Have you ever wondered how to put together your own workout program? Instead of having to trudge through multiple sites or pay someone to create one for you, what if you could put one together for yourself? Today you’re going to learn exactly how to do that.
Step 1: What is your reality
Before you begin to put together a workout program you need to know what your reality is. Ask yourself a few questions to help figure out how to create a realistic program.
- What injuries have you got currently or had in the past?
- What exercises cause pain? (like burpees hurting your knees)
- Do you have any recurring injuries?
- How much time do you have to exercise in a week?
- How long can you dedicate to each exercise session?
Asking yourself these questions will help you create a realistic program that is going to fit you and your lifestyle. There’s no point planning to go to the gym 6 days a week for 90 minutes each session if you can only train 3 days a week and can only dedicate one hour for each session. Don’t over commit to something you can’t do. Be honest with yourself and think about what’s going to work best with your current lifestyle.
Step Two: What are your goals?
What do you want to achieve? Is it to get into a better gym routine, lose 20 pounds, looking to gain muscle? You have to have a clear goal as to what you want to achieve. This isn’t going to affect your training much but knowing what your goals are helps keep you motivated when you have days you don’t feel like exercising. It also helps to know if you have spare time whether it’s a good idea to do cardio or not.
Once you know what your reality is and what your goals are, it’s time to start preparing your workout program.
The 7 Movement Patterns
When it comes to creating a workout program, you need to focus on exercises that are going to give you the best results.
These exercises should always be in a workout routine because they’re proven to be the most effective in getting results in the fastest time possible. Unless you’re injured or there is something preventing you from doing these movements, learn how to do these exercises.
In every program, make sure you cover the following elements:
Why these seven movements? It’s because they’re what humans have always done.
You have to squat down to sit, pick up heavy things and to carry them over long distances. You have had to push things over your head like putting a box on a shelf and pull yourself up over obstacles. When you Twist across your body to reach for something and you’ve lunged over rocks and logs to avoid or chase animals or little kids. All of those movement patterns are what you do all the time.
Here are a few variations of each movement.
- Goblet squat
- Barbell back squat
- Front squat
- Zercher squat
- Box squat
HORIZONTAL PUSH MOVEMENTS
- Barbell bench press
- Dumbbell bench press
- Dumbbell fly
- Floor Press
- Cable Fly
VERTICAL PUSH MOVEMENTS
- Overhead press (dumbbell and barbell)
- High Incline press (dumbbell and barbell)
- Decline press (dumbbell and barbell)
HORIZONTAL PULL MOVEMENTS
- Bent over row (dumbbell and barbell)
- Single arm row
- Seated cable row
- Chest supported rows
VERTICAL PULL MOVEMENTS
- Lat pull-downs
- Side Raises
- Front Raises
- Deadlifts (trap bar, straight bar, kettlebell)
- Back extensions
- Cable pull through
- Kettlebell swings
- Good mornings
- Hip Thrust
- Farmer’s walks
- Waiter walks
- Sled Pushes
- Sled Pulls
- Heavy backpack carries
- Russian twists
- Pallof press (static holds or moving)
- Landmine rotations
- Static rotation hold
Using these movements as the foundations of your workout will help you to become more balanced, build a nice-looking physique and become stronger. There are a lot more movements you will learn as you go on, but there’s no point in overwhelming you straight from the get-go.
3 Day Workout Program
A three-day workout program means that every time you go to the gym you would be training all of your muscle groups to get the best results. The more frequently you train your muscles (with adequate rest) you’re going to be able to make better progress. It takes the body 48 hours to fully heal which means if you did a full body routine on Monday you can do another full body routine on Wednesday then again on Friday or Saturday.
Creating a three-day workout program would mean you pick one of each 7 movement patterns from above.
- Barbell Squat
- Romanian Deadlift
- Bench Press
- Bent Over Row
- Pall Of Press
- Walking Lunges
- Sled Push
4 Day Workout Program
If you were to do a four-day workout program you would do an upper body and lower body approach. Let’s say you train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. You train Upper, Lower, Upper, Lower. That way you’re hitting all your muscle groups twice a week.
With the upper body program, you will be working all muscle groups above the legs.
Upper Body Day Example
- Bench Press
- Bent Over Row
- Overhead Press
- Lat Pulldown
- Pall Of Press
Then you’ve got the lower body (below the belly). This is your squat, hinge, lunges, that you read about earlier. That would be movements like your barbell squats, your deadlifts, your Romanian deadlifts, your kettlebell swings, walking lunges, static lunges.
Since you’re training your abs on your upper day, you could do carries on lower body days. Doing sled pushes at the end of a workout can be a great finisher to help burn some extra calories.
Lower Body Example
- Romanian Deadlift
- Walking Lunges
- Hip Thrust
- Sled Pushes
Reps And Sets
If your goal isn’t to become a powerlifter then the reps and sets you choose aren’t going to be that important. Just remember this, this more sets you do and the heavier you train, the longer you will have to spend in the gym. I would recommend doing 3 – 4 sets for each exercise and staying in the 8 – 12 rep range. This means that it will only take 90 – 12o seconds of rest between each set before you feel fresh and ready to go again instead of waiting around for 3 – 5 minutes and spending hours in the gym.
What About Bi’s and Tri’s?
Ahh, so you’ve discovered my little secret of not putting in bicep curls, tricep kickbacks and leg extensions into your program, what gives? The only reason they’re not in the program is that I want you to get the best results possible in the shortest amount of time and you don’t have to do bicep curls and tricep kickbacks to get bigger arms. Doing the bench press, overhead press, chin-ups and rows will help grow your arms.
