This week’s article answers the question ‘what exercise programme should I choose?’. There are hundreds of options available when it comes to choosing how you approach your health and fitness goals. We will give you a rundown of the most common types of exercise programmes, the pros and cons to each and our verdict as to who should consider them.
What exercise programme should I choose?
It might be an odd question to think about, but it is quite an important one. There are many factors that might influence which exercise programme you follow:
- Experience: Are you completely new to exercise and have never stepped foot in a gym before? Or are you a seasoned gym member who’s seen and done it all?
- Goals: What are you training for? Are you doing it for enjoyment or to achieve a set goal? Are you just looking to improve your general wellbeing, or do you have a body goal in mind?
- Availability: Do you have a limited time available each week to work out or can you train whenever you like?
- Finances: Do you have a budget for your programme or are you after free advice?
- Personal preference: You might have a preferred way to work out, be it alone or in a group?
Below, we give you a breakdown of the most popular methods that people choose when deciding on an exercise routine. We will break it down into three sections: DIY, class-based fitness, and coaching fitness. We will give you a summary of each: the good, the bad and our verdict on who would suit each approach.
DIY / Self-learning
With the growth of the internet, we have at our fingertips the answers to all the questions we may have. Platforms such as Google, YouTube and social media have given a voice to anyone and everyone to share their content worldwide. In the fitness industry, this has led to the rise of the ‘influencer’ and ‘fitness celebrity. These individuals share information, usually for free, covering every topic you can imagine.
Most of the information you can get online is free. Some may charge a small fee to purchase the information in the form of a PDF document, but once you have made the purchase, the information is yours to keep. Log into YouTube and type in ’20-minute fat loss workout’ and you will find hundreds of free videos to which you can train along. Open Google and search for ‘weight loss diet’, and you will also find hundreds of pages with different diets people have used, reviewed, and posted for free.
Ease of access
You can access this information whenever you wish. You may be stuck in a traffic jam on the way home from work or waiting for your dinner to cook; unlock your phone, and you have instant access to the information.
Progress at your own pace
Maybe you are learning about nutrition or a specific training methodology? You can bookmark your favourite pages or add videos to a watch list so you can pick them up as you see fit. Unlike a 10-week programme that you must follow to the schedule, DIY means you can use it as you see fit.
Freedom and flexibility
You have the flexibility to learn and change the programme you choose at will. Let’s say you are three weeks into a particular diet or training plan, and you’re not enjoying it, you can simply search for, find and implement an alternative.
Quality of information
You will be able to find a lot of great information for free from highly experienced and educated professionals in their fields. But, you will also find those with a lack of knowledge and education sharing their opinions and stating them as fact. One issue with the freedom of the internet is that it provides a voice to everyone, and the quality and validity of the information posted is rarely monitored or checked. You must pick your resources carefully.
In the same way that there is a quality issue, there is a quantity issue. For every method you can think of, you will find ten supporting pages and ten conflicting ones. Let’s take diet as an example. If you type into Google ‘what is the best diet for fat loss, you’ll get results about keto, carb cycling, Atkins and intermittent fasting. They are all different, yet each claims to be superior. All claim to be backed by studies and all claim the others to be bogus. Who is right? It can be challenging to decipher the information and choose what is right for you.
No support or feedback
If you use a particular programme that you find online, all you can do is replicate and follow the instructions to the best of your abilities. You will not receive any form of advice, feedback or support. There is room for misinterpretation and you cannot get your questions answered. There is the possibility that you will misunderstand and execute the advice wrongly. You might perform an exercise incorrectly and risk injury, or follow a diet inaccurately and not get the results promised.
You may start one training and diet plan and begin to see results. Once the results slow down, rather than sticking the course, you might be tempted to switch to a different method. Maybe you are already on a plan and see an advert for the latest programme that’s guaranteed to give you the results you want. So, you switch to that one only to find yourself falling for the same marketing ploy a few weeks down the line.
If you have experience in the world of health and fitness, you can use online resources easily. You will have a solid understanding of what is right and what is bad advice and be able to implement it. The less experience you have, the less we suggest you rely on free resources. Using the internet for advice is beneficial because it’s free. However, if you lack knowledge in the area, it can be difficult to spot good advice from bad. As a beginner, you would benefit from hiring a professional to coach you in person, show you how and answer your questions.
