A lot of people go into the gym with absolutely no plan outside of the basic premise that they are going to work out. One of the biggest ways to miss out on results is simply by wasting time and not being efficient in the gym. Whenever you walk into a fitness center, you can look around and see people standing, sitting, texting, chatting, and generally wasting time. The key to having a good workout is coming up with a plan ahead of time and sticking to it.
First: plan your month. As we are setting our fitness goals we should start with the macro first. Step one is to decide in advance what days you are going to exercise. This should be premeditated and not simply a reaction to having free time. If you wait until you "have the time to workout", you will have created a very effective strategy to never workout again!
Second: plan your individual weeks. Now that you know what days of the month you are going to exercise, you can start breaking it down into individual weeks. This plan should reflect an actual week. Look ahead and think about set-backs, schedule conflicts, and anything that could change your plan for any given week within your month of training and plan around it accordingly.
Third: plan your day. Now this is where things get a little tricky. Planning your actual workouts can be a little bit daunting. There are many systems and strategies around planning workouts. The actual session itself could be discussed at length, but that is not the point of this post. Instead we are going to keep it simple and come up with a generic plan that will work for most people. There are so many specific considerations when building a proper training program and realistically, in order to get the best results and make sure you are doing the right things, you should employ a professional who knows their stuff. However, most people cannot afford a full-time personal trainer so the next best thing is to come up with a plan for yourself and listen to your body. If you are doing something that feels “wrong”, then chances are it is.
Some guidelines to live by:
- For the first 1-3 months don’t do any chest exercise or anything where you are pushing weight over your head. Most people sit way too much and most of their general movements are in a push direction. This causes forward head and shoulder position and can lead to injury. Best to avoid making your muscle imbalances worse when starting an exercise program.
- No flexion extension movements with your back for at least the first 3 months. This means NO SITUPS and no back extensions. Like the above rationale for not doing push motions, we spend a lot of time sitting and this results in overactive hip flexors. Sit-ups are never something you will see endorsed here, but doing them in the beginning stages of a training program is paramount to lower back suicide. Stick to static abdominal contractions like planks and layouts.
- Be patient. Start slow as this is a marathon not a sprint. Exercise should always be thought of in the long term. There is no quick fix so you should go about your planning with this in mind.
- No jumping for the first 6 months. This is a general guideline for most people. Jumping is very hard on your body and realistically does not give you any amazing gains that cannot be attained though safer endeavors. Allow time for your joints, bones and muscles to adapt to taking the impact of heavier lifting before you start doing any type of jumping.
- The basics of progressive overload mean that, if you are manipulating the number of reps that you are doing and the weight that you are doing in the right pattern, you will see continuing results. What this means, in simple terms, is, if you start lifting a weight 10 times (meaning you are only capable of lifting this weight 10 times… not just only lifting it 10 times because that was your preplanned number), continue to lift that weight until you can lift it 20-25 times (this may take a few months). Then, once you are there, go back to 10 repetitions with a heavier weight and repeat that process. By doing this you will minimize plateau and maximize your results.
- Following an opposite muscle group pattern is a good general way to go. Push followed by pull. It is okay, however, to do 90% pull and only 10% push for the first 1-3 months in order to offset your muscle imbalances as aforementioned.
- Write down your workout and bring it with you to the gym. This should be basic but detailed.
o 10 Reps – Biceps, Triceps, Legs, Shoulders
§ Walking warm up
§ Range of motion warm up
§ Stability ball squats
§ Bicep curls
§ Tricep extensions
§ Lateral shoulder raises
§ Glute bridges
· Cardio block of 3-5 minutes and repeat above 4 times.
o This is, of course, a very simple sample workout. It is also very effective. Simple, hits the major muscles that we are deciding to work on, and can be done in any gym. No rocket science here, but it is a lot more effective than just going to the gym and randomly doing things.
The science of program design is something that should be left to professionals. However, if you are going to put time and energy into exercise, then you should come up with a plan and stick to it. There is no need to waste time wandering around the gym. Come up with a plan, follow the above guidelines, and get after it.