"Which type of exercise is best for me?"
The answer to this question is the #1 personal trainer response, and for damn good reason... "it depends"...
Don't worry, there's more...
"on what your goals are."
It's that simple. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve? What do you want to see change in 3/6 months/1 year? When you know the answer, then you can look into what type of fitness program to start into.
But in the mean time, here's our rundown (in alphabetical order to not appear bias):
[Disclaimer: These are our opinions. Only you know what's right for you.]
Body building is exactly as it sounds; building the body (i.e. muscle mass) via strength training. It can include periodization programming with supersets, pyramids, ladders, etc. as ways to change up the number of reps and sets and the weights you lift to build muscle depending on your goals.
Pros: You hit all the major muscle groups which will help promote muscle building and thus fat burning. Muscles take up less space and burn more calories than fat, therefore by replacing fat with muscle you can lose inches and boost your metabolism.
Cons: Doesn't always place emphasis on endurance, which is important for cardiovascular health. You'll see a lot of progress at first, but the longer you do it, the more specialized your programming has to become to see more gains.
How to work it: Body building is great because it puts an emphasis of the importance of lifting weights. It encourages us (especially women) to pick up the heavy weights, get in the squat rack and master deadlifts. If you have major weight loss goals, it's not necessary to go into hardcore body building splits and devoting an entire day to arms; you'll still want to start with a fully body workout hitting the largest muscle groups first. If you're looking to lose a small amount of weight and "tone", incorporating new weight lifting techniques can help you lose those last few stubborn pounds and really see a difference.
BE.AM Fitness coach Madison follows a variety of body building styles to help target every muscle group for her national-level bikini competitions. The result is an unreal physique and a badass provincial champion. But remember, Madison is a national-level athlete and works out 6 - 7 days/week sometimes multiple times a day with intense cardio sessions closer to shows.
Crossfit is "varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity, based on functional movements... with the aspects of gymnastis, weightlifting, running, rowing and more... By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness." (from crossfit.com)
Pros: It's a high intensity, eclectic and fun workout style performed in a group setting with supportive coaches. Crossfit has a unique community that supports one another, takes your workouts to the next level and makes you feel pretty badass.
Cons: Can be considered as high reward but with high risk. Olympic lifting involves a lot of skill, and can take a long time to master. A lot of movements are based on power and high intensity, which if you don't have, can either lead to injury or finding it difficult to master the movements. It's also pretty pricey.
How to work it: Crossfit is great because it provides a structured workout in a fun dynamic. Though you may not always be sure where your programming is leading, you can usually expect to have awesome gains. Even if you're not at a CrossFit gym, incorporating daily WODs (Workout Of the Day) into your workouts can help ease you into it.
BE.AM Fitness coach Amy says she likes CrossFit because its a multifunctional workout with core movements that prepares her for the work/activities she does in work and every day life. i.e. snowboarding in the winter, hiking in the summer, and forest research during the school year.
Group Ex[ercise] are those classes at most gyms that include things like Zumba, Barre, BodyPump, spin classes, bootcamp, etc. Group Ex are the most successful items to be added to gyms since dumbbells. 85% of gym members go strictly for the Group Ex classes and don't touch a single other portion of the building.
Pros: They're FUN! And you do them with other people! That's the reason they're so successful. Also, by having a set date and time it creates a sense of accountability that helps people stay committed to going to the gym.
Cons: If it's your first time to a class, sometimes the quick pace and loud music can make you feel confused and trailing behind. Especially if the instructor doesn't give the appropriate cues.
How to work it: Group Ex is great for people who feel intimidated by strength training and wouldn't go to the gym otherwise. Our rule of thumb is to always give a Group Ex class 3 tries before you decide to ditch it for good. This way you have a chance to learn the moves, try out different instructors and find other classmates to go with. Our favourite class is still any one that incorporates some weights, functional movements and a proper warm up and cool down.
HIIT (or high intensity interval training) is a workout style that incorporates shorter time work periods (think 8 - 20 minutes) at high intensity and low weights. The basis of HIIT workouts is to perform anaerobic activities with short periods of rest to boost your heart rate and burn more fat in less time.
Pros: HIITS are great if you're short on time, or want to add a solid finisher, and give it 100% at the end of a workout. It's great for cardiovascular health, burns more fat and can contribute to building long term endurance when partnered with other endurance activities (such as running).
Cons: If you're new to HIITS, be sure to build them up slowly. Start with shorter work periods, lighter weights and longer rests. Because intensity is so high, there's a risk of overdoing it. You can't see gains if you're passed out or puking.
How to work it: We always love adding HIITs to the end of our daily workouts (max 10 minutes), especially during a phase when we're trying to burn more fat. Even adding a quick 4 minute TABATA (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off of 2 exercises x 4 sets) can be the equivalent of 12 minutes of cardio and same number of reps as a 10x3 superset.
I don't think we need to define 'running' here.. but if you're considering hopping on a treadmill, going for a jog, training for a 'couch to 5k' or a marathon, this section might be relevant.
Pros: Cardiovascular benefits are cray. Good cardio can help to lower your resting heart rate (the average marathon runner has a resting heart rate of anywhere from 55 to 65 beats per minute), and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Cons: For every step you take at a running speed, you put an impact factor 11 times your body weight onto your joints. Ouch. Hence long distance running can be really hard on your hips, knees and ankles.
How to work it: Regardless of the distance you'r running, be sure to incorporate lower body strength training (especially for your quads and ankles) and stretching (especially for your calves and hips). If you do both strength training and cardio, perform cardio second, followed by a 10 minute stretch. If you're training for a long distance race, you can incorporate sprints and anaerobic training to improve your overall speed. Also, don't forget to take a nice recovery day after long run days and several after race day.
Yoga is a discipline that incorporates relaxation, light meditation and body postures to promote mobility, flexibility, health and relaxation.
Pros: Yoga is something that anyone can do and everyone should do. The benefits to yoga not only include those of muscle building but also mobility, relaxation, and stress management.
Cons: People often get enthralled by what we call "Pinterest Yoga"; photos of extremely advanced yogis performing difficult backbends, handstands, etc. If people try advanced poses too quickly, without proper form or knowing how to enter and exit them safely, risk of injury greatly increases.
How to work it: Everyone should practice some form of yoga. Even if its sun salutations in the morning to get your blood flowing, stretching after a hard workout to reduce muscle soreness or dynamic/static stretches to improve mobility for olympic lifts, the benefits of yoga are too good to pass up. For anyone.