McMillan: Combination training boosts workout



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Time is of the essence! In a one-hour workout, it’s difficult to achieve a proper warm-up, an adequate cardio workout, a challenging strength-training segment, some postural exercises and an appropriate cool-down and stretch. How do we fit it all in? Most people want results in the shortest time. Who wants to spend two or more hours in the gym?

Combination training is the answer.

Combination training combines lower body, upper body, trunk musculature and balance training all into one exercise, accomplishing three times as much in the same amount of time.

Combination training is also a more natural and functional way of training. Can you imagine any daily task that involves only one joint or muscle group? Our bodies just don’t function in isolation. When you get out of a chair, bend to pick something up or lift something to put it on a shelf, different muscle groups function as a team. All sports require your muscles to work together, and yet when we train in the gym, most people generally train muscles separately, focusing on only one body part at a time. It would be like a football coach taking each of his starting line players and training them individually before their first game. Even though each player might be in optimal physical condition, if the coach hasn’t pulled them together and scrimmage to learn to work together, their first game is going to be a disaster.

A leg extension exercise works the quads independently, but it doesn’t mean the quads will be able to work together well with the hamstrings or the trunk muscles. Combination training teaches your muscles to work together as a team as they do in real-life situations. In sports or recreational activities, your muscles have to learn to react, support and oppose each other effectively.

Combination training is effective both from a time efficiency and a functional perspective. Keep in mind, however, that it might take you a while before you can work up to combination training exercises. First, you have to learn how to correctly execute each individual movement, then you can start combining.

An example of a combination training exercise is combining lunges with an overhead press or squats with rows. What about performing bench step-ups with bicep curls? Try balancing on one leg when performing any upper-body movement or lying over a stability ball when performing chest presses.

When designing your program, analyze how you can take any exercise skill to the next level by combining two or three movements into one compound movement. Not only will you be more efficient with your time, but you also will train your body in a way that mimics real-life movements.

We are hosting a running clinic at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays starting May 8. Running is another activity that will keep you strong and agile.

We are also hosting a triathlon training clinic that starts May 4. Triathlons are another way to work your entire body. We will help get you to the finish line!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at or