What is the Perfect Workout?

Learn what the perfect workout looks like, how to warm-up, exercise, and cool-down properly.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #81

I was working out in the gym yesterday and saw at least half a dozen people wander into the weight room and stand there bewildered – attempting to figure out just where to start. Should I get on a cardio machine? Stretch first? Jump right into a light, easy exercise?

This article will cut through the confusion and teach you exactly what you need to know to do a perfect workout.

Step #1: Short Cardio Warm-Up

In the episode How To Warm-Up and Cool-Down, you learn that a brief bout of cardio for 2-10 minutes can cause increased blood flow, higher muscle temperature, enhanced cooling mechanisms, and better hormone production and mental focus during your workout. A simple way to do a quick cardio warm-up is to hop on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical trainer, start with an easy pace, and increase the resistance every 60 seconds for a total of 5 minutes. 

Step #2: Dynamic Stretching

Now that your muscles are warmed up, it’s time for dynamic stretching. This is much different than static stretching, which would be something like reaching for the sky, or touching your toes. Instead, dynamic stretching involves moving your muscles and joints through different ranges of motion, which is even more effective after they’ve been warmed up with cardio. Here’s a sample dynamic stretching routine:

  1. 10 arm circles in all directions

  2. 10 leg swings in all directions

  3. Walking lunges from one end of the room to the other and back

  4. Side shuffles from one end of the room to the other and back

  5. Reach for the sky and bend your waist from side to side 10 times

  6. Finish with 25 jumping jacks

Step #3: Foam Rolling

This step is optional, but if you have an especially bothersome muscle knot or area on your body that still feels quite tight after your warm-up and stretching, you can grab a foam roller, and roll your body over the foam roller 10-20 times, applying steady, even pressure as you roll. You’d be surprised at how limber and awake you feel after using the foam roller!

Step #4: A Goal-Specific Workout

Your exercise routine will vary depending on your goals. For example, if you want to become a faster runner, you could alternate each day between the type of workouts I describe in How to Become a Faster Runner, doing hill repeats one day, treadmill intervals another day, and a steady, aerobic run on a third day. 


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.