Whether you have a new gym membership or create your own at-home gym in the garage, the next question is how to design a workout plan that fits your needs. You don’t have to look far for advice. In fact, the vast amount of information available from books, social media, videos, and magazines on the latest and greatest workout can be extremely overwhelming.
No need to stress though because we’ve got you covered. We’ll teach you how to create your own workout plan so that you can get started on meeting and even smashing your fitness goals. Just follow these steps on designing a workout plan and you’ve conquered half the battle.
Determine your goals
Just as with any endeavor in life you set out on, the first order of business is to think about what you’re trying to accomplish. When it comes to workout programs, is your goal to lose weight? Gain strength? Become explosive for a specific sport? Train for a half-marathon?
Your goals will determine the direction your workout programs take. If your goal is to compete in a strongman competition, designing a workout plan with a bunch of running and cardio won’t make much sense.
As you think about your goals, several other factors should be kept in mind. These include your age, current fitness level, nutritional strategy, and the amount of time you have to dedicate to your workout programs.
First, take some time to consider your goals and needs, and then you can move on to creating a workout plan to accomplish them.
Dividing your workouts and determining rest days
Once you have established your workout goals, you can decide how to structure and divide the days you work out and your rest days. Ask yourself how often you can realistically get to the gym or make time for a home workout. Kids, jobs, hobbies, and all sorts of life issues can get in the way. If you say you are going to work out five or six days a week, but this isn’t really based on your circumstances, you are setting yourself up for failure. Remember, you can always add in a workout day if you find you have the time and want to.
If your schedule allows for three days or less for a workout, you should incorporate a total-body workout to maximize your time and energy. If you can manage four or more days, then you can consider isolating areas of the body.
Two rules of thumb to consider – one full rest day a week is the minimum. Take our word, you need it. Also, split up high-intensity workouts so they’re not on back-to-back days. For example, if you train for strength and explosiveness on a Monday, opt for a lighter cardio session and some mobility exercises on Tuesday.
And no matter what, listen to your body. If you feel like it needs the rest, then do it. The gym will be there tomorrow.
Planning your workouts around equipment
Designing a workout plan is largely dependent on the equipment you have at your disposal. If you belong to a chain fitness center, you probably have access to almost any piece of equipment you may need. Conversely, if you are relying on your home gym, you may be limited to a few dumbbells, a kettlebell, some resistance bands, and a jump rope.
Ideally, a well-stocked gym with free weights, machines, weight kits, cables, treadmills, and bikes, and so on would be great. If that is possible, then your workout programs are unlimited. For many, that may not be the case. But that’s OK because there is nothing wrong with sticking to the basics. Bodyweight exercises are tried and true, and with a small investment, you can buy a nice set of resistance bands or a kettlebell and create your own workout plan around those.
Determining reps and set amounts
No matter what your goals are, an effective workout should burn fat, build muscle, and improve your performance. It is important to warm up first before every workout. A dynamic warmup works best – something that gets your heart rate up. Instead of traditional, static stretching, opt for jumping rope, light jogging, or a dynamic, resistance band warmup.
A question that often stumps people is how do you know how many reps and sets to do? It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. To focus on increasing strength, stick to low reps with more sets. For example, you could do five sets of 3-5 reps. In this example, you want to increase the amount of weight you’re using.
Trying to increase muscle size? Try 8-12 reps for three sets. Don’t forget to take a minute to rest between each set so that when you are lifting, you are exerting maximum effort.
For many, fat loss is the name of the game. A HIIT-style (High-Intensity Interval Training) workout can provide the benefits of fat loss you seek. Higher reps, think the 15-20 range, at low sets, such as 3-4 sets is a good start.
Let your fitness goals determine the number of reps and sets you incorporate into your workout programs.
Switch things up
Our bodies naturally adapt to changes and the stresses put on them in roughly 12-14 weeks. To keep from hitting that plateau and to continue to see improvements, you will want to switch up your routine before that happens. Anywhere from 4-12 weeks is a good time to alter your workout routine.
Now don’t go panicking about having to create a whole new workout program. As you become more advanced, that is certainly an option. But you can also make slight changes or adjustments to your current program. For example, instead of a regular push-up, you can do a variation such as feet elevated push-ups. This increases the level of difficulty and your body will be forced to adjust. Instead of performing a traditional squat, try single-leg squats, which will activate your core to a greater degree, again forcing your body to adapt.
Track your progress
Not only is it beneficial to track your fitness progress, but it’s also fun. Think about the feeling of looking back in 12 weeks to see where you were. Maybe it was a struggle to do five push-ups, but now you’re knocking out 25 like it’s nothing. Tracking your progress allows you to not only see where you came from, but also determine areas where you can improve. Still, having trouble with shoulder mobility and strength? Incorporate more exercises that target that area and track your progress to see if you can improve them.
Sometimes we all need that carrot at the end of the stick. Set yourself a goal and a reward if you hit that goal. It could be a pair of new workout shoes or a steak dinner. Whatever the incentive is, it may just be the motivation you need on those tough days.