Success at improving physical fitness involves setting goals as specific as possible. That way, you can create a detailed plan for achieving each target, and when you track your progress with the ZOZOSUIT and the ZOZOFIT app, you know exactly what the results mean. Therefore, you may want to use body composition exercises to work toward a goal of changing the amount of muscle or fat in your body rather than setting a somewhat vague goal such as losing weight.
Before Discussing Body Composition Exercises, What Does Body Composition Mean?
There are many substances that combine to form your body structure:
- Other tissues
Body composition refers to the percentage of each tissue or substance present in your body and the ratios they form with one another.
Fitness goals usually consist of decreasing body fat, increasing muscle tissue, or both. If this accurately describes your objective, you need to calculate your percentages of body fat and muscle and see how they compare to one another. If you are not happy with the ratio, your first priority should be to decrease your percentage of body fat.
Why Is Decreasing Your Percentage of Body Fat Important?
A high percentage of body fat increases your risk of chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It increases your risk of mortality due to all causes.
How Do Body Composition Exercises Help Decrease Body Fat?
Certain exercises help decrease the amount of fat tissue, or adipose tissue, present in your body. This helps increase your lean body mass. Muscle tissue contributes to lean body mass but is not the only component. Any tissues in your body that are not adipose tissue contribute to lean body mass, including:
- Fingernails and toenails
You can lower your risk of mortality from all causes if you keep your lean body mass and your percentage of body fat within healthy ranges.
What Are Healthy Ranges for Body Fat and Lean Body Mass?
Ideal body composition varies from person to person based on factors such as age and gender. Your doctor can help you calculate your body composition and formulate fitness goals that are reasonable and healthy.
For example, a goal of achieving 0% body fat is not realistic, nor would it be healthy. Though dangerous in excess quantities, fat tissue serves a purpose in the body, such as providing insulation to help keep you warm and prevent hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when your body cannot maintain a consistent temperature.
What Exercises Help Improve Body Composition?
Here are six body composition exercises that can help decrease your percentage of adipose tissue and increase lean body mass to achieve a better balance between the two. Most of these exercises require either no equipment at all or simple equipment, such as free weights.
1. Explosive Lunge Jump
To do this exercise, start by standing upright with your feet at about the width of your shoulders. Use your right leg to take a large step forward. Engage your abdominal muscles and keep your torso upright, but drop your bottom down, allowing your back leg to touch the floor. To stand back upright, push your weight down through your front heel. Using your left leg, repeat the motion. Fifteen of these lunges on each leg equals a set of 30 lunges, and the recommendation is to do five sets.
Doing the explosive lunge jump elevates your heart rate; this is normal and desired. You don't need any equipment to do this exercise, which also increases strength in the muscles of your buttocks and thighs.
2. Sit-Ups or Crunches
Sit-ups and crunches may be what you think of right away when you hear about body composition exercises. Nevertheless, these exercises do not target adipose tissue directly. They do burn calories and work the abdominal muscles, which helps increase muscle size and add definition, so they may help you achieve your broader goals.
Sit-ups and crunches both start more or less the same way. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, your knees elevated, and your hands either behind your head or at your opposite shoulders. To do crunches, engage the muscles of your core to elevate your head and shoulders off the ground as you exhale and then inhale as you release them back to the ground. To do sit-ups, engage multiple groups of muscles to curl your upper body all the way up to your knees before releasing on your exhalation.
3. Weighted Squat
For this exercise, you need a small hand weight, something between one and five pounds. If you wish, you can stand on a yoga mat to give more traction under your feet.
Hold your weight in front of you, grasping it with both hands. Your feet should be slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. While keeping your shoulders back and your chest out, drop your bottom down to knee height. Your legs form a 90-degree angle while your torso should remain perpendicular to the floor. Keeping a firm grip on your weight at all times, push yourself back up to a standing position by driving your body weight through your heels and squeezing your gluteal muscles in your buttocks.
You should do body composition exercises to the point of exhaustion. A general recommendation is to do five sets of 25 repetitions, but if you feel you can do more at the end of a set, go ahead.
Pushups have been an iconic workout for decades. People wouldn't keep doing them if they weren't effective. Specifically, they strengthen your core muscles and your shoulders.