If you’ve got spare time and you want to add in those exercises then go ahead but do not skip out on the most important exercises and only do them if you have time.
Each time you go to the gym you should be making some type of progress in order to make your body adapt and grow. You do this by increasing the amount of weight you use, increasing the number of reps/sets you do, or increasing the intensity. A complete beginner should start by trying to increase the amount of weight. Each time you go to the gym that week you should aim to lift a little bit heavier. If you could bench press 60kg (135lbs) for ten reps last week then your goal should be to increase the weight by the smallest increment possible, which will usually be 2.5kg (5lbs). In this case, you would want to try and bench 62.5kg for ten reps.
Is that small of a weight jump really going to help your body build muscle? Absolutely, and it’s because your body has never been exposed to it before and you’ve just lifted 2.5kg more than you’ve done before. Those who have been training for a few years should try to increase one of the three overload methods. Even if it’s just one or two reps extra, a personal best is a personal best. You’re not going to be able to get a personal best on every single exercise every single time. And life is going to get in the way, stress is going to come up and things will just happen that hold you back, so don’t beat yourself up.
Some weeks it’s going to be difficult just making it to the gym. But remember that your goal should be trying to make progressive overload happen. It may not always happen but try to make it happen. Every time you come into the gym you need to aim to be improving in one of three ways:
This is the total amount of work done in the session and how much weight you’ve moved. If you start by squatting 100kg for ten reps for three sets then your total volume is 3,000kg (7,500lbs).
In order to increase your volume, you can increase the number of reps you are doing (moving from ten to 11, for example), increase the number of sets (moving from three to four) or increasing the amount of weight you lifted (100kg to 102.5kg).
The more volume you’re able to achieve, the more muscle you’re going to build because you’re going to be giving your body a new stimulus to adapt to each time it’s in the gym.
But when it comes to volume, you don’t need to go crazy and increase it by large amounts. There’s only so much you can do in the time you have. Increasing volume by adding more reps and more sets means you’re going to spend more time in the gym and if you don’t have the time then that’s going to be a problem.
Increasing volume can be as simple as adding one extra rep each week you come in.
So, if you’re doing three sets of ten this week, come in and do three sets of 11 with the same weight next time.
Yes, it’s really that simple and your body will grow.
If you’re in the beginning phase of training (your first year) then you’ve got a lot of potential to build the best foundation of muscle if you do it right. Adding just that little bit of extra volume is going to help you gain muscle faster.
This is just how hard you feel the session is. You can increase your intensity by shortening your rest time. Instead of your usual two-minute rest, cut it down to 90 seconds or one minute to make you work harder with less recovery.
You could also change the intensity by lowering a weight slower and raising it slower than you usually would which would cause the lighter weights to “feel heavier” and increase your intensity.
I’m not a big fan of this method unless you’re on a tight schedule. You will make more muscle and strength gains if you take more time to recover between your sets because you will be able to use more weight and do more reps.
Stronger muscles are bigger muscles and bigger muscles are stronger muscles. One way to get better muscular results is to get stronger. The more weight you can lift, the bigger the muscle will grow.
Always aim to increase the weight on an exercise whenever you can. But keep in mind some exercises will be easier to make progress on than others.
For example, you will be able to increase your weights on squats a lot faster than you can on a bicep curl. One of the reasons for this is just because of the number of muscles you use. A squat is a whole body movement and requires a lot more muscles than a bicep curl, meaning all of the muscles you use to squat will help you move more weight.
You should aim to increase your weights on the bigger full-body movements every week until it just becomes too hard.
Once you become more experienced, increasing the weight is going to become harder and harder. This is natural.
Your progress will slow down and maybe you will only be able to add weight to the bar every few weeks. This is when you can aim to start increasing the reps instead.
If you look at advanced people who’ve been training for a long time their progress is even slower and they can be stuck on the same weight for months on end.
Everyone has a different genetic makeup, so I can’t say how much strength you will gain in what timeframe, but you need to up the ante whenever you can.
The small changes you add in the gym each time you work out will add up to a lot more muscle growth. That means you will make a lot more progress in the gym than the guys you see day in, day out doing the exact same amount of reps for the exact same sets, with the exact same weight and wondering why their body isn’t changing.
When To Change It Up?
Aim to stick to your workout plan for at least 4 – 6 weeks. You don’t need to “shock” your muscles every day with a new workout and believe it or not, you’re going to make less progress if you do it that way. If after 6-weeks you’re still making progress, going up in weights and enjoying the program then you can keep following the program until you begin to plateau.
When Should You Do Cardio?
Cardio isn’t essential for losing fat (although it can help burn a few extra calories a day). The only time you should add in cardio is when you have free time. Your first priority should be training with weights minimum 3 – 4 times a week. If you still have free time on the other days during the week then that’s when you can add it in.
LISS OR HIIT
When it comes to cardio, what’s better? HIIT or LISS? Here’s the answer that’s not going to make you happy… It doesn’t matter. A better question to ask yourself is is which one are you going to be able to stick to and which do you find more enjoyable?
It’s your choice at the end of the day. If you’ve heard HIIT is great for burning calories but you absolutely hate it then you should absolutely not do it. If you’d rather walk on a treadmill for an hour and watch some Netflix then go ahead. The main goal is just to move.
Wrapping It Up
By following the principles above, you can put together a very effective workout program. It really doesn’t have to get more complicated than what I’ve shown you. The best part is you can keep putting together workout programs every 6 – 8 weeks for the rest of your life. Just remember, every time you go to create a new workout program, check your reality first to make sure what you’re doing is still realistic.
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