People work out for many different reasons: to get in shape, to stay fit, for fun, or for performance. And choosing the right fitness training method that fulfils all your physical goals is vital. All methods of training need to be specific to the individual performer and the activity. That’s why the workout programme you follow must be relevant to you and your sport, or the fitness target you’ve set yourself.
Each fitness training method is unique and has its own advantages and disadvantages. And certain types of training complement specific sports. Continuous training, for example, works well for marathon runners, so it’s important both athletes and coaches know what methods can enhance physical performance in their particular sport, and how best to incorporate them into their training programmes.
So what are the different fitness training methods, and how do you know which is best? To decide, it’s a good idea to try everything and see what gives you the most reliable results; experiment and learn in the process. So let’s take a look at eight conventional models of fitness training so you can decide which methods could work for you.
Also known as continuous exercise or steady-state training, continuous training is any type of physical training that involves continuous intensity and doesn’t involve any rest periods. The aim is to keep a constant heart rate of between 60 - 80% throughout the session to enhance your respiratory and cardiovascular system.
What is continuous training good for?
Continuous training requires your body to use oxygen to produce energy which means it will improve your respiratory system (your lungs and breathing) and also your cardiovascular system (your heart). And once you build your cardiovascular endurance, it becomes easier for your body to do everyday tasks without feeling out of breath.
Continuous training is recommended if you’re looking to lose weight. As this type of training uses large muscle groups, you will burn more calories even when it’s performed at low intensity. And if you're new to exercise, it’s also an excellent way of building a good level of cardiovascular fitness before moving onto more advanced methods of training such as high intensity interval training (HIIT).
If you’re training for an endurance event such as a marathon, it’s important to include continuous exercise in your training as it allows you to get in the all-important mileage needed for a base level of fitness which cannot be achieved through interval training.
Example of continuous training
Continuous training develops cardiovascular fitness, and typically involves aerobic activities such as running, biking, swimming and rowing, or a combination of all, for around 20 to 30 minutes. These activities use large muscle groups performing repetitive movements over a prolonged period of time.
Continuous training can be performed at low, moderate or high intensity depending on your current fitness levels and what you want to achieve. Low impact choices such as a bike or cross-trainer are great for those new to exercise, who are carrying excess weight, or anyone recovering from injury. Here’s an example exercise bike session:
- 5-minute warm up gradually building your heart rate up to 60% max HR
- Cycle for 30 minutes on a stationary bike at a target heart rate of 70% max HR
- 5-minute cool down letting your heart rate return below 60% max HR
To gain the most benefit from your workouts, you should ensure you are training between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. You can measure your heart rate by using a heart rate monitor or smart watch, or by using the heart rate sensors on one of the cardiovascular machines in your gym.
To work this out use the following equation:
(220 – Age) x0.6 = 60% = Target minimum heart rate
(220 – Age) x0.7 = 70% = Target maximum heart rate
Continuous training benefits
- Highly effective for long distance athletes
- Develops cardiovascular fitness
- Therapeutic and relieves stress
- Can help you lose weight
- Great for those new to exercise
- Can be done at low, moderate or high intensity
Fartlek (Swedish), roughly translated to ‘speed play’ training, involves varying the intensity or speed of your run to improve your fitness and endurance. This type of training is very individual as you determine the intensity and pace. It can be fun and offers much more variety compared to continuous training. This could make it easier to stick to and stay motivated, which in turn will give you better results.
What is fartlek training good for?
Fartlek is a good choice for those who dislike a set structure or routine to their cardiovascular training sessions. It’s a great way to train all three of the energy systems, and also different muscle fibre types because of the large variations in intensity. Exercising in this way helps to train your body to react to changing intensities which can be crucial in team sports such as football, rugby or hockey.
Not only do fartlek sessions have beneficial effects on the body's physical condition, but they also train the mind in becoming stronger too, strengthening willpower and allowing a runner to keep going. When we race there are often occasions where we might feel like giving up. But the more training sessions we do that incorporate a variation in speed, the stronger and more resistant our mind and body will become.