Exercise classes are a common option for those looking to get fit and healthy. There is a multitude of options when it comes to exercise classes. We break it down to three of the most popular and give you our opinions.
ETM – exercise to music
ETM classes were the original class format. Each class is structured around a backing track that helps to control the speed and tempo of the workout. These classes started back in the 70s, in village halls across the world taught by aerobics instructors using basic movements. Nowadays, most gyms will hold a class timetable boasting a variety of themed classes.
As mentioned, there are hundreds of different types of classes, ranging not only in theme but also in intensity and duration. Whatever type of exercise you prefer, you can find a class that teaches it!
Because classes are so popular, you’d be hard-pressed to find a gym or local facility that does not offer some form of a class timetable.
Going to a class routinely is a great way to socialise and increase your friendship circle. It’s common to find ‘regulars’ that attend their specific class, every week without fail.
Turn up and go!
Unlike an exercise programme, you don’t need to remember what each exercise is and learn perfect form – your class is led by an instructor who talks through and demonstrates the exercises during the class. In some class structures, the instructor will also go around the class, helping individuals with their technique.
Fun to do
For most regulars, the reason they return again and again is that classes can be fun. Not everyone wants to be in the gym on their own doing weights and cardio. Attending a variety of classes across the week can make exercise more enjoyable for some.
Set days and times
If you have a changing daily or weekly schedule, it can make it difficult to attend classes regularly. Maybe there is a class you want to attend, but because of your work or home life schedule, you can’t make it.
Availability in the class
Most classes will have a limit on attendee numbers. Once that is reached, the class is full, and you won’t be able to take part. Classes held at gyms become booked up very quickly, so you have to be quick off the mark and book early to guarantee yourself space.
Routines can be difficult to learn
Certain classes may have a dance element to them. You may find the choreography of the class difficult to learn. There may be some movements where you lack the mobility or stability to perform them straight away, and it will take time and practice to master them.
Most ETM classes will have a set routine. That routine is likely to change only every 8-12 weeks. You may find the routine becomes tedious, especially if you repeat the workout more than once per week.
Lack of progress
Classes are designed to cater for all the participants and must allow for a wide range of capabilities. As such, you’ll find the challenge is about the same in every class. The choice of exercises will not vary much over the weeks; it will be difficult to progress. Classes can become simply ‘keep fit’ rather than providing an opportunity to be the best you can be.
Lack of personal instruction
Although in some classes the instructor may walk around and assist the members, this is not typical. In most classes, the instructor stays at the front and delivers the class in a ‘watch and copy’ style whilst providing verbal cues. Although you may be able to watch and copy, you might not receive any personalised advice and possibly not connect with the verbal cues.
Members can become ‘cliquey’
Having worked in commercial gyms for over a decade, one thing I noticed from the class goers is that they form little cliques. They all book the class for one another and getting ready for the class they huddle and laugh together. You may find this rather off-putting or intimidating.
ETM classes can offer a wide variety of different themes, intensities and workout durations. If your schedule allows, you could pick multiple classes throughout the week to tick different requirements. Many people find classes a fun and sociable way to get their exercise, without the intimidation of the gym floor or being left to fend for themselves. If you want to give classes a go, make sure to book your slot early. We also suggest you introduce yourself to the instructor and explain it’s your first time – they will partner you up or put you with a group of more experienced users to help you out.
Most boot camps are outdoor-based classes with hardcore or even a military theme. Because they are outdoor-based, the equipment is limited to either bodyweight or what few pieces can be brought to the venue. Most boot camps will usually be smaller in number than an ETM class, but that is not a requirement. As most are held outdoors, you are at the mercy of the elements, whether it’s wind, rain or shine. Most sessions are not planned for music, so the class itself is usually circuit-based.
The challenge and character building
You might enjoy boot camps more than ETM if you like them to be more challenging. Especially with the outdoor element, it can help build that mental fortitude and resilience which is needed to keep on track to achieve your goals.
Variety of class
It’s common for boot camp classes to change class content session by session. Although the exercise equipment may be limited, the exercise selection and application is only limited by the experience of the instructor.
Smaller groups mean more attention
With the groups being fewer in number, the instructor will act more like a coach and be proactive in not only giving technical advice but also motivating you when the session starts to get hard.
You may not like the idea of training outside, especially in the winter months when it is cold and raining. There is an increased risk of injury and illness when training in extreme conditions.
