A Step by Step Guide to Planning a Workout Part 1: Frequency
The time has come, you have finally convinced yourself you need to work out.
It takes everything you've got to say no to Netflix, pack up your workout gear and make your way to the gym. But you do it. You've arrived, now what? We've all been here. The unplanned workout. We drift aimlessly from one machine to the next, hoping our efforts magically come together in a full body workout to achieve our over-the-top goals. Or worse, we take one quick look at the weights area, freak out at how jacked everyone looks, and settle on steady state cardio for 30 minutes before calling it a day.
It is true that any physical activity is better than none at all. However this approach will keep you from maximizing your time at the gym, and will likely lead to a lack of motivation pretty quickly. My advice, have a plan! Go in there with the exercises you plan to do, as well as the number of reps and their starting weights. Doing a little bit of work up front will help you get the most out of your gym visits in the long run.
In a series of posts I will go over some basic steps and things to think through when planning and creating your strength training workout. The goal is that with a realistic plan, you'll start to see the results you want, keeping you motivated to stay healthy!
Decide your frequency
Figuring out how often you will commit to going to the gym is a logical first step.
For example, if you only want to come 2-3 times a week, you're going to want to aim for a full body workout each time you come. You want to ensure that you hit all your major muscle groups (legs, arms, chest, back and core) every couple days. So if you're only coming twice a week and doing legs once and upper body the other, you're doing yourself a disservice. If coming 2-3 times a week (which is great!) is all you have time for, aim to hit all major muscle groups each visit and maybe only 1-2 exercises for each one.
If on the other hand you have the time to come 5-6 times a week, you will want to split your routine up so you hit different body parts on each day. This will still allow the muscles adequate time between workouts to recover and grow. A split is a common design when your goals require that you do multiple exercises and sets with each major muscle group. This approach obviously takes more time, so you split up your muscles groups into days and come more often.
An example of a split might look something this:
Monday/Thursday: Legs and Back
Tuesday/Friday: Arms and Chest
Wednesday/Saturday: Core and Cardio
How you divide it up is entirely up to you.
It really depends on your goals (which I will go over in a later post), how often you're able to commit, and for how long. For example, you may choose a split routine not because you're body building, but rather because you can only commit 20-30 minutes each time you come. Keep in mind that for general fitness it's recommended to train all major muscles groups 2-3 times a week.
The most important thing is that you figure out the most realistic approach for you and try to stick with it. Once you've decided how often you can commit, you'll be in a better place to structure your workouts. In the next post I'll go over the basic structures and their best uses.