So, last month I used Jillian's Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism, a 40-minute workout that felt more like cardio than anything else. I still did strength training, but given how much cardio I was getting in last month, I actually decided to flow with it and use kettlebells on Tuesday and Friday (resting Wednesday and Sunday, as always), which are a perfect combination of full-body strength and cardio.
This month, however, I'm using her newest DVD: Killer Body. And in contrast to last month, this DVD is entirely resistance training. It's completely different to what I usually do, however. Usually, I do a full-body strength workout every other day, followed by cardio, and then on the other days I'll do just cardio to give my muscles the chance to recover while still getting in a workout. This time, however, I'll be doing strength every day, barring Sunday which will be my only rest day.
Usually I'd not do this, but these are not full-body workouts, they are targeted workouts. There's one that focuses on upper body, one that focuses on abs, and one that focuses on lower body. The idea is that you do each twice a week, alternating days. For example, I will be doing lower body on Monday, abs on Tuesday, upper body Wednesday, and the repeat through Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This means that each area of your body gets worked to the max in their designated workout, and then gets 2-3 days of rest before being worked again which is more than enough time for the muscles to recover.
Recovery is important. It's not really the act of resistance training that changes the shape of your body, it's the resting. The workout puts strain on your muscles and they get little rips in them - I promise it's not as extreme as it sounds. These little rips are repaired by your body quite easily once you've finished, but it doesn't sew them back up, so to speak, it fills them in with new cells. Your body does this because 1) it's broken, so it needs fixing, but also 2) whatever you were doing, if you did it again, your body would be more up to the task and it wouldn't have as many rips to fill in. Rips stop forming when you get used to the movements because your body has adapted to them, and that's when you need to increase the weight or change the moves so that you offer yourself a new challenge (which is why I change my workout every month).
Now, obviously it's baby steps. The tiny tears formed in your muscles by strength training are miniscule, so it takes a lot of rips for your muscles to visibly change and create the gorgeous, curvey shape so many women want, which means a lot of workouts, but if you try to bypass that and push yourself too far without enough rest, not only will the muscles not repair properly, but you'll start to feel it with aches and pulled muscles and be unable to do much without the pain, work out or not.
Muscles typically need 1-2 days of rest to fully recover, so a workout that targets muscle groups to the max and gives them 2-3 days of rest before being worked again is actually a really good set-up. However, cardio is also important for fat-burning, and it's been shown that following a strength workout with a cardio workout is the best way to burn fat. You can use all the energy in your muscles in a 20-30 minute strength workout without tiring yourself out or over-working your cardiovascular system, and then by the time you start, say, a 20 minute cardio workout right afterwards, you're already burning fat for energy rather than the glycogen in your muscles, but you're not that tired. This way you get a lot more out of your cardio and subsequently a lot more fat-burning.
So, this month, I plan on using the three strength workouts twice a week, as the DVD suggests, keeping my usual Sunday as a rest day, but I'll be doing cardio workouts for 20-30 minutes after the strength workouts, and I'll alternate these too, just for a little more variety.
I'm nervous about the idea of maxing out my muscles because I'm not convinced I'll be able to get from the start of the workout to the end. This isn't a concern I usually have, but it's present this time because Jillian's workouts are usually broken up with cardio intervals or by working different muscle groups. This time I don't believe that's the case.
But I do admit that this alternating targeted strength training was a system I've been thinking about trying, and back in August I thought I'd give it a go this December. Then at the start of November I had a look at Killer Body and found that it was exactly that kind of set-up, so that's why I'm using it. Otherwise I'd have pulled a few workouts off of the internet instead. But whether this kind of workout has been my intention for so long or not, I am still nervous.
On another note, I'll look good while suffering! I showed these northern lights capris in my Christmas fitness gift guide, and I managed to catch Fabletics' Black Friday sale wherein you could get two pairs of bottoms (usually £35-£40 each) for just £25 for the pair. I couldn't believe it! So I snatched them up right away, along with another pair of capris I've been looking at for two months and wondering "should I?" ever since they came out. So it was a no-brainer.