Keys to Effective Workouts – Weight Loss, Muscle Gain and Maintenance


When you plan to work out, do you actually have a plan? Are you intentional in your choice of exercises? Do you go to the gym and feel confused about what to do? Do you wish you could do a home workout that would be of maximum benefit? There are different forms of exercise and this certainly means that they each have a different effect on our bodies. In this article we will learn about the best exercises for our specific health goals.

Why is Form Important?
Form is quite possibly the most important factor when exercising. Working out correctly allows you to work out for shorter periods of time with more effectiveness and to avoid injury. The following body weight exercises are a great way to achieve weight loss, weight maintenance, and muscle building, but form is essential above all else. Here are some exercises with tips for proper form:plank

1. Plank:
Your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly wider apart. Engage your core and your glutes and keep your body in a straight line from your head to your feet. Tuck your chin down and look at the floor, either between or just beyond your hands.


2. Push Up:
Exercise PushupPlace hands directly under your shoulders and position your feet hip-width apart. Begin the exercise in a plank position, ensuring your body is in a straight line from the back of the head to the hips. Keep the neck neutral and in line with your shoulders. As you lower your body, keep your elbows close to your sides. You should feel the exercise in your arms and your abs, not in your back and glutes. If you are working the wrong muscles, your form is probably incorrect.


3. Squat:
Your feet should be somewhere between hip and shoulder width apart with your toes turned out slightly as needed to provide flexibility. Keep your chest faced forward and look ahead and slightly upwards. Make sure your knees are kept behind your toes and squat as deeply as your flexibility allows. The action of sitting down is the best way to complete the squat, so keep your weight on your heels and not on your toes.

Weight Loss or Fat Loss?
Firstly, we should clarify that “weight loss” is not as important as “fat loss.”  Obsessing over the dropping numbers on the scale can lead to water loss and even muscle deterioration. It’s important to focus on a healthy lifestyle and work to keep fat at a healthy level through diet as well as intentional, appropriate exercise.Cancer Exercise Treadmill

What really works for maximum weight loss is being aware of caloric burn and eating accordingly with your work outs. If you’re sticking to the treadmill, consider interval running. It is a type of exercise that involves varied speeds, high and low intensities, and can have a big impact on your metabolic burn and is easier on your joints than sprinting or consistently fast running. If you like to walk, it would add a lot of impact to start incorporating jogging into your routine. Running or jogging has a quicker effect for metabolic burn, so cycling between the two can enable calorie burn long after you’re done working out. Let’s say you go on a 30 minute walk.
Try to jog for 30 seconds of every 5 minutes that pass, which makes a total of 3 minutes jogging. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can have a huge impact! The interval portion should raise your heart rate to the point of heavy breathing. Eventually you can increase the jogging/running portion to a full minute for every 4 minutes of walking. For a challenge, try to sprint during the full interval length. A heart rate of 125 bpm or higher will allow for the most effective weight loss when running.

Ideal Daily Routine
If you are looking to lose weight, your ideal workout time is in the morning so you can burn calories throughout the day. Your mentality and attitude toward calorie consumption is also affected by your morning workout. Studies show that people who go to the gym first thing in the day are more consistent in their work out routines and work out harder than those who come in the evening after an exhausting day of work.

Woman drinking water

Wake up early, drink a large glass of water (and continuously all throughout the day: the simple way to calculate how much water you need every day is to divide your body weight by 2 and drink that many ounces), eat a small protein (i.e. hard-boiled egg, 2 servings of nuts, a piece of fruit, etc.), then do a workout focused on cardio and muscle building (running is a great exercise for fat loss, or swimming or the elliptical if joint pain is an issue).


Vegetables and FruitPost-workout, eat a sensible breakfast (i.e. lean meat and eggs, vegetable omelet, steel cut oatmeal with flax seeds and berries, etc.) and then try to stay active throughout the day.
Eat a balanced lunch of protein, good carbs, healthy fats, and vegetables & fruits. Lunch will ideally be the largest meal of the day. Dinner, the smallest meal, can consist of a lean protein and vegetables. Perhaps you would like to include a grain such as whole wheat bread, quinoa, or rice. Just make sure it is the smallest meal of your day. Snacks are optional and work for some people, just remember that your metabolism functions best when you eat on a regular schedule. Ideally, your eating schedule would be:

  • breakfast around 8:00 a.m.
  • optional snack at 10:00 a.m.
  • lunch at 12:00 p.m.
  • optional snack at 2:30 p.m.
  • dinner at 5:30/6:00 p.m.
  • optional very small snack at 9:00 p.m.

Try to get to bed between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. if possible and wake between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.  Effectively losing weight involves sleep, clean eating, and lots of activity!


weight gainKeeping Off the Weight
If you’ve lost weight in the past, you know how difficult it is to keep off. The International Journal of Obesity reports that among overweight and obese adults, only 17 percent of those who lost at least 10 percent of their initial body weight were able to successfully keep the weight off. Those who lost a greater percentage of their initial body weight were even less likely to keep the weight off. So once you’ve reached the weight you’re happy and healthy at, how do you stay there?lose weight

The largest study conducted regarding maintaining weight loss over time, the Framingham Study, shows some habits of those who kept weight once lost off. Here is what the successful “maintainers” have in common when it comes to physical activity:

  • They spend an hour or more per day doing some kind of moderate-intensity physical activity

    Keeping a balanced life of exercise and relaxation is important.

