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Designing Your Workout

Today we’re looking at… designing your workout! (We know… exciting times, right!?)

Today’s post follows on from our last post on Complexes, and the previous posts on the Lunge Matrix and Deadlift Variations. Designing your workouts doesn’t sound all that “sexy” but it can really fast-track results. When designing your example routine, we’ll assume that you only want to spend an hour in the gym and still see substantial results AND have a few spare minutes to take notes on your workout (read: mirror time… there’s no need to feel embarrassed). Routine design can actually be quite fun and interesting, as it affords you a LOT of scope to change the focus of your workouts. All routines are split (whether you know it or not) as it’s not possible to just walk straight into the gym and lift heavy weights for an hour. That’s why there’ll generally be some combination of: warm-up, primary focus lift(s), secondary focus lift(s), mobility work, cardio, HIIT, pressure proofing (for things like crossfit), technical work, pre-hab, and/or skill work (sport specific skills as opposed to lifting specific technical work)

Ok, so far we have an excellent warm up (lunge matrix), and an excellent way to get your heart rate up and get you sweating (complex). Now we need to put this together into a coherent plan. It’s like when you hear people talk about the pareto principle, or majoring in the minors. If you want to get results, you need to focus your efforts in the right place, and understanding how the pieces of your workout fit together can really help. Let’s take 2 example goals, the most common being a) shape/weightloss, and b) muscle building

a) Getting in Shape / Weight Loss

If you want to get in “shape”, your goal is effectively to build/maintain muscle, while cutting as much fat as possible (remember a slight caloric deficit is needed). This means reminding your muscles that they are necessary, not running on a treadmill. Your routine will go something like… 

Warmup (10 min’s) -> 2 Compound Lifts (20 min’s) -> Complex (15 min’s) -> Warm Down & Stretch (15 min’s)

In this case a sample workout would be:

Skipping 2-3 mins -> Foam rolling 3 mins -> Lunge Matrix 3 mins -> Yoga Plex 1-2 mins 

Compound Lifts:
Deadlift 4 sets of 5 reps (90 second break, so about 10 minutes) -> Lunges 3 sets of 20 reps (2 mins break)

Jerk/Row/Ab wheel (using Barbell)/Cleans/Barbell Hip Thrust (3 circuits of 10 reps, double reps for Glute Bridge)

Warm Down & Stretch:
Skipping 4-5 mins -> Foam Roll 6 mins (Calves, Ham’s, Glutes, Quads, T-Spine, Pec’s) -> Problem Areas and Static Stretching 4-5 mins

In this routine, the focus is on work rate. Get your heavy lifting done first while the muscles are fresh. This will give the right stimulus your muscles need to be maintained. The high work rate strength-endurance complex’s will ensure you’re burning as much calories as possible, depleting your glycogen stores and improving insulin sensitivity, and creating the demands necessary to get a lean, athletic, healthy body.

b) Bodybuilding

If your goal is hypertrophy, you’re looking to give your muscles no choice but to get bigger (remember a caloric surplus is needed), so most of your time will be spent putting your muscle under pressure. One of the key differences here is that while compound lifts are useful, it is very important to include accessory work to ensure good muscle development. This also means that the time you spend will focus on lifting as much as possible (in terms of work load) as close to failure as possible (without completely destroying yourself). Your routine will go something like… 

Warmup (10 min’s) -> 1 Compound + 4-6 Accessory (30-35 min’s) -> Complex (5-10 min’s) -> Stretch (10 min’s)

In this case a sample workout would be:

Skipping 1-2 mins -> Lunge Matrix 2 mins -> Foam rolling 3 mins -> Mobility Work 3-4 mins

Compound Lift:
High Bar Squat 4 sets of 8-10 reps (90 second break, so about 10 minutes) -> Accessory 3 sets of 10-12 reps (Max 1 min break, so about 4-5 mins per exercise, 2 minutes break between exercise. Make sure the compound lift is done as close to failure as possible -SAFELY – and all the assistance work is to within 1 rep of failure. This means at least moderate weights – or if you’re not crying, add another plate) Single Leg Leg Extensions -> Leg Curls -> Leg Press -> Rev. Hypers

Rower / Bike / Treadmill / Elliptical etc. (5-10 minutes)

Warm Down & Stretch:
Foam Roll 4-5 mins (Calves, Ham’s, Glutes, Quads, T-Spine, Pec’s) -> Problem Areas and Static Stretching 4-5 mins -> Lie with your feet up on the wall and concentrate on your breathing 1-2 mins

You can see that the focus here is more on forcing muscle growth. There’s only so many adaptations a muscle can make before it just becomes easier to grow, and this is what we’re after. The reality is, though, as you advance in your bodybuilding, your workouts will have to progressively lengthen (eventually up to 2 hours, sometimes more) and will become more and more focused. This is to allow sufficient volume and workload to create the necessary stimulus. But in the beginning, you should see good results from a routine such as the one above. 

By segmenting your workout like this, you can clearly see what your goal for each section is and make sure you’re achieving it. Also, it is easier to measure your progress and keep track of your times. If you arrive at the gym and say “today is a leg day”, you leave too much room for mirror gazing and phone watching. IF, on the other hand, you know you have only 2 compound lifts to do, you will focus on annihilating the bar for all of that 20 minutes, and it’s not possible to half ass a complex, so you have an excellent, efficient workout.

Check out our next post in the Effective Exercise series, on Exercise Selection (Coming Soon)! Or, if you need a refresher, take a look at our DEADLIFT VARIATIONS post!

For more information, check out our HIIT page, Calisthenics page, and if you’re really interested in getting in shape, take a look at our personal training programmes!

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