Off to work out? Cool, what are you gonna do? Some HIIT? Did you hit enough NEPA today? Say what? Are you a little lost with this terminology? If so, here’s what you need to know.

1Strength Training

You need to do this! Strength training is going to get you closer to your goals than anything else. Period. You need to pick weight up and you need to put it back down. This is best done by squatting, deadlifting, rows, presses and all other compound multi-joint movements. Spinning will not get you there, aerobics classes will not get you there. Commit to strength training at least once a week, for the rest of your life. If you are in a class where you do these movements e.g. bodypump or circuits, don’t compromise quality for quantity. 100 reps done badly is a waste of time and can lead to injury. Of course the preference is that you do your strength training in an environment where you can take sufficient rest between sets, not the number of reps, good or bad, it takes until the next track. A study by Simon and Schuster in 1991 showed that strength and muscle mass were the most important biomarkers of health and longevity, over and above blood pressure, aerobic capacity, and bodyfat percentage, to name but a few. It’s God when it comes to how fit and healthy you are now and in the future. Get squatting!

2High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is short and intense, you need to do it in short intervals with sufficient recovery in between to be able to complete the session. Sprints can be anything from 10-60 seconds with double-triple the time to recover.  It elevates the metabolism significantly more than other forms of cardio. A 1994 study by Tremblay compared 20 weeks of endurance training against 15 weeks of interval training. The energy expended by the endurance training group was 28,661 calories, and the energy expended by the interval training group was 13,614 calories (less than half). This is the bit where we tell you to ignore the calories the cardio machine tells you, you are burning. The interval training group showed a nine times greater loss in subcutaneous fat than the endurance group, despite more energy expenditure whilst actually exercising.  So switch your focus to the intensity of your sprints rather than the calories on the clock, they mean little in the end.  High intensity aerobic interval training such as 200m-400m repeats are great for you runners out there.

3Steady State Aerobic Training

Popularised in the 70s and 80s as the God of fat-burning, aerobic exercise  (20-60 minutes) is fantastic for your heart but it sits after strength training and HIIT in your optimal fitness attainment. Incidentally, in case you still believe cardio is what you should be doing to burn fat, save yourself a little time and focus on strength training and HIIT first, double the results, in half the time. The difficult thing with aerobic training is that the endorphin release post-workout really makes you feel good, it’s almost like it wires you to feel it’s the best thing to do. Treat your aerobic training like a recovery session, or as an extra, less intense session than your strength and HIIT sessions.

4Non exercise physical activity (NEPA)

This is just how much you move around each day. If you are sat behind a desk all day, get up and move around as much as you can. Whilst it’s not technically a ‘workout’ as it happens intermittently throughout the day, the more you do the better off you will be. So, take the stairs, get up and walk around as a mental and physical break from your computer, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of your commute and so on. Whilst there is a physical element to this, it is also the mental element that you will reap the rewards from.

5Skills

This is the part where you get to practice the stuff that you might suck at a little, or a lot. Can’t do a push up? Practice some top plank holds first, followed by some negative lowers from that top plank position all the way to the ground, keeping your body in a straight line. Can’t do a pull up? Get yourself a resistance band to act as a support as you slowly gain the strength to do your first pull up. Of course I have simplified this here, but skills time is the part where you get to work on the stuff that challenges you. It’s not enough to assume you can’t do something without putting in the effort to at least give it a go. Skills training is most effective done twice a week, and can be done at the start or the end of one of your sessions depending on how challenging it is.

Have a look at your current training week. How many of the above do you have in it?  If you are completely new to training, strength training with a qualified professional is where you should start.  After you have built up sufficient aerobic capacity with aerobic training, you can then move onto HIIT.