It is advisable to perform one exercise for each major muscle group in order from larger to smaller muscles.
Basic and Brief Strength Exercise
During the past five years we have made careful pre and post training assessments on 1,132 participants in our basic exercise program. These classes meet two or three days a week, one hour per session, with 25 minutes of strength exercise (11 Nautilus machines) and 25 minutes of aerobic activity (treadmill walking or stationary cycling).
The basic exercise program is two months in length, which seems to be an ideal introductory period for previously-sedentary adults. Over 90 percent of the participants rate their exercise class as highly satisfying, and about 80 percent join the YMCA after completing the program. In other words, the eight-week training period is sufficient to turn many inactive men and women into regular exercisers.
One reason for the positive lifestyle change is the excellent results attained by the program participants. As shown in Table 1, the 383 men lost 6.4 pounds of fat weight and gained 3.7 pounds of lean (muscle) weight for a 10-pound improvement in body composition, and the 749 women lost 3.4 pounds of fat weight and gained 1.7 pounds of lean (muscle) weight for a 5-pound improvement in body composition. At the same time, the men reduced their average resting blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg, and the women decreased their average resting blood pressure by 3.1 mm Hg.
Another research finding is that the younger (ages 21-40), middle (ages 41-60), and older (ages 61-80) adults, all attained similar improvements in body composition and resting blood pressure. Just as important, those who began the program in the poorest shape (highest percent fat) experienced the most fat loss and lean (muscle) gain. That is, the adults who had the greatest fitness needs made the greatest improvements.
A practical reason for the success of the basic exercise program is the time-efficient training requirements. The participants did only 25 minutes of strength exercise and 25 minutes of aerobic activity each training session. Even more helpful for many time-pressured adults, only two workouts a week were necessary for excellent results. As shown in Figure 1, the two-day and three-day exercisers made similar improvements in body composition and resting blood pressure after eight weeks of training.