You like to work out, but you don’t really have a set routine in place? You’ve been training hard for months if not years, but the results are simply not there?
While basic training may be a good starting point for those new to the gym, it just isn’t optimal for significant progress. Following the same routine day after day can lead to plateaus, as you become accustomed to the same exercises and intensity. In order to continue seeing progress and reaching fitness goals, an optimal training structure is needed.
A structured program is a combination of many factors, specifically tailored to your individual goals and abilities. Today, we’ll explore why basic training may not be enough and outline a simple guide that will provide a well-structured training plan just for you!
Elements of an Effective Workout
It’s super important to have control over your fitness routine, and an actual plan for your workouts. If you’re not sure how to do it, don’t worry!
Follow these simple steps and create a structure workout plan in minutes.
1. Training Frequency
First, determine the number of workout sessions you should complete each week. Are you a beginner, or a more advanced lifter? There are a few different schedules which you can choose from.
- Three days: A 3-day full-body split is great if you have a busy schedule. Good for beginners.
- Four days: A 4-day upper and lower body split is excellent middle ground. Suitable for most gym-goers.
- Five days: If you’re a really advanced lifter and want serious results, then a 5-day split where training each muscle group independently may be optimal.
It’s crucial to choose the correct schedule based on your needs and preferences. This will ensure you don’t overtrain and actually achieve enough muscle recovery.
2. Workout Duration
Next, determine how long your workouts should last. If you’re just starting out, a 30 minute training session will be enough. You can increase your frequency and duration of training over time. You may eventually build up to a 45-minute or even 60-minute session.
If you don’t have 60 minutes to spare, don’t worry. There are alternatives to make the most out of your training. Just aim to get the same amount of work in, but in less time. This will help drive up intensity and volume to your workout.
3. Muscle Groups
Once you’ve established the frequency and duration, it’s important to choose your target areas. For instance, you could plan to complete four 45-minute upper and lower body workouts per week. On Monday and Thursday, you could focus on lower body muscle groups, while on Tuesday and Friday, you can focus on the upper body. And Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday are rest days.
To ensure you’re working out all muscle groups, aim to train your lower and upper body twice a week.
You can also divide your workouts. For example, a push, pull, legs split targets a variety of muscle groups during each workout. A push training incorporates all pushing exercises (chest, shoulders, triceps), a pull workout includes all pulling movements (back, and biceps), and a leg session targets all lower body muscle groups.
Rather than targeting all muscles simultaneously, it may be beneficial for novice lifters to focus on movement patterns initially. Over time, you can transition to targeting all muscle groups in each workout to maximize the intensity and volume of training.
4. Exercise Intensity
Exercise intensity is often overlooked. It’s not just about how hard you work out, but also how much you lift.
For example, if your max bench is 200 pounds and you’re lifting 100 pounds, you’re intensity is at 50%. And this number is super important if you want to structure a proper workout routine.
So, the first step is to figure out your max lifting weight and then base your intensity on that. If you’re new to the game, start with a moderate weight and aim for higher reps. Don’t go too heavy too soon or you’ll risk hurting yourself. It’s all about finding the right balance between a weight you can handle and intensity.
5. Exercise Volume
Let’s say you perform a bench press of 100 pounds for three sets of 5 reps. After a few weeks, you end up doing 10 reps. You now have increased your training volume. If you take your weight and multiply it by your sets and reps, you’ll get the total volume.
100 pounds x 3 sets x 5 reps = 1500 total volume
100 pounds x 3 sets x 10 reps = 3000 total volume
Total volume is what drives muscle growth. Better training volume, better results. Start with a moderate training volume, and increase it over time.
How to Properly Structure a Workout
Now it’s time to use these five elements of training to structure an actual proper workout.
Your warm-ups should last anywhere from five to 15 minutes. If you’re starting with a 30-minute workout, aim for an effective five-minute warm-up. Shorter workouts require shorter warm-ups. Also, you should perform warm-up sets for each exercise before starting the actual working set.
Want to complete a longer and more serious workout? Take a bit more time to warm up, around 10-15 minutes. You can jump on a cardio machine for a few minutes, and then take an additional 5-10 minutes to warm up appropriate muscle groups with some light weights.
The majority of your workout should be focused on strength or resistance training. Choose 4-6 exercises and perform 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps. Start with a moderate intensity and volume. Doesn’t matter what split you chose, compound big exercises should always be done first, since they involve the most muscle groups.
Cardio and aerobic exercises can be done at the very end of your workout. Use either LISS (a lower intensity steady-state cardio) or HIIT (high intensity interval cardio).
3. Cooldown and Stretch
Lastly, it is vital to cool and stretch after your workout. You must take advantage of static stretching while your muscles are still warm. This promotes faster recovery and repair in the long run.
- Treadmill walking or jogging
- Air squats
- Walking lunges
- Light weight exercises
Complete 3-5 minutes of walking and 20 reps of each dynamic movement.
Strength and Resistance (Upper Body Workout)
Barbell Bench Press 3 sets x 8 reps
Bent Over Rows 3 sets 6 reps
Standing Military Press 3 sets x 6 reps
Dumbbell Shoulder Fly’s 3 sets x 10 reps
Bicep Curls 3 sets x 10 reps
Cooldown and Stretch
- Pull up bar dead hang
- Cobra stretch
- Arms stretches
- Side-to-side twists
- Chest extensions