“How many reps should I do for my workout program?”
“Should I work out 3 or 4 days a week?”
“How many exercises should I do?”
“Should I implement cardio or mainly resistance training?”
“How should I train during the week?”
“Do I have to train this way?”
“I would love to start working out, but I don’t know where to start.”
Does this sound familiar? How many of you have asked these questions or similar ones before when it comes to your workout program? I want to tell you that you don’t have to feel ashamed, stupid, or embarrassed that you don’t have the answers. EVERYONE in the health and fitness industry had to ask these same questions at one point or another!
You are Not Alone
When it comes to designing your own workout program, you first need to understand that there are NO RULES for how a training protocol ought to look. Why? Because, everything is subjective! Your goals should be YOUR goals, your why should be YOUR why, and how you get there should be how YOU want to!
Workouts are Science
Now, let’s not be ignorant of the fact that there are scientific principles concerning muscle growth, recovery, and training strategies that MUST be implemented in order for your workout routine to be the most well rounded and give you the best results. For example, you should always first seek to build a solid and stable foundation before building upon it to avoid injury and to maximize progress potential. This means that if you want to get where you’re going, maintain your results, or even switch things up, you have to be willing to learn a little bit of the nitty-gritty science behind exercise.
Workouts Take Work
You cannot expect to get where you want to go without any clue of what you’re doing! Think of it as driving a car to get to a destination. You can’t just start driving the vehicle and expect to get to where you’re going. No. First, you have to learn about your vehicle, how it handles, how it brakes, the inside controls, and the rules of the road before you can get to your destination. However, you do not have to know every single part of your car and what it does in order to be able to drive.
SAME WITH EXERCISE.
You should try to get to know the basics in order to successfully progress in your transformation journey. However, don’t feel pressured like you have to know everything when you first begin. You can learn as you go!
Now that we have that covered, let’s get into my 7 steps to starting a workout program!
STEP 1: Identify your goals and your WHY!
Before you can get anywhere with a workout routine, first you must figure out WHAT you want to accomplish. Is it weight loss? Fat loss? Muscle gains? Strength gains? Athletic performance? Basic maintenance?
From there, I highly recommend that you take some time to sit with yourself and identify the root reason for why you want to achieve that goal. Essentially think about what is the “WHY behind your WHY”. Is there and underlying reason for motivating you to seek out to change your physical state?
Some of you may find is that underneath the “I want to see my abs because I’ve never had them,” you secretly want to gain the acceptance of others and not be rejected the way you were in the past. So, your WHY behind your WHY is because you fear rejection from other people.
So for this person (just one example of many underlying reasons), I would recommend working on self-image and body positivity while working out to find true happiness within your transformation journey. There you may find sustainability with your goals.
STEP 2: Mentally place yourself in your FUTURE shoes.
After you have established your goals and your WHY, I recommend doing some forward thinking. Place yourself in the shoes of your future self. What are you doing/not doing that has contributed to the success of not only getting you where you want to go, but maintaining it?
What habits does that future you have? What does your discipline look like? What would you LIKE to be like in the future? How’s your mentality? How many days would you like to be working out in the future? IS IT REALISTIC for you given your career, family, finances, time etc.?
These are the kinds of questions you’ll want to think about, because they will show you where to start.
STEP 3: Determine how many days you can afford to dedicate to a workout.
This is where more of the scientific principles start coming into play, especially for those who are beginners. It is generally advised that one should resistance train at least 2-3 times per week and have at least 1 day where cardio is also implemented in order to start pushing the body in the right direction. You can either place the cardio on the same day as one of your resistance training days at the end or dedicate one of your training days purely for cardio. The choice is yours!
Assuming that you would like your whole body to look good and somewhat symmetrical, (believe me there are people who skip all sorts of stuff), then first you will need to consider how many days you can afford to work out before determining what to train on what day.
For the sake of this example, let’s assume that you can only afford 3 days to train. Now we can progress to Step 4!
STEP 4: Decide YOUR training method.
This step is where you need to decide how you like to work out. What have you experienced, what types of activities made you feel good and gave you a good workout? What types of training modalities do you have experience with?
