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What’s the Best Type of Training for Me?

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Training can be a minefield. Am I focusing on the right type of fitness for my body type, experience and goals? Shall I just do what everyone else seems to be doing? Do I even enjoy my training right now? Do I need injury treatment for those niggling pains before I start? Finding a training focus and modality that fits your lifestyle, preferences, physicality and mindset towards exercise can take time, and can also change over time.


Broadly speaking, there are five core components to physical fitness:

- muscular strength

- muscular endurance

- cardiovascular fitness

- flexibility

- body composition


Within those components are countless types of training we’ve probably all seen and/or done at some point. So today we’ll take a look at just a few of the common training methods, what they are used for and consider if they are right for each of us as individuals.


WEIGHTLIFTING


What Is It?

Picking up and putting down heavy things.

How Is It Useful?


Weightlifting can be used for improving muscular endurance, definition, strength, power and hypertrophy (increase in muscle size/mass). Which of these best corresponds to your specific goals will determine exercise and weight selection, programme structure, and training frequency.


Is It For Me?

Weightlifting helps boost our metabolism, increase bone density and prevents injuries, making it a recommendation for anyone engaging in physical fitness. Children should take extra precaution when starting out in terms of training intensity, and everyone should be shown correct lifting technique by an exercise professional before beginning.


CALISTHENICS


What Is It?

Gymnastics-inspired strength training that uses solely bodyweight as resistance.


How Is It Useful?

Calisthenics covers all of the same components of physical fitness as weightlifting, with enhanced qualities of proprioception and kinaesthetic awareness. Unlike weightlifting however, calisthenics requires little to no equipment and cost to be an effective training modality. With bodyweight exercise, the world is your gym – you can train anywhere, anytime.


Is It For Me?

Calisthenics can be for exercise novices and elite athletes alike. Those after a creative training challenge and wanting to understand what their body is capable of ought to try it out. However, weightlifting (free weights and machines) may be more suitable for those with accessibility needs, overweight or elderly individuals due to the acute body positions and progressions in calisthenics.


CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE

What Is It?

Anything that keeps the heartrate up for prolonged periods (walking, running, cycling, swimming, sport, dancing, certain types of resistance and interval training etc…).


How Is It Useful?

This training method promotes positive cardiovascular fitness. This is another way of saying good heart health. Cardiovascular fitness is measured by the heart’s ability to efficiently pump blood around the body. This is essential for reducing risk of diseases, chronic fatigue and being able to maintain activity levels for extended periods of time. Cardiovascular endurance can also be useful for those with body composition goals if implemented appropriately.


Is It For Me?

Cardiovascular fitness in general should be an emphasis for everyone. Looking after our hearts is key to being a healthy human being with the potential for longevity. It can be a time-consuming way to train, but can easily be combined with other training modalities and activities so that it is relevant to your training goal/s and lifestyle. Endurance athletes in particular will adopt this modality for long-distance sports.


INTERVAL TRAINING

What Is It?

Periods of work and recovery at set, pre-determined intensities and durations.


How Is It Useful?

Intervals can be useful for maximising performance potential that can’t be met in endurance training by working at higher intensities in smaller units of time. Type 1 (slow-twitch) or Type 2 (fast-twitch) muscle fibres can be worked depending on the desired aerobic or anaerobic focus respectively. The exact focus and training adaptation made will depend on whether you follow aerobic, lactate or phosphocreatine interval protocols.


Is It For Me?

Interval training is good for those wanting cardiovascular fitness or power training in a time-efficient format. It should be practiced by athletes in sports that see bursts of intensity followed by long rest periods such as in volleyball, sprinting and powerlifting. It is not suggested for beginners in fitness or unconditioned individuals due to the intensity levels – steady state and controlled strength training are more suitable for these groups.


CROSSFIT

What Is It?

A branded fitness regimen that combines multiple training modalities: HIIT, gymnastics, Olympic lifting, plyometrics and more. Workouts are different every day to boast variety in this high intensity style of training.


How Is It Useful?

CrossFit covers all of the five components to physical fitness due to its diverse blend of other training styles. Resistance training is heavily incorporated for muscular benefit, while the high intensity structure of CrossFit workouts ticks off the cardiovascular side of things. Mobility and flexibility are encouraged due to volume of training and movement the regimen includes, while body composition will change via the amount and type of work done.


Is It For Me?

It depends. The CrossFit model has been challenged for overtraining participants with the volume and intensities that its community are encouraged to perform. Therefore, we would only advise those with a very experienced resistance and high intensity training background trial this method. Others should explore more traditional modalities that emphasise quality movement control over quantity of movement.


MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

What Is It?

Mobility is the range of movement we have around a joint or series of joints. Flexibility focuses on our muscles’ ability to lengthen beyond their normal range. Mobility is dynamic and movement-based, often performed pre-workout (as part of a warm-up) or in isolation; while flexibility is often static or with minimal controlled movement, performed post-workout (as part of a cool down), or in isolation following a warm-up.


How Is It Useful?

While obviously benefiting the flexibility component of physical fitness, mobility and flexibility training can also enhance the other components due to the increased potential of movement. Having a greater range of motion around our joints will help increase muscular performance and growth, and allow us to be more efficient in activity such as running. Injury prevention and recovery are also promoted by ensuring we are ready to move through range with added resistance, and returning our muscles to their normal length (and pulling them beyond) post-exercise to prevent stiffness.


Is It For Me?

Short answer: yes. These shouldn’t be avoided components to fitness. While they are not as adrenaline-pumping as throwing weight around and playing sport, they can make us more effective when we do those very things. Having said this, hypermobility and overlengthened muscles can backfire on our desired goals, so ensure you build awareness and understanding of your own body, what areas to focus on, and maintaining balance.


FUNCTIONAL AND SPORT-SPECIFIC TRAINING

What Is It?

Training is functional when its outcomes (e.g. strength gains) can be transferred to another task (such as on a court/field), while sport-specific training is directly related to movements and conditions related to the desired task (banded lateral slides for a basketball player to practice their defensive movement, for example).


How Is It Useful?

Functional training is useful for anyone looking to use what they do inside the gym, outside the gym. It is all about utilising strength and skill from one environment, and transferring it to another - whether that is a sport setting or daily activities like work or household chores. Sport-specific training meanwhile, will only be relevant to athletes in their latter stages of periodised training blocks as in-season approaches, after a foundational base of functional strength has been established.


Is It For Me?

All training should be functional really. Regardless of what training methods you adopt, exercise ought to have a transferable use and purpose beyond the workout itself. Whether it’s getting stronger to be able to pick up your kids, run faster or avoid injury, everyone can engage in functional training. As its name implies, sport-specific training is only designed for those already engaged in a specific sport.


We haven’t even covered all types of training here today (not even close…), and as we’ve seen, there are a lot of crossovers with the training methods discussed too. There are benefits to all methods, and potential drawbacks and/or limitations. Ultimately, the best types of training for you are probably the ones you are most likely to stick with.

It is important to have an active understanding of your body type, exercise preferences, experience, and motivations. This will enable you to make informed decisions on which modalities to adopt. This journey of understanding these things may not be a short one. Trial and error, giving yourself feedback and seeking it from others, and working with registered health and fitness professionals will aid in navigating the training minefield over time. Look after your body and treat it to a regular sports massage. We also provide injury and postural assessments, corrective movement training and aftercare plans. Once you’ve discovered what works and complements you as an individual though, you will thrive physically, mentally and socially, and reach your potential with your training.


Bharat Samra

MSE Sports and Remedial Massage Content Creator

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