Example of fartlek training
Fartlek training can be done both inside and outside. Sessions are usually performed for a minimum of 45 minutes and intensity can vary from walking, right up to sprinting. If you live somewhere hilly, you can train outside by running for 45 minutes on varied terrain, altering pace between a slow jog and fast sprints for 10 seconds at a time.
Fartlek training methods allow you the freedom to essentially “mix-up” the intensity of your sessions, which also keeps things interesting. If you prefer to work out inside, you can run on a treadmill too. You can change the pace and incline throughout your run, or just use the ‘random’ programme if your treadmill has one. Again, aim for at least a 45 minute session.
Benefits of fartlek training
- Good for runners and team sports
- Fun and offers variety
- Can be done at low, moderate or high intensity
- Great test for strength and endurance
- Improves speed and race tactics
- Can be completed alone or with others
- Improves your ability to overtake a competitor when running, or knock seconds off your finish time
Circuit training methods require alternating between several exercises targeting different muscle groups for a full body workout. There is little rest involved, as the fast pace between exercises adds a cardio element to the workout.
When circuit training, it’s important to balance exercises so there’s no burn out. This is where one muscle group is worked at a time, allowing others to rest in between. One circuit is when all of the chosen exercises have been completed. Multiple circuits can be performed in one training session.
What is circuit training good for?
Circuit training is very time efficient which makes it a popular method of training. This method of body conditioning can involve endurance training, resistance training, and high-intensity aerobic exercises in a circuit to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance.
Circuit training is good for those who want a full body workout as you can work a different muscle group with each exercise, while resting another. Although you can concentrate your session on one particular section of the body, depending on your fitness goals.
Circuit training is best used by intermediate trainees who have already established good technique with a wide variety of exercises and a baseline level of strength and fitness. Though a good personal trainer or instructor can adapt a circuit training session for beginners by adjusting exercises, weight or duration to suit all ability levels.
Circuit training is a great choice for those who get bored easily, are short on time or don’t like to train alone. It can involve as much or as little equipment as you like which makes it ideal for group training and those with limited space (at home for example).
Example of circuit training
Circuit training involves exercises across several different stations. An example of circuit training could be to have six stations where an athlete completes 30 seconds of activity at each station (with 10 seconds rest between each).
The stations could consist of:
- Sit ups
- Press ups
- Tricep dips
Perform the circuit three times, with two minutes rest between each circuit. You can increase the intensity of the circuit by reducing your rest period, increasing the number of exercises, or introducing weights, for example.
Circuits can also be designed so that they are sport-specific, good for athletes looking to improve their performance in a particular sport. For example, a running circuit might include leg and core strengthening exercises, with half-mile race pace runs on the treadmill. Other sport-specific circuits include kickboxing circuits—alternating core, shoulder and glute strength-moves with punching and kicking segments—and football circuits—alternating agility drills with weight training.
Benefits of circuit training
- Good for a full body workout
- Enables you to experiment with new exercises
- Allows you to work certain muscles while resting others
- Circuits can be designed so that they are sport-specific
- Easy to set up and requires very little equipment
Plyometrics or jump training, is a highly effective form of power training designed to significantly improve sports performance. It develops power, speed and strength through high intensity exercises involving explosive movements.
A plyometric exercise is an exercise where the muscle is lengthened, and then rapidly shortened to improve muscular strength and speed. This process of contract-lengthen, contract-shorten is often referred to as the stretch – shortening cycle (SSC).
What is plyometric training good for?
Plyometric training activities include skipping, plyo push-ups, box jumps, and burpees. This type of training aims to improve muscular power that translates into higher jumps and longer sprints.
Athletes often use plyometrics as part of their training in order to reach peak physical condition. And it’s highly beneficial for martial artists, sprinters, volleyball players, and high jumpers due to the explosive nature of the workouts. But anyone can do plyometric training. People who are in physical rehab after an accident or injury also use plyometrics to get back into good shape and physical function.
