FOR the majority of people at the moment, training to look good is one of the key reasons to go to the gym. In fact, as I write this the sun is shining on an unusually warm and sunny day in Glasgow, meaning everyone is bringing out their summer clothes. You only need to turn on your TV and you are bombarded with the tight, toned bodies in shows like Love Island. So, you muster the courage and go to the gym. On one side is a sea of cardio machines, treadmills, bikes, rowers etc – on the other a whole host of weight machines. Here's the question: what do you choose for the best results?


For a lot of people the cardio, or CV, machines are less intimidating and what people feel most comfortable with so these are always a good starting point. Not only are they great for a warm-up, they are great for a workout too. Some CV machines can be better than others depending on your goals and if you are carrying any pre-existing injuries. For instance the treadmill is a fantastic piece of kit to walk or jog on, however for those with slightly dodgy knees, ankles or backs, running on a treadmill might not be best for them.

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Lower impact options like the cross-trainer, rower and air bikes might be a better fit and as they recruit more muscles and offer a little more bang for your buck.

Some questions are likely to come up when using CV machines, such as how long do I spend on the machines? How fast should I go? How much resistance should I use? This is mainly dependant on your current levels of fitness, your goals and how much time you have to complete them.

If you are going to the gym for general health and wellbeing, then starting off by doing longer-duration cardio work, generally done at a low intensity, will build a great aerobic base. This will help the heart and lungs get healthier and more efficient, meaning you feel less breathless in everyday life.

If however you are training specifically for fat loss it might be an idea to add in some higher-intensity cardiovascular work in the form of interval training. There are a number of options to choose from, however one of my favourites is the 30:30 format of work:recovery. The beauty of these intervals are that they can be done on any piece of CV equipment, with the rower and bikes being staples in our gym. Each 30 seconds work bout is performed at high intensity (think a 9/10 of perceived exertion) followed by 30 seconds of active rest at a low intensity, usually for 4-6 rounds. This would be immediately followed by a period of full rest before attempting a second block of intervals.

To know which type of CV work is right for you try the following fitness test. Perform 1,000m on the rower, if it takes you longer than six minutes, then I would work on building an aerobic base and focus on steady state work for a period of time, and if you can perform in under five minutes then chances are you ready to tackle some intervals. Always double check with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine to make sure it is right for you.

Weight training

Usually the weight training side of a gym is slightly more intimidating, especially if you are new to this environment. In most gyms this area is split into two sections; resistance machines and free weights. Depending on the facility your training will determine what you can access. The easiest way to get over any fears regarding training with weights is to book an induction or beginner's course. This way you get instructed on proper technique, meaning you will be safe to use the equipment.

Some of the key benefits of training with weights are increased muscle mass (don't worry, this won't mean you get bulky) leading to a faster metabolism and ultimately more fat loss in general. This, coupled with getting stronger and having denser bones means you will be more agile as you get older.

Breaking weight training down into four key movements will make it easy to incorporate into your routine.

Squatting: This is a functional movement involved in everyday life and in terms of the gym we can use simply a bodyweight squat as well as using barbells, dumbbells and kettlbells to perform squatting movements.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight on your heels, send your hips backwards as your drive your knees open and keep your chest up and proud. Continue downwards till your hips break your knee line before driving through your heels and standing back upright again.

Pushing: From push-ups to overhead presses to bench press there are a number of options to choose from. Anything overhead such as an overhead press is a vertical press and anything lying down such as a bench press or seated chest press is a horizontal press. Alternate between vertical and horizontal presses each time you come into the gym for maximum results.

Hinging: Primarily used to pick things up. The exercises for hinging include deadlifts and kettlebell swings and are fantastic for shaping up the backs of the legs and working the glutes (bum muscles). The deadlift is bit more of a technical move so be sure to get a trainer to double check your technique and avoid any rounding of your back.

Pulling: These exercises are primarily linked to good posture and decreased back and shoulder issues and they range from pull-ups, inverted rows, lat pulldowns and any bent-over row variation. For people looking for a v-shape to their physique, these exercises are key.

So what's the best to choose from when it comes to utilising your time at the gym? In my opinion, for fitness and for looking good, combining cardio and weight training is a great recipe for results.

Start your session with a 5-10-minute warm-up at a gentle pace before moving on to the weights section and selecting four exercises from each of the sections above and performing two-three sets at challenging weights. Then finish your session off with either the interval session or some steady state cardio.

Try this two to three times a week and you will start noticing results very quickly. If you’d like some help with any of the above topics then why not drop Everyday Athlete an email to get started with our fundamentals program.