Following on from my blog about planning your workout this article goes into more detail about how to set up your ideal routine.
Keep It Simple
The best workout is the one you stick with. People make things far too complicated and try to target too many individual muscles with too many exercises for each body part which is exhausting, unnecessary, inefficient, and intimidating.
Unless you’ve been strength training for years and know what you’re doing, pick a full-body routine that you can do 2-3 times a week.
Plan a workout routine that has at least one exercise for your
- Quads: front of your legs).
- Glutes and hamstrings: back of your legs).
- Push Muscles: Chest, shoulders, and triceps
- Pull Muscles: Back, biceps, and grip
- Core: abdominals and lower back).
Reps and Sets
You can’t design a strength-training program without knowing these two terms
Rep (repetition): one complete motion of an exercise.
As a simple rule to start with consider the following:
- keep your number of repetitions per set in the 8-20 range per set.
- if you can do more than 15 reps without much of a challenge, consider increasing the weight or the difficulty of the movement.
- you can mix and match the number of reps you do per workout. If you want to get bigger and stronger and improve the endurance of those muscles, you can do a heavy workout one day and a lighter workout the next time out.
- you should feel like you have control of the weight through the set but if you did one or two more rep you may not be able to make it all the way.
Set: a group of consecutive repetitions
How many sets should I do for each muscle group?
There’s no simple answer. Several studies show that doing one set per muscle builds just as much strength as doing three sets per muscle, at least for the first three or four months of training. If you’re a novice I would suggest starting with 2 sets and make sure your last rep of each set feels challenging.
Here are a few ideas for selecting reps and sets
- 2 sets x 12 reps = 24 reps
Most ideal for building muscle size
- 2 sets x 12 reps = 24 reps
Low t moderate intensity.
Most ideal for building muscle endurance
- 3 sets x 10 reps = 30 reps
Most ideal for building muscle size, but also suited for increasing strength
- 3 sets x 12 reps = 36 reps
Most ideal for building muscle size, but also suited for muscular endurance
- 4 sets x 10 reps = 40 reps
Moderate to low intensity.
Most ideal for building muscle size, but also suited for endurance
Choosing the Weight
Bear these principles in mind when choosing a weight:
- Always err on the side of “too light” versus “too heavy” when starting out.
- Lift enough so that you can get through the set, but not too much that you have NO fuel left in the tank at the end.
- Adjust the amount of weight you use for each exercise. In general, use more weight to work larger muscles like your thighs, chest, and upper back, and use less weight to exercise your shoulders, arms, and abdominals.
Planning your Workout: What Exercises Should I Set Together?
For simplicity I suggest using one of the following two principles or a combination of the two
A superset workout is simple: alternating sets of two different exercises with no rest in between. Because you’re resting less, your body has to work harder and your heart is getting a workout too.
A true superset (antagonist superset) is when you’re doing two exercises that target opposing muscles groups. When you look at movement patterns examples of this could be:
‘Push Pull’ eg a biceps curl and a triceps extension.
‘Bend-Push’ eg deadlift and shoulder press
The main perk of planning your workout like this is that your muscles will recover in between sets. When one muscle group is being contracted, its functional opposite relaxes, reducing the need of a break or rest time between exercises.
Then there’s the compound set (agonist superset) where both exercises work the same muscle groups. These are useful for adding intensity and volume to a workout as well as focusing on particular muscle groups, and is the most demanding type of superset.
eg a push-up and a dumbbell bench press.
Finally, there are unrelated supersets, which is where the two exercises use totally different muscles groups. Again thinking of movement patterns, you could consider:
- Lower body- Upper body eg lunges and biceps curls
- Pull-Rotate eg bent over row and Russian twist
The primary advantage of this type of superset is that there is no loss of strength in going from one exercise to the other.
- In a circuit you do one set for EVERY exercise, one after the other, without stopping.
- After you’ve done one set of each exercise in succession, you then repeat the process for the desired number of sets
- You’re getting a cardiovascular workout by consistently moving from exercise to exercise.
- You’re exercising different muscles back to back, giving each muscle group a chance to recover, but in a condensed amount of time.
Other Factors to consider
Use a Timer
Instead of counting reps you could time your exercises eg. 40 seconds work and 20 seconds rest
In the Gym
When in a gym environment consider time efficiency. You don’t want to send half your time wandering around the gym using / pieces of equipment.
Think about the following when planning your workout at the gym:
- Can you use one machine and take other pieces of equipment to it so you stay in one place? This could be a weights machine or a CV machine if you want to incorporate some cardiovascular work into your training. This will also reduce the risk of the piece of equipment you were using being used by someone else by the time you return to it!
- Can you use the same piece of equipment for more than one exercise eg cables?
Unless you want to have gym in your home which for most people probably isn’t the plan think about minimising the equipment you buy and consider what you have at home you can use eg. the stairs
Changing Up Your Routine
If you do the same exact routine, three days a week, for months and months, you might get bored, and start slacking, and you will hit a workout plateau.
The body adapts in about 12 to 14 weeks to whatever stress is being applied, so you need to change up your workout routine every 8-12 weeks.
You don’t have to throw out your whole routine to keep your body challenged: here are some ideas for how to make simple changes
- Use different equipment
- Change your set and rep scheme
- Change the exercise variations
I hope this has given you some ideas for planning a workout to do at home.
When starting out I d recommend writing it down before you start. Once you get more confident you will find that you are more able to think on your feet and don’t need to do this
Rachel Law is a personal fitness trainer based in New Malden, Surrey. Qualifications: ActivIQ Level 3 Personal Training; Burrell Education Pregnancy Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner; Burrell Education Advanced Post Natal Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education 3rd Age Women Optimal Health and Nutrition; Burrell Education Peri Natal Athlete; Burrell Education Pelvic Flow and Freedom; Olympic Weight Lifting; Premier Global Kettlebells; FIE Level Assessment and Mentoring