Example of plyometric training
Plyometric cardio exercises are simple but intense. They can be done as a circuit routine made up of a set period of exercise followed by rest. And they can be performed as the core part of your fitness routine or in addition to other activities.
Start by doing a 30-minute session three times per week and build up the duration and frequency as you build strength and endurance. Do each exercise for 30 seconds to a minute. Rest for 30 seconds in between. You can do each exercise twice before moving on to the next.
Start with a 10-minute warm up (jogging, jumping jacks, butt kicks, and high knees) before moving on to the following exercises—no equipment required!
- Ski jumpers: Jump from side to side with bent knees and feet together while swinging your arms as though you’re skiing.
- Standing mountain climbers: Run with high knees and alternate your arms up and down as if you’re climbing a ladder.
- Football wide sprints: Run on the spot with a wide stance while extending your arms out in front of you. Drop to the ground, then get up and run again.
- Squat thrusts: Start in a plank position, then jump your feet forwards to come into a wide squat. Raise your arms overhead, drop your hands back down to the floor before jumping back into the plank position.
- Power squats with arms: Start in a low squat position with your hands on the floor. Jump up as though you’re shooting a basketball, then squat back down and repeat.
Finish with a 10-minute cooldown that includes full-body stretches.
Conveniently, a plyometric cardio circuit can be done at home or at the gym. Though you won't do plyometrics every day, because your muscles will need a break from all that jumping. And if you aren’t active now, it’s a good idea to work on your basic fitness first before attempting plyometric exercises to avoid injury.
Benefits of plyometric training
- Very effective for developing power, speed and strength
- Works on agility, balance and coordination
- Helps improve cardiovascular fitness
- Reduces the chances of injury in the long term
- High fat-burning potential
- A fun and effective way to train like a professional athlete
Interval training develops strength, speed and muscular endurance. But it’s less about what you’re doing, and more about the intensity. Periods of intense exercise are alternated with rest (or periods of low intensity) to provide a workout that maximises aerobic and anaerobic fitness. The speed, duration and rest period can all be manipulated in order to achieve differing goals from your training session.
Interval training has become popular in recent years with the rise of high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is an effective way to exercise and burn calories when you're short of time, as HIIT sessions typically don't last longer than 20 minutes. You can also perform a HIIT workout at home, in your garden or at a public park, so you don't necessarily need a gym membership.
What is interval training good for?
Interval training is typically used with the more traditional cardiovascular exercises, such as running, rowing, cycling and swimming, as a way to work harder than you could during a continuous training session, for example.
The main benefits of interval training are weight loss, muscle definition, and increased metabolism. And depending on your fitness goal, this type of training can also be used to improve performance in endurance sports, like marathon running. Or to improve recovery rate for team sports such as football or rugby, which require repeated bursts of high intensity exercise.
Example of interval training
A simple example of interval training would be doing 30 seconds of burpees followed by 15 seconds of rest. Or here is an example of an interval training session on a treadmill to improve speed in a runner:
- Warm up – Jog for 5 minutes at an easy 5/10 effort
- Work interval – Run for 90 seconds very hard 8/10 effort
- Recovery interval – Jog for 3 minutes at an easy 5/10 effort
- Repeat 4x intervals in total
- Cool Down – Walk 5 minutes at an easy pace
Follow our simple guide to get started with interval training and learn how to integrate it into your running programme.
Benefits of interval training
- Faster and more efficient workout sessions
- Adds variety to your exercise routine
- Improved aerobic capacity and muscle definition
- Reduces the risk of overtraining
- Burns more calories so good for weight loss
- No need for specific equipment
As the name suggests, flexibility training develops flexibility. Also known as mobility training, it involves doing certain stretches and exercises that will improve a person's range of motion around a joint.
Flexibility training is often thought of as an addition to a training session, rather than as a training programme in itself. Though to do it correctly, flexibility training should be incorporated into each training session as well as dedicated training sessions just focusing on developing flexibility.
What is flexibility training good for?
