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Get more out of your gym
Brinda Sapat
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March 26, 2007

Are you going to the gym but not getting the desired results? Is your trainer putting you on a programme that isn't suiting you?

To avoid such problems, you need to educate yourself about the right way to achieve your fitness goal. Your exercise programme will depend on whether you want to tone up or lose, maintain or gain weight. For this, you need to understand the different equipment categories and what they can do for you.

Equipment categories

Cardio equipment

Treadmill, cycle, stepper and elliptical are all examples of cardio equipment. You can use these to warm up for 10 minutes.

Usage: Use any one of these for weight loss -- four to five days a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes at a brisk, non-stop pace (can go up to 60 minutes). Even if you don't want to lose weight, it is important to do some cardio -- three days a week for 30 minutes -- for a stronger heart and lungs.

Machines and free weights

Done three to four days a week, machines and free weights are used for strength and endurance training, which helps build, tone and tighten the muscles.

Usage: To gain weight, work with heavy weights for few repetitions three times a week. This will help increase bone density and muscle mass. However, you also need to do some endurance training with lightweights and more repetitions. Do this once a week

To lose weight as well as tone up, do a combination of strength and endurance training. Work with heavy weights (few repetitions twice a week) and lightweights (many repetitions twice a week).

Flexibility training

This refers to stretching which helps to lengthen a muscle and increase range of movement around a joint. Flexibility training also improves posture and agility.

Usage: Stretch at the end of your workout when your muscles are nice and warm. Hold each stretch for about 20 seconds, gradually working into the stretch without bouncing. The stretching exercises must include the muscles you have worked on during the weight training session.

Never stretch a cold muscle (not warmed up by exercise) since you may run the risk of pulling, tearing or cramping it.

Body plateaus

After the initial weight loss or weight gain, you may not notice further changes. This stage refers to a body plateau.

As your body gets used to the level of exercise, you may not see any changes. To avoid this, you need to challenge your body by increasing the level of difficulty in the exercise (hint -- an exercise should never feel 'easy').

You can do this by increasing weight load or changing the exercise. For the cardio segment, increase the exercise duration or intensity (incline on a treadmill) or try new cardio equipment.

Time table

Weight loss

~ Four to five days cardio for 30 minutes minimum (can go up to 60 minutes).
~ Two days endurance training + two days strength training.
~ Follow up with flexibility training.

Weight gain

~ Three days cardio for 30 minutes.
~ Three days strength training + one day endurance training.
~ Follow up with flexibility training.


Exercise is only half the work done towards achieving your fitness goal. You must follow a food plan to ensure you get there. Refer to the nutrionist at the gym for good advice and steer clear of tablets and powders proclaiming instant weight loss.

Now that you know how to achieve your goal, make sure you explain your requirements to the trainer. Be open to suggestions by the trainer, but at the same time question him/ her on the category of exercise. For example, if he/ she suggests using the stability ball (no weights included), it will be a form of endurance training.

Trainers generally are well informed about the latest fitness trends. Ask your trainer for new exercises and equipment. This will keep your body challenged and prevent you from getting bored.

-- Brinda Sapat is the head of the Group Exercise Department at Gold's Gym, Napean Sea Road, Mumbai. Certified with Training Zone & Progressive Fitness (USA), she has been a fitness instructor for the last nine and a half years. 

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