When it comes to working out to achieve your goals, you’ll need the right training program. No matter who you are, whether you’re recreational lifter or aspiring gym-bro, a program is necessary. The right training program emphasizes compound movements, building strength, and addressing any other weaknesses you may have.
Unfortunately, many people don’t go into the gym with much of a plan. They might start with couple arm circles, basic stretches and do whatever you feel like training for the day, usually ending with a few crunches or some light cardio.
There’s nothing wrong with that every now and then, in fact it can help break up the monotony of grinding away. But those days are very few and far between.
If you want to achieve your fitness goals, you’ll need to have the right structured plan that will give you what you need. The problem is, there are so many choices for workout programs out there. Just do a simple search on Google and you’ll find a million of them.
From button poppin’ pecs to growing dat booty, it’s hard to know which one is right for you. Because if you use a mediocre program, you may get mediocre results.
So instead of adding to the confusion, I’m going to tell you what the principles are in order to have a killer workout program. Let’s break down just exactly how to structure it out:
First off, let’s figure out what your fitness levels are and how many times a week you can work out. If you’re a beginner or short on workout time, I highly recommend performing full body workouts. All of your muscles get stimulated throughout the week, and you’ll build strength quickly. A basic 3x/week template is good enough, this is how it looks during the week:
Monday: Full Body
Wednesday: Full Body
Friday: Full Body
If you’re a bit more experienced and have more days to work out, then you can either do an Upper/Lower split. This allows you to train your entire body throughout the week evenly while allowing the muscles to recover in between. This is how I usually set it up:
For more experienced trainees, they can do a body part split. Body part splits allow you to hit target individual muscles with more exercises. The problem is, recovery can be tough and not ideal for busy folks, since missing a day throws off the routine and flow of the program. You’ll also need to ensure that you’re sleeping well and nutrition is on point.
Here is what a body part split would look like:
So now that we know what typical splits are, here’s how the workouts will look:
Part One: Warm Up
No matter how much time you have to train, whether it’s a 20-30 minute blast or a full hour session, a warm-up is necessary.
A 5-10 minute warm-up reduces injury, helps wake up your nervous system for muscle recruitment, increases blood flow to those working muscles, improves your mobility and performance.
Your warm-up doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to target the areas you’re going to be working that day.
If you’re doing a full body training session, then you’ll need to do a series of mobility movements from bottom along with activating the core and glutes. Here are some of my favorite:
Hitting your upper body? Then I recommend stretching and mobilizing your thoracic spine, foam rolling and stretching your lats, and performing band pullaparts to activate your postural muscles:
Along with mobility and activation drills, you can also incorporate some plyometrics or explosive movements to prime the nervous system even more. This will improve your power and speed, which will carry over to your other exercises. Here are some of my favorite plyometric drills:
Part Two: Strength Training
In order to build muscle, you’ll need a solid strength foundation. You won’t be able to tone up your arms or increase the size of your legs by lifting 5-10lb weights for high reps. By increasing your strength in the major lifts (presses, pulls, squat, and hinge), you’ll also increase the amount of weight you can use for higher rep movements, which will lead to more muscle growth.
One of the biggest mistakes many people make when trying to lose fat is to stop lifting heavy and mostly do high reps to burn extra calories. By ignoring heavy lifting, you’re not maintaining the muscle you’ve built in the process. Keep working those lower reps to keep what you have.
So in the beginning of the workout, you want to emphasize heavier weight and fewer reps.
Some of my favorite rep schemes for strength are:
If you’re doing a full body workout, you can pair an lower body movement, followed by an upper body movement afterwards as a superset. For example:
A1. Barbell Front Squat – 4x6
A2. Weighted Chinup – 4x6
Part Three: Hypertrophy Training
Once the heavy lifting is out of the way, now is the time to focus on hypertrophy, aka training for muscle size with high reps. Higher rep training is the way to do it because of the muscle fiber makeup. Training for higher reps leads to something called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which increases the fluid in the muscle, leading it to get bigger.
Here’s an example of what to do after a set of heavy deadlifts or chin-ups:
A. Dumbbell Row – 4x10 each arm
B. Lat Pulldowns – 3x12
C. Cable Row – 3x15
D. Face Pulls – 3x15-20
This is what to do if you’re targeting your chest to get those button poppin’ pecs:
A. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 4x10
B. Machine Chest Press – 3x12
C. Cable Fly – 3x20
If you’re doing a full body workout, you can pair an upper body exercise with a lower body one, or contrasting exercises such as a press with a row.
Part Four: Conditioning and Cardio
After all your lifting is done, if you have any time leftover you can work on your cardio and conditioning. This is used to improve your endurance, performance, and also to give you a nice little fat burn effect to cap off your workout.
If you’re short on time, I recommend doing 10-15 minutes of interval style training. There are many different ways to do this. Some of my favorite tools are kettlebells, assault bike, battle ropes, rowing machine, or medicine ball complexes.
You can set a timer and perform any of those exercises for a 1:1 or 1:2 work to rest ratio. So an example would be kettlebell swings for 30 seconds, then rest 30 or 60 seconds before performing another set. Do that for 10 minutes and you should be good.
And if you don’t much energy left after your workout, you can simply go for a fast paced walk.
Walking is a very underrated tool for fat loss. You can do it outside, or one of my favorite modalities is to hop on a treadmill, set it a 15 degree incline, and walk at 3-3.5 mph for 15-20 minutes.
Work It Out
A workout program is designed to help build strength, muscle, and endurance while reducing risk of injury. By having the proper exercise selection and sets/reps, you’ll reach your goals instead of spinning your wheels and not making any progress.
Now you have the template on how to create a solid workout for your muscle building and fat loss goals. Got any questions? Drop them below in the comments section.