Happy New Year! As my 1st post of the year, I thought it would be appropriate and relevant to discuss how to construct and design a workout program. This sounds simple but doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The internet has a ton of workouts you can get for free. The problem arises when you try to decide which one is appropriate for you. When people share with me their level of frustration with this approach, I like to respond that trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose isn’t fun.
Gyms are crowded right now with the New Year’s resolution rush. That’s a good thing. I applaud people taking action to get into shape. The problem arises when they show up on Day 1 ready to go without any blueprint or plan. A common approach is to go to the gym, look for someone who is fit and follow what they are doing. The people who teeter on the more confident side may even approach this “fit” person and ask them “What do you do to get in shape?” I don’t recommend this approach because you need to take into consideration the end result. What is the goal? If you’re trying drop body-fat for a summer vacation and you’re watching a college kid who plays volleyball trying to increase her power, workouts are going to be different. The number one thing you must take into consideration when creating a program is what are you trying to accomplish. Increasing lean muscle, improving mobility, or enhancing muscular endurance each have nuances you must consider when creating your program. Work to rest ratio is just one.
I’m a big fan of high intensity interval training (HIIT) because of the efficiency. Most of the people I work with are in the general population and desire to change their body composition. They are typically older than 35. A HIIT workout composed of 3- 5 exercises administered with a ratio of 2:1 (work to rest) can produce great results. We will typically use either a 30 second to 15 second or 40 second to 20 second work to rest interval. A good tool to use is an interval timer, which allows the person to focus on the movement and eliminate the need to count repetitions. I started using an interval timer 4 years ago when I started working with small groups. This was out of necessity. Working with small groups I had to use a productive way to manage the workout. What I observed after a few months of using timed workouts was that I was able to maintain a consistent tempo and I could monitor which work to rest ratio generated the best results. As a coach, what I observed was people focusing more on the quality of their movement which also led to better workouts. You may think counting reps is better, but I disagree. Think about how many times you have zoned off during a set and forgot how many reps you’ve performed. Six, eight, ok… that feels like 10. We’ve all been there.
After determining the appropriate work to rest ratio, you need to determine what exercises to do. To keep this challenge in perspective, I require every coach that works at the studio to know every exercise in our Operations manual. We currently use over 300 exercises at the studio. This is tough for a certified personal trainer. Just imagine how overwhelming this would be for someone new to exercise. I do have a way to help. Don’t look for exercises, look for movement patterns.
The common movement patterns are a squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, and brace. If you select an exercise from each of these patterns, you are guaranteed to cover every movement pattern in the body and you will work all muscle groups. This will also help in avoiding overuse injuries from doing too much for a specific muscle group. Many men experience shoulder problems because they start with a barbell bench press (push), follow it with dumbbell press on the incline bench (push) and then finish this workout off with some push-ups (push). If you had time for 3 exercises, you would be better off doing prisoner lunges (lunge), followed by push-ups (push), and then finish with dumbbell rows (pull). This is a more balanced approach and is more likely to keep you free of injury.
Good luck with your new workout and I’ll see you at the studio.
P.S. If you’re one of those frustrated people in the gym, and don’t know how to start, email me, Doug@janddfitness.com to discuss a program that will be personalized to your needs.