In the quest of achieving your fitness goals or your dream physique, understanding body composition is essential. You could do all sorts of workouts, follow all sorts of diets, and still not see the desired results, which could leave you frustrated and unmotivated. To avoid this frustration, you need to know how your body works. Figuring out what it is that you need to do, to make your body respond and react in the most ideal manner so that you can get one step closer to your fitness goals. Once you understand what your ideal body composition is and how you can achieve it, the fitness goals that once seemed a distant possibility will become a lot more realistic.
In This Article
What Is Body Composition?
It’s the ratio of lean mass to fat that is present in your body. These levels vary between men and women. In the case of men, the ideal body fat percentage is between 18-24% and for women, it is 25-31%. However, these percentages are subject to change based on the person’s age and health conditions (1).
Once you’ve understood what your ideal body composition should be, it becomes a whole lot easier to tailor your diet and workout routines to get the best results. It is essential to understand that no two persons will have the same body composition.
Just because two people are of the same height and weight, it is not necessary that both of them have the same body composition. While one person may have more muscle mass, the other may have more fat. It’s like saying one kilo of cotton weighs the same as one kilo of steel. But cotton takes up more surface area than steel. It’s the same in the case of muscle mass vs fat. Since muscle fibers are denser they take up less space and make you look lean, whereas fat mass is not dense and takes up more space making you look bulky (2).
In order to achieve your ideal body composition, burn that fat and get into great shape. Here are a few simple exercises and dietary changes that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.
Adding Cardio Workouts To Your Exercise Routine
Cardio workouts are a great way to get your heart rate pumping and break a sweat. Not only does this help you burn fat, but it also helps in strengthening and toning your muscles. Studies show that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) helps in developing stronger muscles and burns fat (3). However, it does not mean that you work yourself to the point of being breathless. Maintaining a moderate intensity and consistent pace is the key to getting the most out of your workout.
Here are the top 5 cardio exercises that you can do at your home or the gym.
1. On The Spot Marches
A simple yet effective exercise that increases your heart rate and gets your body all warmed up.
To perform this exercise:
- Stand in one spot with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your back and hips straight.
- Raise your knees in an alternative manner to your chest level or as high as you can.
- Perform this movement continuously for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 rounds and you will be all warmed up.
Another simple exercise where all you have to do is jump in the same spot swinging your arms using a jump rope. Perform this movement continuously for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds. Do this 3-5 times to get warmed up.
3. Jumping Jacks
This simple exercise will surely get your heart rate pumping.
To perform this exercise:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms on the side.
- Jump out with your hand raised over your head and feet spread apart and jump back in by bringing your hands by your side and feet back to being hip-width apart.
- You can scale this down by avoiding the jump and stepping from side to side.
- Perform this movement continuously for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds. Repeat it for 3-5 rounds and you will be all warmed up.
Squats are great for building lower body strength, especially your quadriceps, calf muscles, hamstrings, and glute muscles.
To perform this exercise:
- Start by spreading your feet slightly more than your hip width.
- Raise your arms forward at shoulder level and begin to bend your knees and lower your hips while keeping your upper body and back straight, squat down and stand up tall.
- Perform 3-5 rounds and you will be all warmed up.
- For the scaled-down version of this exercise, you can reduce the depth of your squat. Instead of going too deep into your squat, you can cut the range of motion in half.
This is a fantastic exercise for strengthening the lower body, especially your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and also helps build core strength. There are many variations to this exercise, however, you can start off with the simple forward lunge.
To perform this exercise:
- Stand with your back straight and shoulders rolled back.
- Keeping your chest up, take your right leg forward in such a way that your knee is right above your ankle and your thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Your left leg should also be bent and must be a few inches above the ground. For balance, you could keep your hands on your hips or if you like a challenge you can cross them in front of your chest.
- Push yourself up with both legs, stand up and repeat the same with the left leg.
- You can downscale this exercise by reducing the depth of your lunge. Repeat this 10-15 times on each side and do 3-5 rounds.
Cardio and HIIT will no doubt help you achieve your ideal body composition and strength training will help accelerate this process. Apart from cardio training, it is essential to incorporate an element of strength and resistance training in your workout routine.
Including Strength & Resistance Training In Your Workouts
Research shows that by including strength & resistance training in your workout routine you burn more fat, you build lean muscle, improve mobility, and develop overall body strength. This is due to the compound movements that are incorporated in the form of training. Are you wondering what compound movements are? They are the type of movements which use multiple muscle groups at the same time. All of this helps in achieving your ideal body composition (4).
Here are the top 6 strength and resistance exercises to help achieve your ideal body composition.
1. The Push-Up
When it comes to building strength, push-ups are one of the best exercises that you can do. This simple compound movement targets your biceps, triceps, shoulders, core and abdominal muscles, and glutes. Given the simple nature of the push-up, you can perform this from the comfort of your home or even in the gym. No equipment is required for this exercise.
- To perform the push-up, start by getting down on your hands and knees and placing your wrists directly below your shoulders.
- Move both your feet back so that your entire body is in one straight line.