Flexibility training is essential for all athletes in all sports. It is often used as a warm-up session before high-intensity workouts and weight training, and it’s highly beneficial for all sports, especially gymnastics and dance. Although experts no longer recommend stretching before exercise. It’s best to start your workout routine with a 10-minute warm-up, such as an easy walk or a sport-specific routine. This gets blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles. You can then begin stretching once your muscles are warm.
Exercises that lengthen and stretch muscles can help prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems. A well-stretched muscle can achieve its full range of motion more easily. This improves athletic performance — imagine a less restricted golf swing or tennis serve. But it’s not just athletes who benefit from flexibility exercises. Stretching can also help us perform everyday tasks with ease, such as reaching and bending. Stretching can also be a great way to relax after a long day. Yoga combines stretching and relaxation, and it can also improve balance.
Example of flexibility training
Simple stretches will help improve your flexibility, such as:
- Hamstring stretch: Start on your knees and stretch one leg out between your hands. Straighten your back and keep your core engaged. Hold for 30 seconds, focusing on your breathing. Then switch legs.
- Hip flexor and quad stretch: Start in a lunge position with one leg resting on the ground. Tuck your pelvis under and lift your chest high. Press forwards and you'll feel the stretch in the hip resting on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.
- Side bend: Sit on the ground and spread your legs out to the sides. Stretch and reach your right arm to your left leg, hold for 30 seconds. You should feel this through your obliques. Repeat on the other side.
Stretching needs to be done slowly and smoothly as your muscles are being eased into position, holding for around 60 seconds. You’ll need to stretch as far as is comfortable for you. You shouldn’t feel any pain while you’re stretching. Keep in mind that stretching becomes more comfortable the more you do it.
Remember to breathe normally and relax while you’re stretching. Slowly exhale through your mouth while counting to 10, and avoid bouncing as you stretch as this could lead to injury.
Other activities to improve flexibility include:
- Yoga: An ancient form of exercise that uses various postures (series of movements) to focus on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. Find out how yoga can help improve your flexibility.
- Tai chi: Combines deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements. Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, tai chi is now practised around the world as a health-promoting exercise.
- Pilates: Developed by German-born Joseph Pilates, who believed mental and physical health were closely connected. Pilates strengthens the body with particular emphasis on core strength to improve general fitness and wellbeing. Discover the benefits of Pilates.
Benefits of flexibility training
- Improved physical performance
- Increases range of motion
- Fewer aches and pains
- Improved posture and balance
- A positive state of mind
- Reduces the risk of injury
- Greater strength
Speed, Agility and Quickness Training
SAQ training—for short—aims to reprogramme an athlete’s neuromuscular system to enhance multi-directional movements.
‘Speed’ is the ability to move the body in one direction as fast as possible. ‘Agility’ allows you to accelerate, decelerate, and quickly change direction with proper posture. And ‘Quickness’ is the ability to react and change body position with a maximum rate of force production. All three components will enhance an athlete’s training programme; providing variety in movement position and direction, and offering a good cardio workout. Key elements of the SAQ technique are sprints, high knees, mini hurdles, and agility ring hops.
What is SAQ training good for?
It’s usually professional athletes who follow SAQ training, with particular benefits to sports that involve running. Football requires players to have speed with and without the ball. And footballers need to also be able to change direction quickly. SAQ training is also useful in basketball, hockey, badminton, rugby and athletics, including; sprinting, hurdles, and high jump.
Speed, Agility and Quickness Training has also become popular with fitness enthusiasts over the years as it’s easy to incorporate into existing workout sessions. Gym-goers are using this type of training as a form of HIIT to burn body fat. And SAQ training can also help us in everyday life. From running after the kids to even walking the dog, everyone can benefit from SAQ training.
Example of SAQ training
Whether you’re training for strength, endurance, or a combination of both, adding speed, agility, and quickness drills to your fitness routine can take your workouts to the next level. Here are 6 key SAQ exercises to incorporate into your training sessions:
- High knees with mini hurdles: Place up to 10 mini hurdles about 20 inches apart. Run through each hurdle with high knees. Be sure to use the same lead leg as you work your way through each hurdle. Both feet should land between each hurdle during the run. Then repeat the drill with the opposite leg as a lead.