    Keeping a balanced life of exercise and relaxation is important.

  • They typically burn between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per week (on average) with exercise
  • They watch less than 16 hours of TV per week, and usually less than 2 hours per day
  • They incorporate a significant amount of physical activity into their daily routines, often by doing many things the “old-fashioned way,” without using modern labor-saving devices.

Weight Maintenance Routine
Your exercise program for maintenance includes these three elements:

  • 30+ minutes per day of moderate-intensity cardio, for the majority of the week. Lower intensity cardio (55%-65% of your maximum heart rate) will indeed preserve your current fitness level. Try to achieve higher intensity cardio (70%-85% of your maximum heart rate) for at least three of your cardio sessions per week. This helps your body use more energy even when you’re not exercising, which will aid you in maintaining your desired weight!weight lifting
  • 2+ strength training sessions per muscle (or muscle group each week. Lean muscle mass is the key to burning fat instead of storing it. Those who stop strength training after losing weight will notice a return of the fat that they had built. By the time they realize they are gaining weight, a lot of the muscle will have already been lost. You should be regularly challenging your muscles to do a little more than they are used to handling.
  • Make your lifestyle more active. It’s important to keep yourself active in the day-to-day routine.woman walking Our culture is very sedentary, so any activity that you can choose to burn more calories is a great way to keep the pounds from creeping back on.Walk instead of drive, stand instead of sit, wash the dishes instead of use the dishwasher, etc.

How to Gain Muscle Weight
Gaining weight involves eating more and strategically working out. How much more you need to eat depends on several factors including your goals, your metabolism, and your current size. The following equations will give a general sense of how many calories you should eat in order to gain weight:

• For women: 12 to 15 calories per pound of body weight multiplied by 1.3, or 1.5 if active
• For men: 15 to 20 calories per pound of body weight multiplied by 1.2, or 1.5 if active

You don’t want to gain just any weight; you want to gain mostly muscle. In order to do this, you need to be sure you’re eating the right kinds of calories at the proper times. A recommended diet is about 50% carbs, 25% fat, and 25% protein, A diet heavy in simple sugars and refined carbs isn’t optimal no matter what your health goals are. Because simple carbs are absorbed and digested quickly, they provide the body with energy right away, making them the perfect thing to eat right before a workout when you need a quick boost or right after you exercise when you need to replenish your carbohydrate stores.

almondsSome examples of snacks with about a 4-to-1 carb to protein ratio:
• A cup of milk or unsweetened soy milk with a banana
• A medium-sized apple and ¼ cup of almonds
• ½ cup of dry oatmeal and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter



The following smoothie recipe is a delicious 500 calorie option that provides you with protein, carbs, and fat:

• 1 banana (about 100 calories)
• One scoop chocolate protein powder (about 120 calories)
• 1½ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (about 45 calories)
• 2 tablespoon almond butter (about 190 calories)
• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (about 20 calories)
• A handful of kale (about 15 calories)

Muscle Building in the Gym
The gym is obviously the most important piece of building muscle as diet alone can’t create the muscle build you desire. In order to achieve results, you’ll have to spend 3-4 days lifting per week. When building muscle, there are some important pieces to powerlifting: deadlifting, pressing, and squatting. These movements utilize the largest muscle groups in your body so they allow you to move the most amount of weight, which creates more muscle and size across the board. Ideally you’ll be doing 3 to 5 sets of each movement, which will allow you to use heavier weights. Since you’ll be using the major, large muscles, it is beneficial to strengthen the muscles that support the heavy lifting. This is referred to as “assistance”. Some assistant exercises are:

  • Dumbbell Rows (or really, any rowing exercise)
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Barbell Glute Bridges
  • Dips, or other tricep strengthening exercises

These exercises are lighter weight exercises, so you should be able to do 8-12 reps of each. They will increase your strength overall, which will increase your muscle size across the body.
woman sleeping

It’s vital to remember that muscles aren’t built during exercise. During exercise, they are being broken down, so you need good sleep, solid rest, and recovery for ideal muscle building. Make sure on a daily basis that you are consuming the calories your body needs to repair the broken down muscles. Make sure to give yourself at least one day of solid rest.

Whatever your goals, there is a lot of work involved and approaching each aspect of your goal with intentionality will definitely bring you the results you desire!




“10 Habits Of People Who Lost Over 25 Pounds And Kept It Off.”Http:// Positive Med, 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.

Anderson, Dean. “Your Fitness Plan for Weight Maintenance.”SparkPeople. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.

Brody, Barbara. “9 Secrets of Successful Weight Maintenance.” Web MD. N.p., Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

James O. Hill, PhD, director, Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center; director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado Denver; co-founder, National Weight Control Registry.

Scott Kahan, MD, director, National Center for Weight and Wellness; associate director, Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center; instructor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; fellow, the Obesity Society.

“The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Building Muscle.” Men’s Health. N.p., 24 June 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.



Jessica JohnsonThis article was written by Jessica Johnson. Jessica is a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance Health and Wellness Educator. Jessica has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management with an Economics and International Studies Minor from the University of Central Misouri (UCM). She is currently working as Assistant Manager and Sales Representative in Pacific Grove, California. She was Vice President of Delta Epsilon Iota Honor Society from 2011-2012 and is a sales representative for Young Living Essential Oils Company.

Jessica is passionate about holistic health and healing. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at Photos images:

Disclaimer:  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

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