YOU can't spot reduce. There, I said it. No matter what ad you read or quick fix that comes to the market, it is impossible to just pick one part of the body to develop.
You can't just pick your left leg, your stomach or any one spot and try to develop it. The body is a complicated unit and it is best to work it as a whole, including exercises for every body part and maybe an extra one or two for the area you are most concerned with.
For example, by doing whole body workouts you are helping to increase the amount of lean tissue all over your body, which in turn will help to lower your body fat levels and increase your metabolic rate, giving you more definition on the parts that you want to change.
Just working your arms or stomach or legs will cause a minimal amount of lean tissue development and body fat reduction.
The other super important element of doing whole body workouts is that you will develop the whole body in proportion, so that it all looks equal.
Men are classic examples of this. As a general rule guys love training the upper body and hate training legs, so often times they are in great shape above the waist and have slim, underdeveloped legs. The body is totally out of proportion and doesn't look even.
In an ideal world, your workout should contain a warm up to get the body loosened up and improve the flexibility of the body. This could be some cardiovascular work or some gentle squats, easing the body into your session.
By going straight into hard workouts you will increase the rate of injury and even mentally you won't be in the right zone. The warm up allows you time to get focused on the session ahead and what you are going to do and mentally prepare for it.
As a trainer I also use the warm up as a key part of my session with my client. It gives me a window into their week and what form they are in, something that you just can't get in 20 minute workouts. Being in the right frame of mind is key to a good session.
From there you need to ensure that you are covering each major body part with at least one exercise. This would include legs (front and back), chest, shoulders, back, arms (front and back) and the stomach.
This is ideally what your programme should contain. Split programmes are very fashionable at the moment, where you do different body parts on different days. These can be super but it also means that you are spending a lot of time in the gym, which isn't always possible to achieve.
Some of the main issues people have with trying to work each body part is finding the time, but you will find that you are taking too much rest time or mirror-posing time if you can't work all the body parts in a 45 minute period or so.
Your workouts shouldn't be taking a whole lot longer than an hour, including cool down and stretch. This means that it can fit into your life without being a burden.
Once your workout is complete its time for a cool down and stretch. Cool downs are underrated, in my opinion. I feel they bring an important component to the session. Some easy cardiovascular work such as biking or some slow range of motion exercises like yoga or pilates would be perfect for this.
Stretching is another controversial area. I don't see the need for stretches at the start of a session as your warm up should have the body ready to work out, but at the end of a session I find that some easy stretching helps prevent muscle soreness and stiffness and can help to improve your recovery rate.
Simple stretches for the upper and lower body are perfect, such as a quad stretch, hamstring stretch and some shoulder rolls. Some bodies need more stretching than others, so you can add more in as required.
In general, a cool down allows your heart rate time to lower gradually and safely, and allows your breathing rate to come down slowly. It also gives you time to reflect on your session, to see how your body feels, what went well and what didn't and what exercises you need to change to keep progressing.
Your body responds best to change and adaptation. The more you change the exercises in your workouts the better the results are going to be.
All of my clients train differently in every single session that they do, increasing the rate of results and change to the body. As the muscles get stronger they need to be challenged more to get the results you are looking for.
Building these recommendations into your workout will help to improve your results and keep you training longer and healthier, while helping you to get the best results.