- 30 yard sprint: Mark 30 yards out with a cone and sprint (with maximum effort) to the cone. Walk back slowly, using controlled breathing to maximise recovery. Repeat five times, and take two minutes rest before progressing to a longer distance.
- Agility ring hops: Arrange rings in a straight or staggered configuration and hop quickly into each ring. Repeat, gradually increasing your speed with each go.
- Ladder 2 in 2 out shuffle: Stand behind the first agility ladder square. Step into the first square with your right foot. Your left foot should enter the square immediately after. Once your left foot enters the square, your right foot should move to the outside of the same square. Your left foot should mirror the same pattern.
- Depth jumps: Standing towards the edge of a plyo box or elevated surface. Step off the box, landing in a quarter squat position. Push into the ground to explosively jump into the air and extend your arms above your head. Land softly while engaging your core and repeat.
- Ball drop reaction drill: Have your partner stand about 10 feet away, holding a tennis ball or basketball. As soon as they drop the ball, sprint and try to grab the ball before it bounces twice. Continue to move further apart.
It’s advisable to practice all agility drills at half speed initially. Then you can increase the speed once you’re comfortable with the footwork. Ultimately, your aim should be to do each drill as quickly as possible to have maximum effect.
Benefits of SAQ training
- Reduced risk of injury
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Improved spatial awareness and motor skills
- Greater anaerobic endurance
- Ability to change direction quickly
- Better acceleration and deceleration of your arms and legs
Weight training is a primary form of strength training that uses weights for resistance. It helps build muscle strength and power using free weights (barbells and dumbbells), bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, or weight machines.
Effective weight training requires proper technique. Done incorrectly, it can lead to sprains, fractures and other painful injuries.
What is weight training good for?
Weight training brings more benefits than just a toned body and strong muscles. Adding strength training to your workouts is a great way to improve your overall fitness, from burning body fat and strengthening your bones to preventing injury and improving heart health.
When lifting weights, your body releases testosterone and growth hormone which promotes tissue growth. This is what allows your muscles to get bigger and stronger. It’s important to build muscle, even if you’re not concerned about looking ripped. Lifting weights helps the body build and maintain muscle mass through later life, helping us perform daily tasks as we get older and allowing us to remain functionally independent.
Example of weight training
It’s best to start with a relatively simple weight lifting method for your first few weight training sessions. As you make progress, you can modify your programme by introducing more variation. Then, when you’re feeling stronger and more confident, you can advance with more body building training techniques.
Start slowly with light weights that can easily be lifted several times without taking a break. Do three sets at that weight for 12 repetitions, with at least a 60-second rest between sets.
You can also do different types of weight lifting that focus on different parts of your body. For example, you could work your back and bicep muscles one day, and your chest and shoulders another. You should also incorporate rest days between your weight training sessions. Taking a day or two off will allow your body time to recover. Or alternate between upper- and lower-body lifting days to allow more time for your muscles to rest.
Indoor Weight Training: What Machine for Which Muscle. Here are some practical tips to help you find your way around choosing the right equipment for the right muscles.
Benefits of weight training
- Builds muscle
- Burns body fat
- Strengthens your bones and joints
- Reduces risk of injury
- Can improve heart health
- Boosts brain function
While this article goes through some of the fitness methods that can be used, there are many other techniques and types of workouts available, like cross-training and resistance training, as well as other top fitness trends. So spend some time trying them out and see what works for you. It’s important to use the method that helps you achieve your fitness goals, but it’s equally important to enjoy your workouts so you’re more likely to stay motivated.
At DECATHLON we have an extensive range of fitness equipment and accessories to suit all fitness training methods. Whether you do HIIT or weight training, or even if you’re simply looking to change your lifestyle for the better, we’ll support you in achieving your fitness goals. From gym leggings to hoodies or trainers, our Domyos brand will kit you out from head to toe. And our range of exercise machines, weights and gym accessories are perfect for home use.