a social and mental construct. Progress is the real hallmark or any good program. Progress, done consistently, over time, creates improvements. An important part of progress is the sustainability of the program being followed. If a program makes you bigger or stronger or leaner, but you end up getting injured from too much volume, or insufficient recovery, or by going too heavy or too fast, the seemingly perfect workout program is not sustainable. So it is not perfect at all and not even good. For a program to be good, it has to be something that can be sustained over time, meaning it does not induce injuries. This is a logical approach for long-term health and wellness that extends beyond being ripped up for a few days for a photoshoot.

You see, the imperfect program that you actually do and stick with over time will offer a lot more benefit than the so-called perfect workout that you are only thinking about doing. Or the perfect workout that makes you ripped and beast-mode, until it injures you. 

There tends to be so much time, energy and emotions expensed on discussion about what is better or best.

There is NO perfect program. Life is not constant. What worked well for you when you were 20 years old will likely not work the same when you are 40 years old. A training program, and the thought behind the construction of the programs, must have a sustainability consideration. A professional trainer should consider not rapid gains so much as permanent gains. Easy come-easy go. Slow to get, slow to lose. 

Perfect is the enemy of good” is an aphorism that serves as a reminder. Don’t let your pursuit of some illusory perfection prevent you from trying. Work towards doing things well, safely and effectively. Enough good work will give you continuous progression toward your goals. 

So, instead of aiming for the Perfect program or Perfect workout, perhaps aim to understand how to construct a well-rounded, safe and effective workout program which addresses your major needs while leaving you feeling better and not worse, and avoids injuries.

What constitutes a good workout? Here are the key ingredients to keep in mind when developing your workouts.

Warm-up

A sufficient, yet efficient warm-up preparation is the first part of a well-constructed workout. Not too much, not too little, just the right amount

The warm-up may include any or a combination of the following:

 Dynamic mobility exercises 

These are movements that gradually increase in speed and range of motion as you get warmer. E.g. Hold a wall and swing one leg forward and backwards, gradually increasing the range of motion and going faster as your body gets warmer

Aerobic activity 

3 to 5 minutes of some aerobic exercise of your choice, for the purpose of raising your core body temperature. Examples could include a light jog, skipping rope or bodyweight exercises such as squats, planks or pushups

Joint mobilization

Otherwise called Joint Rotations, these are movements which circle around a fixed range of motion at a particular joint. Examples include arm circles or shoulder rolls moving forwards and backwards, or tilting the neck up and down and twisting side-to-side. Rotate all the major joints of the body, but pay extra attention to any regions which are stiff or tight. 

Light Stretching 

Here you give specific focus to any remaining tight muscular areas. For example stretch the low back, hamstrings, chest and upper back muscles

A specific warm-up

These are the light, easy sets of the main exercises you will perform in your workout, done with a light weight and for only a few reps. Used to get your body primed for the same movements which will be done with heavier loads during the main part of the workout. 

Factors which influence the degree and duration of your warm-up

Weather, climate, temperature

In a warm climate, the body is already pretty warm, however when it is cold you may need to spend more time to raise the body temperature

General Stiffness 

If you feel extra tight, spend more time loosening before transitioning into the strenous part of the workout

Any injuries

Any injured area or area with an old injury will need to be well-prepared. Spend more time mobilizing these injured areas of your body

Intensity of planned workout

An easy planned workout will not require an extensive warm-up. However, if you plan to train intensely, or for a long time, spend more time during warm-up to thoroughly prepare for what lies ahead. 

Once you have completed your sufficient warm-up, which may take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending upon your needs, you are ready to transition into the workout itself, which is called the Main Part of the workout

This is where you focus on the main or core exercises of your program for that training session. 

The main part of the workout consists of 2 categories of exercises, the Core or Primary lifts, and the Secondary or Assistant lifts.

Primary Lifts

For example, if you are training with kettlebells, your core exercises may be Swing, Jerk, Snatch and Front Squat

Secondary Lifts

This is where you add a few additional exercises which are for the purpose of strengthening any weak links in your primary lifts.

For example, if your grip often fails you during Kettlebell Snatch, you may end the Snatch training with Heavy Low Static Holds (Farmer's Holds) or Heavy 1 arm Swing, to increase the grip strength and endurance. 

If your legs give out too early during Kettlebell Jerks, you may end your Jerk training with a few sets of Jump Squats to improve leg power-endurance. 

Secondary/Assistant exercises can also include any areas that you did not address during the Primary lifts. For example, you may add a few sets of some core stability training here, such as holding plank or side plank for time, or a few sets of Hanging Leg Raises to strengthen the mid-section. 

Final Part

The final part of your well-rounded workout will include a cool-down and stretching. 

The cool-down is effectively the reverse of the warm-up. It is for the purpose of lowering your core temperature back down to normal and to deactivate your nervous system and re-establish normal hormonal balance. Since intense exercise increases circulation and both muscle and nervous system activity, it is important to take 5-10 minutes to cool-down so the body can regulate and calm down.

Stretching

At the very end of the training, now that your body is very warm, is the best place to work on increasing flexibility, especially attending to tight areas of your body. Stretch the entire body, the legs, hips, low back, shoulders, chest, neck and spinal muscles. Just as in strength training, you must gradually progress in each stretching session. Extending further, pulling harder into the stretch. Just don’t overdo it. Move into the range which creates some discomfort, then hold that position and breathe deeply, letting the tissues relax into the stretched position. Never push too hard into pain, rather progress a little further each time you stretch.  

There you have it, a simple guideline for constructing your workouts to include all the most important aspects for continuous progress in strength, conditioning, mobility and flexibility. Don’t wait for the Perfect workout to come along, rather, create your own perfect workout by paying attention to quality and embracing the Good. 

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