How to Plan a Workout

Lately, I’ve had a lot of people asking for advice on how to put together a workout. Unfortunately, with so much information available on social media it’s difficult to differentiate between the credible recommendations and the fad fixes. So, below I’m going to provide you with a brief overview of the structure I use when putting together a workout.

I look at a workout as three different aspects; resistance, core and cardio. Recommended guidelines suggest 3-5 cardio sessions per week, 3 resistance sessions per week (per muscle area on non-consecutive days) and 1 core session per week. For the purpose of this post I’ll be explaining how to write a workout programme which incorporates all three in one session.

Warm Up

It’s essential to carry out a warm up prior to any exercise to prevent injury and prepare you’re body for what’s ahead. I usually schedule a 5 minute pulse raiser where the aim is to increase your heart rate to 40%-60% of your max heart rate.

I then follow the pulse raiser with a series of dynamic stretches (moving stretches), focusing particularly on the muscles which are going to be used during the session.

Resistance Training

I start every workout with resistance training. The key to effective resistance training is form, so to ensure exercises are executed with perfect form, it is best to do them before the muscles are fatigued through cardio. There are three main types of resistance training; Strength (for increasing strength), Hypertrophy (for building muscle or bulking) and Endurance (for improving muscular endurance or building lean muscle). It is recommended that you only focus on one type of resistance training at a time.

The number of sets/reps will be defined by the type of resistance training you’re currently focusing on (a minimum of 6-8 weeks should be completed before changing your Resistance goal focus).

Per exercise, the sets/reps should be as follows;

Strength 3-5 reps for 3 sets Hypertrophy 8-12 reps for 3 sets Endurance 12-15 reps for 3 sets

The exercises programmed for each session should then cover a range of muscles in the desired area (full body/upper/lower). To ensure a balanced workout is achieved, I aim to pair push-pull movements. For example, seated chest press followed by a seated row or inclined Press up followed by ring pulls.

Each exercise should be done according to the sets/reps of your resistance goal as defined above.

Core

When people think Core, they automatically think of abs. Whilst these muscles make up part of your core cylinder, it’s important to also work the other muscles, including the lower back, which are essential to establishing a strong core.

To ensure a well rounded programme, I tend to include one anterior exercise (e.g. ab curls), one posterior exercise (e.g. Back extensions) and one all rounder (e.g. Plank).

The abs are like any other muscle, so sets/reps of each exercise should be determined by the guidelines defined above.

Cardio

Cardio is the least demanding part of a workout in the central nervous system which is why I leave it until last. There’s been a huge shift in the fitness industry with many people expressing their dislike of cardio, using phrases such as ‘cardiNO’, but whether you like it or not, cardio exercise is essential for you health. That said, it doesn’t have to be simply plodding along on the treadmill.

The most popular form of cardio at the moment is intervals. These focus on varying degrees of intensity and can be done using any exercise which is going to cause an increase in your heart rate, from running to burpees to kettle bell swings, so there really is something for everyone. For effective interval training, you should cycle the different energy systems which are present in your body. To do this, you should focus on a different type of interval training in each session.

Aerobic Intervals 3 mins on at 70-80%; 3 mins off at 60%

Lactic Acid Intervals 1 min on at 80-90%; 2 min off at 60-65%

CP Intervals 10 sec on at 100%; 30 sec off at 0%

Where the % refers to maximum heart rate. Aim for 20-30 mins of whichever interval type your session focus is on.

Cool Down

After every workout it’s essential to perform a cool down to reduce the risk of blood pooling (which can leave you feeling light headed, nauseous and possibly even passing out) and return blood flow to essential organs. I schedule a 5 min cardio based cool up where the aim is to reduce your heart rate to 100 bpm or lower.

Stretches

Last but not least, stretches! This is usually the most overlooked part of a workout but I can’t stress just how important it is to stretch the muscles you’ve worked. It helps prevent adaptive shortening of the muscles which will help prevent injury in future sessions.

Putting it to Practice

Contrary to popular belief, it’s important to change your workout on a session by session basis to keep your muscles guessing. So that’s it, pretty much everything you need to be able to start planning your own workouts in the gym. Good luck!

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