Fitness column: Head to the gym with a purpose

Have you ever noticed the people at the gym that jump from machine to machine without a plan? I see it all the time, and that’s a mistake.

Have you ever noticed the people at the gym that jump from machine to machine without a plan? I see it all the time, and that's a mistake.

I'm not saying you have to have every second of your program mapped out, but you should have a general exercise focus. It's important to know what your goals are and why you're working out.

Are you trying to lose weight? Tone up? Build mass? Achieve sport-specific perfection? These all require a specific approach with different exercises, sets, reps and weight.

If you're heading to the fitness center for weight loss, you need a balanced approach, including cardiovascular and resistance training. A great way to incorporate both is resistance circuit training – like a boot camp-style workout. Building lean muscle and burning calories is a great way to keep your metabolism high and the weight melting off.

For a lean, toned look, weight training needs to focus on low weights and high repetitions. This approach will help develop long, athletic muscles. Hit each muscle group with three or four sets at 12 to 15 repetitions for best results.


If increased muscle size is your goal, you should use the opposite approach – high weight, low reps. Use the highest weight you can and work in the 6-to-8-repetition range. When you hit the last rep, you shouldn't be able to lift another, and lift with enough weight that you experience complete muscle fatigue on the last rep.

Sport-specific exercises vary from sport to sport. For example, if you're a football offensive lineman, you should work on lower-body strength – high-weight squats and lunges would be a perfect exercise.

But if you're soccer player, you need to build a high-level aerobic capacity for bursts of speed – a series of sprints works well for this purpose. And if you're working on your volleyball game, you need to build lower body, fast-twitch muscles – box jumps and jump squats would fit nicely in your routine.

Whatever you're goal, you need to watch your diet. For weight loss, keep a close eye on caloric intake and cut back on saturated fat. If you're trying to build mass, you'll probably want to increase calories with an emphasis on lean protein.


If you're ready for summer – and really, who isn't – try this awesome fruit salad for this week's easy, fit recipe. Start by combining one can each of drained, unsweetened pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges and whole berry cranberry sauce. Next, mix in a low-fat whipped topping and a quarter teaspoon of grated orange peel. Refrigerate for two hours to chill and solidify the salad. Finally, top with crushed pecans and enjoy on the patio for a warm summer afternoon treat.

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