Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Home Workout

        Health | Exercise

Exercise Routine

The exercise routine in the home workout program is designed to give you a balanced, total-body workout with emphasis on the abdominal muscles. You can do all the exercises in this program in approximately 50 minutes. If you are pressed for time, you can choose one group of exercises, which will allow you to focus on a particular area of the body.

­However, the greatest gains will come if you consistently work through the entire program. In any case, you should always begin your workout with the warm-up exercises and end with the stretching exercises. (All the exercises in this program are linked from the last page of this article.)

Try to establish an exercise schedule, alternating the strength training in this article with aerobic exercise. Your schedule might include strengthening exercises on Tuesday and Thursday and aerobic exercise on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Try to work up to two to three days of strength training and at least three days of aerobic exercise each week. Make an appointment with yourself to exercise and allow nothing to interfere. Find the time of day that works best for you and stick to it.

If you cannot execute an exercise exactly as described, don't worry. Try it and do the best that you can do. Work at your own comfort level. Over time, your strength and flexibility will improve and so will your exercise performance.

As you become more familiar with the exercises themselves, strive to move smoothly from one exercise to the next. Working out to music can help you set a pace and keep you moving from exercise to exercise.

If you feel a little sore or stiff during your first few days on the program, that's normal. Treat yourself to a massage or relaxing bath. When you get in better condition, the stiffness and soreness will diminish. Remember to complete the cool-down, too, since it will help reduce soreness.

Keep yourself well hydrated whenever you exercise. Pour a glass of water at the start of your exercise routine and keep it by your side. Take short sips about every ten minutes. Don't wait until you get thirsty. Becoming dehydrated will make you feel fatigued and discouraged. Stay strong and positive.

The aerobic exercise sessions should last between 20 and 60 minutes each, depending on how hard you work and what your goals are.

To get aerobic benefits, fitness specialists advise that you exercise at 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can determine your training heart rate zone by consulting a medical or exercise professional. You can also estimate it on your own. Begin by subtracting your age from the number 220; this will give you your maximum heart rate per minute. For example, if you're 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is about 190 (220-30) beats per minute.

Once you know your maximum heart rate, multiply it by .6 (60 percent) and .9 (90 percent) respectively to find the lower and upper limits of your training zone. For example, if your maximum heart rate is 190 beats per minute, your training zone is between 114 (190 x .6) and 171 (190 x .9) beats per minute. If you are just starting out with an exercise program, exercise toward the low end of your training zone and gradually increase exercise intensity. For a fat-burning aerobic workout, longer (30 minutes or more) and more frequent (four or five days a week) workouts at a more moderate pace are recommended.

To check your heart rate, you need a watch that measures seconds. You can take your pulse either at the radial artery in your wrist (on the inner side of your wrist, below the heel of your hand) or at the carotid artery in your neck (next to your Adam's apple). Place the index and middle fingers of one hand gently on either spot to feel the pulse. Count the number of beats for ten seconds, then multiply by six to determine your heart rate in beats per minute.

By briefly checking your pulse during aerobic exercise, you'll be able to tell if you're working in your target zone. If your heart rate is below the target zone, increase your pace. If it's above, slow down. Also, be sure to read the Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercises page, as those exercises are important for both strengthening and aerobic workouts.

The program is designed to work a wide variety of muscle groups. Find out what those groups are, and what they do, on the next page.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check these out:

­