What is the optimal mix of strength, cardio and flexibility?
Here at LMAP headquarters we are all about providing you with all the knowledge you need to be the best Instructor you can be. Julie asked us what the best ratio of strength, cardio and flexibility is for those getting into group fitness. Trainers, Victoria and Chris and Les Mills’ Research Guru Bryce Hastings give us their advice.
Dear Les Mills
New participants looking to get fit always ask me 'what is right ratio of cardio, strength and flexibility training?' What would you suggest as the best way to answer or the best combination of training to achieve all these?
The balance between cardio, strength and flexibility workouts will vary depending on goals, time restraints and fitness levels, but I believe a complete exercise program should include a balanced amount of each. In my week I do slightly more cardio based exercises because of the programs I teach and a slightly lesser amount of strength and flexibility.
Someone who is just starting out may need to start with a basic training program incorporating all three components in one session until their fitness improves and then they can increase either duration per session or frequency per week.
I believe it would be ideal to do some sort of cardio 5 days per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each session, strength workouts at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes minimum and flexibility exercises at least twice per week.
I incorporate a lot of Les Mills GRIT into my week as I am time poor and it is the perfect combination of strength, cardio and plyometrics which is a great training base for the other programs I teach (BODYATTACK, BODYSTEP and BODYPUMP) and for all round fitness.
I'd say the best way is to start with the SmartStart ratio- 2:2:1. This is 2 strength, 2 cardio and 1 flexibility a week, which works out just perfectly as I'm recommending one of each of the programs I teach! I'm like a one-stop-shop for newbies!
I recommend they get along to any 2 cardio classes, any 2 strength classes and any 1 flexibility whichever days and times suit them, because the most important thing is just to get started. Just show up and make good new habits and discover which classes they love the most. I'll also remind them it's A OK to start with just the first part of class (20 minutes or so) and build up to the whole class over the coming weeks. The most important thing to all of us is just that they come to class, and come back and keep coming back.
The priority is to get new people exercising because they WANT to rather than because they HAVE to.
This can be achieved by reducing intensity and duration in the early stages and allowing them to focus on establishing the habit of exercising regularly rather than chasing physical results.
This is achieved best with activities they like rather than activities they feel like they have to do from the start.
Once they have established a change in behaviour then we can focus on exercise selection.
The smart start guide is a great place to start – encouraging a gradual increase of cardio, strength and some flexibility and core.
The ultimate goal is to slowly work towards the ACSM guidelines which recommend:
3 cardio and 2 resistance sessions with 1 flexibility / core workout each week.
Once operating comfortably at this level – substituting one 60 min cardio to 2 30 minute HIIT sessions will take fitness to new heights.