Being outdoors and usually with limited equipment, they tend to be great for general fitness. And because they are hard, they will fire up your metabolism and help you with fat loss. If, however, your goal is muscle gain, you may find boot camps limited in their ability to get you to that goal.
Because the classes are usually smaller in number, once a group of individuals gets settled in, it’s unlikely they will leave. In these circumstances, if a boot camp has a regular following, there may not be the availability to join in. In some cases, when the weather is bad, the classes might get called off. That means during the winter months, you are likely to miss several sessions if they are unable to secure an indoor facility.
If you like the outdoor, military feel of circuit training with minimal equipment, boot camps might be an excellent option for you. With a regular variety of workouts and an instructor who is likely to be more involved with your abilities and efforts, boot camps can be a fun and challenging way to not only get fitter but also become mentally stronger.
CrossFit is a programme that trains the public like athletes. The programme itself covers all areas of fitness from strength to cardio to mobility. As a participant at a WOD BOX (their term for a gym), you will perform the WOD – workout of the day. Although there is a programming element to some extent, the WOD will usually start with a structured work set followed by either a challenge, a finisher or a fitness test.
As mentioned above, there is a lot of session variety. You might turn up to class on Monday and do a strength-based class, but Wednesday could be an endurance or intervals programme.
Cover all goals
Unlike most ETM classes where your choice is either cardio, endurance or strength, CrossFit covers all areas of fitness to make you a complete individual from a fitness standpoint.
Most sessions will have a competitive element that most find enjoyable. Friendly competition with your classmates can help you push yourself harder and get better results from the workout.
Treating the public like athletes
A lot of the programming in CrossFit revolves around Olympic weightlifting and gymnastic movements. Not only are these movements very technical, but they are also challenging to perform. Because of this, there is a trend of high injury occurrence in participants of CrossFit.
Most sessions end up as a test
Testing your fitness is a fun and informative thing to do. However, you should not test your maximum capabilities too often. In CrossFit, at least once a week, there is a test or a finisher to beat. The end of the session is designed to push you to your limits. As above, this also contributes to the high injury risk from CrossFit.
Most CrossFit gyms have an expensive membership. As a member, you will sign up to several classes each week regardless of whether you wish to, or are able to attend them. It is common for memberships to be in the £70+ range.
Good for fitness, bad for health
If you are training for general health and wellbeing, CrossFit might be a step too far for you. With a high risk of injury and a focus on high physical stress, CrossFit is not designed for everyone.
Quality of instruction
I would like to state that what I’m about to point out is not true for every CrossFit gym. There are some very well-run gyms by highly qualified and experienced professionals. It is also worth noting that those facilities, even deviate slightly from the standard CrossFit plan. In most CrossFit gyms, the members can pay to take an instructor’s qualification. With minimal experience, you can pay to conduct a weekend coaching course with an exam to pass. Considering the high skill nature of a lot of the movements used in CrossFit, it should have a more challenging and comprehensive qualification process for its coaching staff.
CrossFit is like marmite; you either love it or hate it. There are a lot of people in the coaching profession who find issues with how CrossFit is programmed and instructed. That said, there also some very well run CrossFit gyms in the country. You should visit your local CrossFit gym and trial their services to see if you are happy with the level of instruction they deliver.
Hiring a coach is going to be the best option in terms of the results you could achieve. There are different levels that you can choose from:
Small group PT (SGPT)
SGPT is the middle ground between a private class and personal training. You will participate with a small group of people being taken through a workout with an instructor. Some of the session content will be tailored to each individual. You will also receive some personalised information, such as a lifestyle analysis and nutritional planning to help you achieve your goals. There is a fee for SGPT, which is usually more than a standard workout class, but less than 1-1 personal training.
As mentioned above, SGPT is a more affordable version of 1-1 training. You will not receive the same level of instruction and guidance as 1-1, but you will still receive enough to help you achieve your goals.
Small group training
You might prefer working out in a small group rather than on your own. Some people perform better in a group environment compared to training alone.
There will be an element of education to SGPT. It might be in the form of regular literature from the coach, or documents handed out at the start of the programme.
Training in SGPT not only means you have a coach to support and motivate you; there are also other members of the group. You will also receive some 1-1 time each session with the coach.
