What’s the ‘Best’ Ex­er­cise Pro­gram?

Which­ever one you are will­ing to do!

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY TONY DICOSTA

As a fit­ness pro­fes­sional I am of­ten asked, “What’s the best ex­er­cise pro­gram?” It is not un­com­mon for me to an­swer, “The one you will do!” This is be­cause the most care­fully crafted, sci­en­tif­i­cally sound, en­dorsed-by-ex­perts, whiz-bang-won­der­ful pro­gram is as use­less as last Christ­mas ’s tread­mill gath­er­ing dust in a cor­ner if it is not fol­lowed. And not just fol­lowed for a day or a week or a month, but sus­tained. This col­umn looks at what it takes to for­mu­late a sus­tain­able fit­ness pro­gram. First, let’s re­cap from pre­vi­ous col­umns the three el­e­ments of fit­ness that need to be in­cluded in ev­ery­one’s plan.

• Car­dio­vas­cu­lar ca­pac­ity: Keep­ing your heart healthy and your body able to meet daily chal­lenges.

• Strength: Main­tain­ing mus­cle tone, mus­cu­lar en­durance and com­bat­ing mus­cle wast­ing.

• Flex­i­bil­ity: Re­tain­ing full range of mo­tion in each joint. Highly pro­tec­tive.

Keep in mind we are talk­ing about fit­ness and ex­er­cise. Your to­tal health in­cludes so much more: diet, rest, med­i­cal care, bal­ance, weight man­age­ment, etc. That said, what might a rep­re­sen­ta­tive fit­ness pro­gram in­clude, and how would it be struc­tured? Note that I said rep­re­sen­ta­tive. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all fit­ness reg­i­men. When de­sign­ing pro­grams for my clients, un­less they have very spe­cific needs or phys­i­cal “is­sues,” I will fre­quently struc­ture a gym-based pro­gram that looks some­thing like the three-seg­ment pro­gram pre­sented here.

It is im­por­tant to note that the fol­low­ing pro­gram em­pha­sizes two of the three fit­ness el­e­ments (strength and flex­i­bil­ity) and is meant to be per­formed three times per week. If you work at a rapid pace you will re­ceive a de­gree of “car­dio” fit­ness from the strength seg­ment, but in most cases, to meet min­i­mal car­diopul­monary health re­quire­ments you should bud­get two days of at least 30 min­utes of vig­or­ous aer­o­bic ac­tiv­ity. That could be fast walk­ing in your neigh­bor­hood, time on car­dio equip­ment at the gym, swim­ming, bik­ing, etc.


Warm up body core tem­per­a­ture, legs and the mid­sec­tion core mus­cles (both front and back). Note that this is a warm-up—you are not ac­tu­ally train­ing the mus­cles in­volved, just pre­par­ing them for the work to come.

1 10-12 min­utes on car­dio equip­ment of your choice (el­lip­ti­cal, bike, tread­mill, etc.). Work hard enough to break a sweat. 2 One quick set of 30 rep­e­ti­tions on an ab­dom­i­nal ma­chine that pro­vides weighted re­sis­tance. 3 One rel­a­tively light set of 30 weighted rep­e­ti­tions on a ma­chine de­signed to work the lower back. To­tal time: about 15 min­utes.


Never stretch a cold mus­cle. That is one of the r ea­sons why the warm-up seg­ment comes first. Be­cause you will be do­ing two dif­fer­ent strength work­outs (an up­per-body day and a lower­body day), you will not need to stretch each mus­cle group each of the three days you per­form this pro­gram. On the days you work up­per body in the gym, just do the up­per-body stretches. On leg day, just do the lower-body stretches. Easy, right?

1 Up­per-body day: Stretch del­toids (an­te­rior, me­dial and pos­te­rior shoul­der mus­cles), pec­torals (chest), lum­bar back (spinal erec­tors), latis­simus dorsi (back mus­cles), trapez­ius (neck mus­cles), ro­ta­tor cuffs, bi­ceps and tri­ceps.

2 Lower-body day: Stretch ham­strings, quadri­ceps, hip flex­ors, lum­bar back (stretch the lower back be­fore ev­ery work­out) and calf mus­cles.

You can find a stretch for each of these mus­cles on the In­ter­net (ex­am­ple: Google “latis­simus dorsi stretch”), or ask a gym pro­fes­sional for guid­ance. Hold each po­si­tion one time for a min­i­mum of 30 sec­onds. To­tal time: about 10 min­utes.


As pre­vi­ously men­tioned, you will al­ter­nate work­ing up­per-body mus­cles in the gym on one day and lower-body mus­cles on an­other. This means that one week you will hit legs twice, up­per body once. The fol­low­ing week it will be the other way around. In our next is­sue I will ex­plain how to struc­ture the strength seg­ment (which should take about 45 min­utes). From warm-up to final gym set, you will spend about 70 min­utes to­tal.

Tony DiCosta is a Cer­ti­fied Per­sonal Trainer (CPT) and fit­ness writer. As a com­pet­i­tive physique ath­lete in the Masters Di­vi­sions, Tony has been the Over-60 Florida state cham­pion and holds nu­mer­ous re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ti­tles.


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