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Workout 101

The Gold’s Gym team gives us the lowdown on exercise essentials

Photo: Dreamstime

What are the most common exercise machines you’ll find in a gym and what are these designed to do or simulate?
In any gym you should be able to find some basic cardio equipment – usually treadmills, bicycles and cross trainers. These cardio machines are designed to simulate natural movement (such as walking, running, cycling, etc.) and through that help develop more efficient cardiovascular endurance. These movements engage the whole body as a unit and help develop fitness. You should also look out for some basic resistance machines such as the lat pulldown, chest press, leg extension and leg curl. These machines are designed to target big muscle groups and tone them. They create strength and power in muscles. Most of the time these three to four bits of equipment are combined into one ‘multi-station’ machine.

In terms of weight training, what are the options, and are these only suitable for those looking to build muscles and body mass?
Weight training or resistance training is indeed the best option to build muscle mass because the body will respond to this type of resistance by creating increased testosterone, which helps muscle fibre enlargement and therefore growth.

If you’re trying to lose weight, is it more effective to increase the number of reps or the weight you’re lifting – what’s the right balance?
It is a myth that a light weight and high rep combination will help lose weight. Losing weight happens when your heart rate reaches the ‘fat burning’ level (on average, 60-70 percent of the maximum heart rate) and when you engage in resistance exercises, such as weightlifting. As mentioned earlier, the process of weight training makes the body create more testosterone. This hormone not only helps in muscle growth, but also assists in burning fat. When it comes to the number of sets for each exercise, the recommendation is three, with 12-15 reps. However, the rest period of 30-45 seconds between reps is massively important, too. It goes without saying that balanced nutrition with the right type of food plays a major role in any weight reduction.

For gym-goers simply looking to improve fitness, what kind of workouts would you recommend and how often?
When ‘fitness’ is mentioned, most of us think of endurance and stamina. Attending the gym three times a week, doing interval training (timed intervals of load and unload) in a combination of weight resistance and cardiovascular exercises, would be the best approach.

What about for weight loss? Why, according to the instructions on many fitness machines, is the weight loss heart rate ‘zone’ relatively low?
Due to physiological processes in the body, fat as an energy source gets ‘burned’ largely only after 12-15 minutes of physical activity (this goes up to 30-35 minutes). To be able to continuously ‘work’ this long, our heart rate needs to be at a relatively low level.

How important are warm-ups and cool-downs?
A warm-up is important to prepare the body for physical and functional work that is higher and longer than, and in some way different to, your everyday physical exertion. A cool-down is equally important and we usually do ‘muscle stretch’ types of exercise in order to relax our muscles after a strenuous workout. This helps to get better blood circulation in the muscles that have been working during the training. Better blood circulation means better chemical transmission and quicker recovery.

Any other tips or advice, and how would you suggest people keep themselves motivated?
The best motivation is to write down your goals. Create them to be specific and realistic. Break them down into small steps and take one step at a time. Fitness and healthy living are a lifestyle, not a short-term goal.