Over many years of trial and error, our Builtlean team has developed workout guidelines to help you lose fat without losing muscle while developing a more functionally strong, fit body that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. We’ve spent thousands of hours training clients, conducting research, and experimenting with different exercise methods and techniques in order to create these very simple, but effective guidelines.
We have five primary guidelines that all our workouts have in common:
While a beginner exerciser can likely increase strength and performance with as little as one strength circuit workout per week, the research shows more training tends to create greater strength increases.1 The exercise authority ACSM recommends adults complete 20-60 minutes of rigorous exercise 3x per week, or 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5x per week.2 In line with ACSM standards, we recommend you complete 2, to 3 strength circuitsTM workouts engaging each muscle group 2 to 3 days each week.
Strength training is so important because you keep your muscle as you lose only fat, improves your functional strength in daily life, and helps you burn more fat.3
Whether you should do cardio before, or after weights, is a persistent question in fitness. Does doing cardio before weights help you get stronger and lose more fat? What we believe and what the prevalence of research shows is to do full body strength circuits™ before HIIT (high intensity interval training), or other cardio for reasons including (1) you have more energy and focus to lift weight, (2) less risk of injury due to fatigue, and (3) your muscles contract more effectively. For several other reasons, see our article Should You Lift Weight Before, or After Cardio. We recommend completing strength circuits™ before doing any HIIT or other cardio. You can also consider doing HIIT conditioning on a separate day if that works well with your schedule.
Exercise selection is debatably the most important variable in your exercise routine. If you choose the wrong exercises, they may be ineffective, or worse, cause injury. But if you choose the right exercises, you will be able to yield a great return on effort. You don’t need to do 20 exercises a workout to get solid results.
A focus on key exercises with a high return on effort is the foundation for each workout, and the foundation of an effective exercise routine. An example would be basic squat, lunge, push, pull and twisting movements with a sufficient amount of resistance. We recommend thinking about exercises in terms of movement patterns, not just muscle groups (more on this in guideline #5).
What does a “full body workout” actually mean? A full body workout means every muscle gets “used” during the workout. This does not necessarily mean you must to do a strength specific leg exercise every workout, but it does mean you have to at least use your legs (and every other muscle group) at some point during the workout.
For example, you may have a workout that emphasizes shoulder and back exercises, but you can finish off with kettlebell swings, which recruit your hips, glutes, legs, and your entire body, some jump squats, or even some sprints. For people sitting in a chair all day long, or generally sedentary (which is 95% of us), not using your legs, hips, and glutes in every workout is a huge disservice to your body!
Our bodies are designed to move. So when we think about exercise, and more specifically strength training, solely in terms of body parts like the arms, chest, and back, we are taking the wondrous complexity of our bodies and reducing it to a clunky piece of machinery.
When you throw a baseball, you are lunging, twisting, and pushing, which requires just about every muscle in your body to work in sync. So if you train only one muscle, does that help your body move better? I think not. The basic movement patterns we recommend you use at least once per week are (1) squat, (2) lunge, (3) push, (4) pull, (5) twist, (6) bend, and (7) combination exercises. You can emphasize certain muscle groups over others in a given workout, but the exercises you choose can be based on movement patterns.
Most of our workouts are 45 minutes or less and follow a framework like the one below. For some workouts, we may forego the HIIT conditioning depending on the intensity of the circuits:
Where is the stretching and foam rolling you may ask? In between exercises and strength circuits™, we recommend grabbing water or stretching. At the beginning of the workout, we do recommend “targeted” foam rolling by focusing on a few movements, but it depends on time. In a perfect world, foam rolling every day along with stretching is ideal.
We hope this helps make the challenge of creating an effective workout much easier for you.