|Image 1: The foundation of every training plan is a realistic schedule. Your work, your private life, your training experience, your goals, all must be taken into account, when lay this foundation.|
1. Find / make time for your workouts
It may sound funny, but one of the commonest reasons a given training program fails actually is a real or perceived lack of time. The first step to a functional routine is thusly to take stock of how much time you actually have available, how much of this time you are actually willing to invest into your workouts and how much time you actually need to achieve your goals.
- Strength training: 20-60min
- High intensity interval training: 10-25min
- Steady state "cardio" training: 35-60min
|Image 2: I know, if this is you at the age of five it may be difficult to imagine that it is not normal to watch TV at least 2.7h of TV per day (figures according to United States Department of Labors. 2010)|
Tip #1: Don't discard working out before you go to work and don't fool yourself into believing that it would be normal to go home after work and watch TV for the rest of the evening. Setting the alarm clock and switching off the television are the best ways to make time for your workouts. On the other hand, you will have to acknowledge, that there will be days, where you will really have no time and if you have to decide between doing a 60min workout and getting 5h vs. 6h of sleep your choice should be easy: SLEEP!
2. Schedule your training and rest (!) days
Before you even think about what type of exercises you do, you will have to actually decide on the days on which you want to train and the type of training you are going to perform.
It stands to reason that you will resort to the results of (1) and don't schedule a training day on Tuesday, when you know that you have to work the 24h shift at the hospital. That being said, it is of paramount importance to try and spread your workouts evenly across the week. Now with the aforementioned "minimalist" approach of three workout days per week this could look as follows:
- Workout days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- Rest days: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
|Image 2:If you are still not convinced that resting two days too much is way better than resting one day too little, you better read up on the "(Over-)Motivational Roots of Overtraining"!|
- Workout days: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat
- Rest days: Thursday, Sunday
The margin "between not enough" and "already too much" is very narrow and according to my personal experience, the amount of strenuous exercise (strength training or high intensity conditioning work) that will yield "optimal" results is above all a function of your individual conditioning and training experience, with the following rule of thumb applying in a situation of at best minimal caloric restriction and adequate (we will address that in a future installment) protein and carbohydrate intake:
- 3x per week - less than one year of training experience and no previous engagement in any physically demanding athletic activities like football, basketball, track and field etc. (no, not on the Playstation)
- 4x per week - more than one year of regular training or previous engagement in physically demanding athletic activities
- 5x per week - more than three years of regular training and a lifestyle that prioritizes further progress in the gym over your other hobbies
- limitations (updated 25-03): ProudDaddy reminded me that I (once again, and I am sorry for that) forgot about the "older" trainees out there. It stands to reason that a young body does not need as much time to recover as an older one (although I assume that ProudDaddy has a better recovery time than many Pizza eating, Coke binging twens). If you belong to this group of "golden agers", it is important to
- to keep intense (strength & HIIT) workouts short
- to increase your training volume by increasing workout frequency not duration
- to cycle metabolically demanding and recuperative workouts*
- to have 24h+ of (active) rest after every intense workout*
Assuming that you are still really fit, an adapted 5x a week workout could look like this:
- Upper body (<30min),
- LISS cardio (30min),
- Lower body (<30min),
- Full body / functional movements (30min)
- HIIT or LISS (10min or 30min)
Tip #2: If you want to do more, go on a bike ride with friends or family. Go to the basketball court in your neighborhood. Take the stairs, go for a walk in the park and lead an active life. Trust me, nothing will promote your overall health, your performance and the improvements in your physique more than these leisure time activities.
3. Allocate specific workouts to your training days
Now that you know on which days you are going to train and how much time you have available you will eventually envoke your personal aims, of which I will exemplary discuss general health, weight loss and muscle/strength gain.
We will again start out with the most fundamental distinction, i.e. the one between strength and conditioning work, with all types of weight lifting belonging to the former and all types of "cardio" training belonging to the latter realm, this reduces the first step in this process to a simple decision on ratios:
- focus on general health - ratio of strength to conditioning work: 3/2
- focus on weight / fat loss - ratio of strength to conditioning work: 2/3
- focus on gaining muscle/strength - ratio of strength to conditioning work: 4/1
- a trainee who starts to work out and has a focus on overall health will train three times a week and perform two strength and one conditioning workout
- a trainee with 2 years of training experience and a focus on losing fat will train four times a week and perform two strength and two conditioning workouts
- a trainee with 4 years of training experience and a focus on building muscle will train five times a week and perform four strength and one conditioning workouts
|Image 3: Unless you are in identical shape and condition as Adelfo you'd better not simply copy his routine.|
Tip #3: If you have a "hypertrophy and fat loss" focus (please be aware that if you are doing everything right, the scale is not going to move!), you may want to consider adding in an additional workout day, and/or performing your conditioning workouts, either in the morning or right after your workouts. While the former option is probably best for the "rookie", the latter one, i.e. cardio either in the morning or right after your strength workout is the most reasonable option for the highly advanced trainee, who will still need his two days off to recuperate.
Coming up next: Training splits, exercise selection, set and rep schemes
To decide how you pair individual muscle groups and how to place the conditioning and strength workouts within the framework you have worked out today is going to be the next step on your way to a workout that has been custom-tailored to your individual demands by the word's leading expert in your belongings - you, yourself! So, don't forget to come back tomorrow for the second part of the "Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine" series, here at the SuppVersity.