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Ask The Celebrity Trainer: What's The Ideal Workout Schedule?

When To Exercise

Posted: 02/18/2012 6:53 am

By Joe Dowdell, CSCS, CPT for Shape.com

Q: What's the ideal workout schedule for burning fat and building lean muscle?

A: Just as there is no magic pill for fat loss, there's not one magic workout schedule that will make you burn fat and build lean muscle. The most important thing, as far as training goes, is to pick a time that best suits your schedule and energy level. Consider all of your commitments, including work, school, family obligations, etc., and then open your calendar and write in your training sessions as if they were important business meetings. The more you can adhere to a regular training schedule, the less likely you are to miss your workout, which will ultimately bring you closer to your goal(s) faster.

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Ideally, you should perform three total-body strength-training sessions per week, on non-consecutive days. (i.e., Mon., Wed., Fri.). If you like to do cardio as well, I would recommend that you either follow your strength sessions with some interval training or perform cardio on the days between strength-training sessions.

Below, you will find a variety of ways to set up your training schedule, depending on your situation, time commitment, goals, etc.

Workout Schedule 1: Three days per week with all morning workouts or all evening workouts
Monday: Strength*
Tuesday: OFF
Wednesday: Strength
Thursday: OFF
Friday: Strength
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: OFF

*Strength sessions should be less than an hour, including warm up and cool down. In addition to your strength training, if you like to do traditional cardio, then warm up; perform 30-40 minutes of strength training and finish up with some cardio. Depending on your fitness level and your goal(s), the cardio could be steady state or intervals.

Workout Schedule 2: Three days per week with morning and evening workouts
Monday: Strength (a.m.) and cardio (p.m.)
Tuesday: OFF
Wednesday: Strength (a.m.) and cardio (p.m.)
Thursday: OFF
Friday: Strength (a.m.) and cardio (p.m.)
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: OFF

Note: You can swap the order of your strength and cardio workouts if you prefer.

Workout Schedule 3: Five days per week with all morning workouts or all evening workouts
Monday: Strength
Tuesday: Cardio
Wednesday: Strength
Thursday: Cardio
Friday: Strength
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: OFF

Workout Schedule 4: Six days per week with all morning workouts or all evening workouts
Monday: Strength
Tuesday: Cardio
Wednesday: Strength
Thursday: Cardio
Friday: Strength
Saturday: Cardio*
Sunday: OFF

*If performing intervals on Tuesday and Thursday, I would recommend a low- or moderate-intensity steady-state session as an active recovery.

Workout Schedule 5: Six days per week with morning and evening workouts
Monday: Strength (p.m.)
Tuesday: Cardio (a.m.)
Wednesday: Strength (p.m.)
Thursday: Cardio (a.m.)
Friday: Strength (p.m.)
Saturday: Cardio (a.m.)
Sunday: OFF

Note: You can swap the time of your strength and cardio workouts if you prefer.

For those individuals who like kickboxing, boxing, spinning, etc., feel free to plug in any of those activities where you see the term "cardio."

Personal trainer and strength coach Joe Dowdell has helped transform a clientele that includes stars of television and film, musicians, pro athletes, CEOs and top fashion models.

Flickr photo by Noel Feans

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