While lying on your stomach on the floor, place your hands flat on the ground on either side of your torso. Plant your toes on the ground and use your arms to push your body up into a plank position. Keep your back flat and your glutes clenched together as you lower yourself back down so your chest makes contact with the floor. Return to the plank position by pushing your weight down through your palms. Do five sets of 15 repetitions each. You can do pushups anywhere; they require no special equipment.
Burpees target your shoulders, thighs, and core muscles, burning many calories in the process. They are challenging but effective body composition exercises. You can use a yoga mat if desired, but burpees do not require any equipment.
Start by holding your body up horizontally in the plank position with your toes and palms on the ground. Tuck your knees in to bring them up to your chest so you can plant your feet on either side of your hands. Complete a single rep by driving your weight through your heels to jump into an upright position. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions each. As you practice, the repetitions should flow together to create a continuous movement that is rhythmic in nature.
We have already discussed planks as a starting point for other body composition exercises, such as pushups and burpees. However, you can also perform planks by themselves. This may be a better option if you have a spinal condition or are worried about damaging your spine.
When you perform planks, hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds before releasing. Be sure that you squeeze your glutes, tuck in your chin and tailbone, and pull your navel toward your spine. The goal is to achieve and maintain a straight line from the top of your head down through your ankles.
There are also variations of the plank you can try. The side plank involves putting your weight on one side of your body, e.g., one hand and one foot. You may have to make modifications to achieve this position. For example, instead of using your hand to hold your body up, you may have to rest your entire forearm on the floor. You may also have to bend your bottom leg for stability, though your top leg should remain straight.
As with many other body composition exercises, your skill level should increase over time. You may eventually feel stable enough to keep both legs straight while holding up your body with one hand. However, do not attempt this before you are ready.
A yoga mat may prove helpful when performing planks, but it is not required, nor is any other type of special equipment.
What Else Do You Need To Do To Improve Your Body Composition?
Exercise alone is not enough to change the composition of your body. There are other factors involved in reducing adipose tissue and increasing lean body mass.
Body composition exercises won't do much good if you are not eating a healthy diet. Try to reduce the amount of sugar and saturated fats from processed foods and instead work to incorporate more good fats and protein.
Ironically, you may actually have to increase your caloric intake if you want to increase your strength so your body has adequate materials with which to build muscle.
Stress is the body's reaction to potentially threatening situations. The body responds by releasing a hormone called cortisol, which helps the body prepare for fight or flight. Most of the stressors that you encounter in your daily life do not require such a drastic response, so cortisol levels may remain high over time, which can inhibit muscle growth. Relaxation and stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, may help reduce cortisol levels.
Hormonal shifts over time, such as those that come with aging, may make it more difficult to gain muscle or lose fat even when you do body composition exercises consistently. There are also medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, that can cause hormonal abnormalities. If you feel that hormonal factors may be interfering with your body composition goals, talk to your doctor.
A high-intensity workout does minor damage to your muscles. Your body needs time to repair the damage and build new muscle tissue in the process. Make sure you take adequate time after a high-intensity workout for this recovery to take place. Spend the next day resting or doing a low-intensity workout that keeps you moving while giving your muscles a chance to heal.
A significant part of your recovery from a workout, or even just from the stresses of the day, takes place while you sleep. During sleep, the body produces hormones that aid in healing and growing muscles damaged by an intense workout. Lack of sleep can also disrupt the hormones that regulate your appetite. As a result, you may get cravings for unhealthy foods.
Adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Physical activity, such as body composition exercises, helps you sleep better by releasing endorphins that calm your body and relieve stress. However, working out right before bed may impede sleep; if possible, do your workout at least several hours before trying to sleep.
Here are some more tips for getting a full night of restful sleep:
- Keep electronics out of your bedroom and avoid looking at screens for about an hour before bed.
- Avoid using stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime and refrain from large meals that could upset your digestion.
- Adhere to a consistent bedtime and set the alarm so you get up at the same time every morning.
- Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature.
- Make the bedroom as dark and quiet as possible, using shades and a white noise machine to mask light and sound if necessary.
Physical health and mental health are entwined in such a way that if one declines, the other tends to follow. Maintain good self-esteem and a positive attitude about the improvements you are making to your life. Set achievable goals to help you stay motivated and do exercises you enjoy. If struggling with a serious mental health problem, see a counselor or other qualified professional.