Although you may receive some documents throughout the programme, SGPT information will be more limited than 1-1 programming. When you are a member of a group, the coach has to divide their time equally between all members.
Limited 1-1 time
Although you will receive 1-1 time with the coach, it will be limited. As a coach, you have to try and give each member of the group the same amount of attention where possible.
SGPT is the happy middle ground between the cost of 1-1 programming and the enjoyment from classes and boot camps. You will receive a more in-depth fitness package from SGPT than you would a class or boot camp. If you were not able to financially commit to 1-1 programming, SGPT is an option available to you. Here is some information about our Small Group Personal Training programme.
Online coaching can give you a lot of the education, content and support that 1-1 programming can, minus the face to face contact and cost. One benefit of this is that you can be coached by someone on the other side of the world. Online coaching is usually done through a mix of email and video calls, as well as texts and phone calls. Some online coaches charge similar to 1-1 training prices if the demand is high enough, due to their level of knowledge and experience.
Cheaper than 1-1
What you will receive from an excellent online coach is the same level of nutrition, training, and lifestyle advice. You will also have regular check-ins and, where needed, daily contact with your coach. The main difference is that you will not receive 1-1 training with them. Because of this, most online packages are cheaper than 1-1 programmes.
Can be trained by anyone
With online training, you can choose a coach from anywhere in the world. Online training increases your marketplace to find a coach that suits your needs. You will also have access to famous or sought-after professionals that do not live locally or even in the same country as you.
Risk of cookie-cutter programming
The is always a risk with online coaching that they are providing a copy and paste approach to their business. Online coaches can create excel software that they populate with a few simple details, and it generates a basic programme that might be given to multiple clients, and you would never know.
No in-person evaluation or support
Photos and measurements are great, but sometimes it’s important to see and work with a client in the flesh. When a coach can see a client with their own eyes and watch them train, you can notice a lot more that you might miss from a photo.
Delays in communications
Some coaches may have a full diary of clients which means there may be delays in communications. A good coach will have a set schedule for you to check in and for them to respond. If an online coach has too many clients, you might become less of a priority to them and find yourself waiting for feedback or adjustments.
Online coaching is a more financially available option for most when looking for professional guidance and support. It’s crucial you find a coach that has the experience, knowledge and, most importantly, good feedback from clients. We also offer online training if you wish to take advantage of our expertise but cannot attend the studio.
1-1 personal training is the top end of the fitness service. You will work with a trainer who will not only put you through your training sessions but will also help create your training, nutrition and lifestyle required to achieve your goals. You will receive regular sessions not only for training but also for measurements and evaluation. With any 1-1 programme, your coach is there to support you and make any adjustments required for your plan.
Everything about your programme will be tailored to your requirements. Your food, lifestyle habits, your training sessions and support are all design around your current state and getting you to your end goal. No matter what your desired goal is, you will have everything based on achieving that goal.
Education and support
When you work with a coach in person, not only do you get the support in the sessions, but you also get it away from the gym as well. You will build a relationship with that coach, and they will help keep you accountable for your goals.
Pay for results
Although 1-1 programming is the most expensive option, it’s the one most guaranteed to get you results. Not only will the programme get you the results you desire, but it should also gear you up for post-programme, so you can continue your new habits and lifestyle
If you consider finding a good coach, the main con to 1-1 programming will be the cost. Some packages can sit between £200-500 per month, depending on your commitment levels and sessions delivered per week. There is a lot of work that goes into a 1-1 programme that most service users don’t always understand at first – it’s more than just the actual 1-1 time you spend with the coach. Each session may be one hour, but there is also all the analysis and design required to create all elements of the programme.
For some, this might also be the only issue. Getting sessions regularly booked in if you or your coach has a varying timetable can become difficult. Here at Life Force Fitness, we aim to have a set day and time for each client’s sessions, like a regular appointment. Some coaches may work week to week depending on their diary.
Of all the options, 1-1 programming is always going to be the best option. Having a dedicated professional who calculates and implements all changes required for you to achieve your goal is like having a doctor who performs regular check-ins on you to make sure you’re in top condition. The only drawback to 1-1 programming is the cost. If you are interested in personal training, our website details what’s included in our programmes to guarantee you results.
When it comes to exercise, there are hundreds of routes you can take. We have summarised just some of the most popular options available. What we have given you is only our opinion based on experience and knowledge, but by all means, try whichever programme you feel suits you personally.