- Brace your core muscles, draw your belly in and begin to lower your chest by bending your elbows.
- Bring your chest as close as possible to the floor and push yourself up.
- If you are a beginner you can scale this down by keeping your knees on the ground.
- Try and do 10 push-ups and gradually increase the number of reps as you feel comfortable. Perform this for 2-3 rounds.
2. The Burpee
This is an explosive exercise as it involves an element of cardio and strength training. This targets all muscle groups in the body such as your arms, shoulders, core, and lower body.
- To perform the burpee, start off in the push-up position, jump and bring your knees to your chest and jump up to stand tall.
- Go back to the ground by jumping and bringing your knees back to get back into the push-up position.
- To scale this down you can do one of the two alternatives— instead of jumping your knees you can choose to step your knees to your chest and stand up with the jump, or you can avoid the jump when you stand.
- If you really want to challenge yourself, add a push-up when you get back to the ground.
- Set a timer for 30 seconds and do as many reps as you can and take a 10-second break.
- Perform this for 3-5 rounds.
Strength training is incomplete without performing the super compound movement, the deadlifts. This movement targets some of the major muscle groups like your shoulders, arms, core, back, quadriceps, hips, hamstrings, and calves.
- To perform the deadlift you could either use a barbell with weights or a kettlebell based on your weight preference.
- Start by placing the barbell on the floor, stand with your feet hip-width apart, and your toes must be placed under the bar.
- Push your hips back, keeping your back straight, and begin to squat to reach the barbell.
- Grab the bar with your hands while keeping your knees softly bent, slowly stand tall, and pull the barbell closer to your hips.
- Slowly lower the barbell in the same way you picked it up. Perform 10-15 reps and do this for 3-5 rounds (5).
4. The Plank
A simple yet challenging exercise that will leave your entire body shaking and help you build a strong core.
- To do the plank, get into the pushup position, ensure your wrists are directly below your shoulder.
- Your hips and shoulders should be in one straight line. Ensure your hip does not sag.
- Once you’ve aligned yourself, hold this position for 30 seconds.
While holding the plank position, make sure you do not hold your breath.
- If you like to challenge yourself, you could do the elbow plank where you are on your forearms and your elbows are directly below your shoulders and hold this pose for 30 seconds.
- To further challenge yourself in the elbow plank position, draw your belly in and curve your back upward so as to create a hollow shape of your body.
A classic strength workout that involves you lying on your back lifting your upper body to strengthen your core muscles. There are a few variations of these exercises; to start off you can do the simple sit-ups.
- Lie down on your back, bend your knees and bring them close to your hips.
- You could place your hands either being your ears with your elbows pushed outward or you can cross them in front of your chest.
- Lift your shoulder blades and raise your torso using your abdominal muscles.
- Exhale as you raise yourself and inhale as you lower yourself to the ground.
- Perform 10-15 reps and do this for 3-5 rounds.
This upper body exercise is great for strengthening your back muscles, biceps, shoulders, and core. It also helps improve your grip strength.
- To do the pull up you will need a pull-up bar.
- Start by hanging on the pull-up bar, cross your ankles and slowly pull yourself up with your arms.
- Pull yourself up till your chin is above the bar.
- Lower yourself down and you would have completed your first pull up.
- Since this is a challenging exercise that requires a lot of upper body and arm strength, you can do as many reps as you are comfortable with.
Simple Lifestyle Changes To Achieve Your Ideal Body Composition
Working out every single day to achieve your ideal body composition is great. However, you need to complement your workout with a few positive lifestyle changes like eating fruits, green leafy vegetables, adding protein to your diet, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep. It’s things like this that make a significant difference in achieving your fitness goals. In addition to your physical health, you also need to take care of your mental health. Spend some time meditating and practicing breathing exercises, preferably early in the morning after you wake up.
If working out or exercising is not feasible for you, take a walk for 30 minutes. It’s the simplest thing that you can do. You don’t need any expensive equipment to walk, all you need is a sturdy pair of shoes. If you think you are going to be bored on your walk, grab a buddy or plug in your earphones and listen to your favorite music and keep walking. Walking for 30 minutes on a daily basis not only helps you in burning calories and losing weight, but it also helps in improving your overall mood (6).
Body composition is nothing but the ratio of fat vs muscle that is present in your body. Based on your age and gender, the ideal levels vary from person to person. To achieve your ideal body composition, you need to incorporate a workout routine like cardio or strength and resistance training, or a combination of both. In addition, you need to make a few simple lifestyle changes like eating healthy, getting a good amount of sleep, and meditating. Follow these simple tips and you will be in the best shape you’ve ever been in.
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- Measuring Body Composition
- Effect of Two Different Weight-loss Rates on Body Composition and Strength and Power-Related Performance in Elite Athletes
- Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High-Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training
- Effects of Strength Training on Physical Function: Influence of “Power” “Strength” and Body Composition
- Understanding Deadlifts and Its Variations
- Health Benefits of Walking in Nature: A Randomized Controlled Study Under Conditions of Real-life Stress