What makes a workout plan good? Since working in the fitness industry I’ve considered the importance of having a structured workout plan. I often see people come into the gym, go on the cross-trainer, treadmill or bike for an hour. Or, just work their way through the resistance machines. That’s great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just, there’s so much more to do in a gym. If you’re working on your cardio vascular health, then long runs or bike rides are what you want. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who only use the cv equipment, and their aim is fat loss or muscle toning. Long winded cardio training isn’t really the way to go.
When I speak to people about this, they usually have the same problem. The problem is that they don’t know how to use the other kit or they don’t feel comfortable enough to use it. If you’re in a gym, you’re not supposed to be ‘comfortable’. Everyone’s there for the same thing. There’s no judgement and even if there is, that’s their problem, not yours. You’re supposed to sweat it out, push your body towards whatever goal you’re there trying to reach. If you go in and do the same thing every day, you’re going to get real bored real quick.
Now, I know not everyone hates cardio kit as much as I do. If you like going to the gym to run on a treadmill; that’s fine, if you don’t, I suggest you get yourself a workout plan. These can (and should) be designed around your life, for you, to attain your goals.
As I have said about diet, everyone is different, at different stages, different strengths, different weaknesses, different likes and different dislikes, different work patterns, different family commitments… Different.
The first step and the key to any sort of progress is to identify your goals. Most importantly: your long-term goal. What do you want to achieve from going to the gym. Have an idea of shorter term goals too, to keep you interested. These can be as simple as losing some weight, dropping a clothing size etc. Make some small, attainable goals (and don’t give up after you’ve reached them, make another goal!).
Your workout plan needs to be designed around your life. If you can only make it to the gym once a week, there’s no point in having a 4 day split routine or it will take you a month to complete it. You first need to realistically identify, how often you can train. That’s both inside and outside of the gym. A morning run or some bodyweight training from home can be part of your plan if you’re not able to make it to the gym very often.
Once you’ve identified how often you can make it in, you have to consider how long your workout is going to be. I personally aim for about an hour in all and I think that’s a good amount of time to set aside. Again, if you’re only in once a week, you might have a cram a bit more in, so the session might be longer. If you’re in every day you might only pop in for a short session. The plan should be adjusted appropriately.
The plan should also cover your whole body. Even the bits you don’t like to train or don’t want to train. It’s fairly common to hear, ‘I don’t want to get too big’, when introducing someone to weight training. Trust me; it isn’t that easy, you’re not going to wake up massive one day because you’ve been benching the 4kg dumbbells. Train everything, you can focus on certain areas but don’t neglect the others.
How you split your routine depends on how often you can make it into the gym. I train approximately 5 times a week, I work to a 4 day split and I have one extra day, where I just sort of hang about and do light training.
My split goes:
· Day 1: Chest and Triceps
· Day 2: Back and Biceps
· Day 3: Legs and Shoulders
· Day 4: Arms
A common two day split would be:
Day 1: Upper Body
Day 1: Upper Body
· Day 2: Lower Body
The idea of splitting a routine is so you can still train despite your muscles being sore as f***. You can set it to certain days or you can just cycle them.
You’ll find that there are days you like (chest day) and days you don’t like (leg day) but they are part of the plan so you have to do them. The plan works to motivate you and push you through your workouts. It should also mix things up and make the whole thing a bit more enjoyable. And, finally it should focus you and help you achieve your goals.
Most gyms will have staff there to create a workout plan for you. It’s one of the most exciting parts of my job. I love doing it. If you have to pay for it though, there are plenty available online that you could have a go of and see what you like. If you’re new to the gym and training then don’t over complicate it. Keep most of it fairly basic but add the odd thing that you want to improve in it.
When I’ve written plans for clients I’ve told them to come back in 4 weeks and I’ll mix it up for them, add some harder things, and take things off that they don’t like. Change it round to keep it interesting, to avoid plateaus.
I think it’s important to change it up at least every 4 weeks. I just hit certain body parts but I change my workout plan every time I train. For more advanced gym members I’d recommend a number of ways to beat plateaus and increase the difficulty of a session. Things such as:
· Drop Sets
· Pyramid Sets
· German Volume Training
· Partial Reps
· Negative Curls
· Super Sets
These workouts are a good way to mix things up. Add them into part of a workout from time to time or maybe use it as an entire workout. I sometimes just do drop set days or some German volume training for a quick and intense session.