By modalities I am referring to: free weights, exercise machines, CrossFit, swimming, running, biking, rock climbing, HIIT training etc.
Where Should I Start?
Start with what you currently know and build on it! Reach out for help to experience new things; don’t be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone. Remember: The body will always adapt to survive. The more you give it a new stimulus, the more you will grow and experience less plateaus! Reach out for personal training, go to YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, the resources available to gain the education you need to help put together your training protocol are endless.
Here are some common training method templates you could use to help get you started:
- Body Part Split (train one body part/day)
- Upper Body/Lower Body days
- Full Body
There are more out there that I haven’t listed, but you truly can mix and match your workouts however you would like because there are no rules on how to break up your training. The end goal should always be to have trained the whole body by the end of your workout week.
STEP #5: Decide on time of day to train and duration of workout.
If you’re like me, you like to plan your days out and get all your ducks in a row before getting into things. I recommend you have a general idea of when you are going to workout before you start your day.
How Do I Plan?
For this step you’re going to want to sit down and take a look at your daily schedule to decide where you can fit in a workout. Unless your work day begins at 5am every day, almost everyone can afford to get up earlier to get their workout in. Regardless, choose a time that best works for you to train. It is okay if some days you have to train at a different time than others; that’s why I advise looking at your schedule from a daily perspective and not a weekly perspective.
The duration of your workout will also be dependent on your schedule. “How long should I workout?” Generally, it is recommended to workout for at least 30 minutes at a moderate to high intensity to give your body the required stimulus to begin to change. No, you do not need to be getting 2+ hour long workouts in like your neighborhood gym bro, Chad.
STEP #6: Set and Reps for a Workout Program
The reason why I placed this step after deciding on a time of day and duration of your workout is because the time you have to work out is one of the factors of set and rep choice.
In general, I recommend people starting out with 3 sets of 10 reps for beginners in the resistance training world. For cardio, I recommend working at a moderate intensity level at a steady pace for about 30 minutes, regardless of how you choose to do cardio.
Resistance Training in a Workout Program
In the resistance training world, there is plenty of scientific data out there to support that different set, reps, and weight loads will have different effects on the musculoskeletal system. Here are the recommendations per the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM):
- Stability and Muscular Endurance Exercises: 1-3 sets / 12-20 reps
- Hypertrophy: 3-5 sets / 6-12 reps
- Maximal Strength: 4-6 sets / 1-5 reps
- Power: 3-6 sets / 1-10 reps
Why is Everything Different?
The reason why the reps are different is because the external loads (weight of resistance) you use to achieve either of the listed adaptations are different. In order to achieve optimal stability and muscular endurance, you’re going to want to choose a light-moderate resistance to reach 12-20 reps. For hypertrophy, you’ll want to strive for a moderate to SLIGHTLY heavier load. Maximal strength loads entail you working with very heavy loads which means you won’t be able to perform very many reps.
When it comes to power, your emphasis should be on producing as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time. Because of this, chose weight that is around 10-30% of a one-rep-max so that you can focus on the speed of your movement. Performing exercises that are more strength and power focused should be reserved for when you gain more experience working out.
STEP #7: Execute, re-evaluate, readjust your workout program.
Give yourself at least 3 weeks of using the workout routine that you have created for yourself before you decide to switch things up or before you get overwhelmed and ditch all your hard work. Just because something didn’t work the first time DOESN’T mean it won’t work a second time. If your plan wasn’t working out as thought, re-evaluate but don’t quit, and adjust your protocol to something that you can better manage and enjoy more.
Working out is a constant trial and error thing. Things won’t always go as planned and that is okay!! It does not mean you need to give up or should throw in the towel because it didn’t work the first time.
Keep going, keep progressing, keep evaluating and re-evaluating your protocol to make it work for YOU! This is YOUR workout routine so make it flexible to your schedule and your life. We want your workout program to be the best it can possibly be for you!
If you would like more guidance contact me, Jordan, and we’ll knock this thing out!
Comment below, I would love to hear your feedback!