It's really easy to overcomplicate workouts. There is a large amount of literature on training programs with endless exercise options and structures to use. We’re going to dip our toe in with this article and cover some of the foundational points.
If your the type of person that Google’s “new workout routine” and quickly finds a Mens Health or Womens Health template program then this is for you. If you’ve got a low training age then no doubt you’ve been following these templates for some time.
Getting a grasp of a simple training structure gives you the tools to move away from the generic and become more specific.
For example, this recent Women's Health article promises to build a better butt, but it doesn’t progress you past your first workout (also, its terrible exercise selection). The problem with this is that you get some articles written by a journalist which don’t go past day one.
For any training program to be successful there should be built in weekly or monthly progressions so that you don’t end up doing the same exercises, weights, reps and intensity week in week out.
With correct progressions you challenge the body. You can only get fitter, stronger and look better when you stress the system more through progressions. You need to get outside of your comfort zone if you want to succeed.
The templated workouts are self-limiting. The below infomation helps you understand what is needed to add progression in your training.
How long is a training program?
When writing a training program, you have to think of them as blocks of time. These blocks change throughout the year depending on your goal. You can think of them as month my month. January being Block 1, Febuary Block 2 etc. etc..
Generally speaking, a 4 week training block works well for everyone. This will include block of strength, power, work capacity etc..
A general rule of thumb though, is that 4 weeks of training should happen before changing the program. This means staying the the same exercises for 4 weeks before changing them.
For example; front squats in Block 1, back squats in Block 2.
Elite athletes follow an incredibly structured training regime in which no stone is left unturned. The training is hard and arduous and the toll on their bodies is something they can handle as their job is to train and recover.
Yours might be to train, clean, cook, take the dog for a walk, and prepare for that all important sales pitch! So start with a shorter phase first, something like 3 weeks.
How to split up my training week up?
Initially, your training can follow a loose skeleton while you build up your exercise repertoire. Something like this:
Monday - Total Body - 1 hour
Wednesday - Total Body - 1 hour
Friday - Total Body - 1 hour
3 days per week working on total body would be a nice 4-week introduction for you. You’ll have a variety of exercises to work on and the bonus of not being sore days later.
After you’ve hit this a few times then you could start to work more body specific style training like the following:
Monday - Lower Body - 1 hour
Tuesday - Upper Body - 1 hour
Thursday - Lower Body And Core - 1 hour
Friday - Upper Body And Conditioning - 1 hour
This will allow you to really challenge your body and create more stress to the muscles and the central nervous system. You might feel more tired while focusing on one body part and yes, you’ll be sore (only for the first couple of weeks).
How to order my exercises?
Every training session should start with a warm-up. If you have an upper body day then you should warm up the shoulders and core. A lower body day should have a focus on the hips and core. Always core.
Following the warm-up, you should start with your most important exercises, the ones you want to get better at or the ones which will make you better at what you want to do.
For example, if you want to stay fit and strong, put some full body exercises in your programme. Exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, pull up and shoulder press fit this category.
If you want to increase speed and acceleration then put in a trap bar deadlift. If you want to increase the size of your chest then use the bench press first. If its the size of your glutes, then put in a sumo deadlift first.
If you don’t know what exercise should be in your program then you’ll have to do some research or use a coach that knows how to structure this.
How to progress throughout the month/weeks?
Progressing without a goal in your head is difficult. Decide on what you want to do. If its to have better posture, then the main lifts such as squatting and deadlifting are a must with supplementary exercises such as farmers and suitcase carries.
Once you have a goal in your head then think logically of how to approach this. Want bigger arms, then pull-ups and biceps curls should be on the menu. Want a better butt, then hip thrusts and deficit split squats are for you. What to do a one arm handstand on someones head, then some shoulder work is necessary.
A difficult task for you will be understanding which exercise works the body part your after and why.
This is where the complexity of training programs can be overwhelming. Should you do a split squat or a deficit split squat. Why choose one over the other….??
The biggest mistake I see is when people do too much too early and after a week or two stop. I’m available for online coaching so if the above is too daunting I can make a custom program for you.