“Should I do cardio before lifting weights?”
“How many reps of that should I do?”
“At what speed should I run on a treadmill?”
“Do I even need a personal trainer?”
I get asked lots of training specific questions everyday from clients and readers. In all honesty they are all very good questions. In fact they should be addressed at one stage in your training life. So today I will go teach you how to make your own workout routine. It’s not difficult and trust me, you’ll thank me for this!
What are you doing now?
Before we proceed in building your own workout, let’s talk about you.
What are you doing now? Are you following a plan? Are you on a 12-week program built by __________? Is it currently working for you? Are you contented with what you’re doing?
If you answered yes to the last question then I suggest you stick to it. Don’t change your workout just because you’re bored or you think it’s not working for you. Even if you’re building your own workout, results takes time. If you’re at week 3 of your 12 week plan, stick with it. Results will come.
If you’re currently not on a set workout plan or you’re just hitting the gym ‘winging’ it, then this is perfect for you. You shouldn’t hit the gym without a plan man, especially if you have a goal to hit – like losing 10lbs in 6 weeks.
Like how you won’t go on a roadtrip without planning which route to take, it’s the same for fitness.
Let’s break it down step by step on what you can do to make your own routine. Best to take your workout notebook and write this down. Every single word of it. (Ok maybe not like that, but pay attention!)
Your Goals and Situation
Alright, first you’ve got to ask yourself, what do you want to achieve? Most importantly, how much time do you have to devote yourself to exercising?
If at this moment you do not have a goal, I suggest you read my previous article on goal setting and GO GET ONE! You will have a better idea on what you want and trust me, it’ll safe you lots of trouble during the program.
If you can set aside only 4 days a week to train, then great. If you’re a busy mom who runs around to send kids to school and soccer training and only literally have 30 mins to spend a day on exercising, then 30 mins is it. It is not about how much time you have – it’s how you spend the time you have that matters.
I only spend 30 mins working out in the gym, 4 days a week and I do yoga once a week. But when I say 30 minutes, I mean I go all out for 30. We will be building effective workouts that works.
Once we’ve got time factored out, think about where you want to train – at the gym, in your backyard, in the garage?
Unless you’ve got insane aesthetic, body-building goals, I don’t recommend you to spot-train. Spot training is just targeting one body muscle and doing heaps of reps with a goal of building that muscle. One very famous example is doing 100 crunches a day to get a ‘flat stomach’. It does not work like that. If you have a fat loss goal in mind, we should really do a full body workout routine each time. That means you will be using your upper body, core and lower body all in the same day using 4-5 different exercises. That’s it!
Let’s start from the top.
Pick one exercise from each category above and you’ll work on almost every single part of your body.
Monday – Push-ups, planks, squats
Wednesday – Pull-ups, side planks, lunges
Friday – Dumbbell rows, russian twists, deadlifts
This list of exercises is of course non-exhaustive. I know it might seem little, but these are examples of compound exercises, exercises that works multiple muscle groups. You probably noticed that I didn’t include exercises like bicep curls and calf-raises because those exercises only target one muscle group. We’re talking about efficient at its best here. Focus on exercises that works for you. Don’t complicate things!
The most important thing here is to keep it simple. Don’t try to be creative and create a new exercise or an exercise you’ve probably saw that dude in the gym doing. It might not even serve it’s purpose, or worse – you’d probably risk hurting yourself. You don’t want that to happen, do you?
If you’re like me who finds running on the treadmill or spending thirty mins on the cross trainer boring, then listen up. We don’t have to be on the treadmill to do cardio. Cardio is so named because it serves to work on your lungs and muscles – anything that brings your heart rate up will be considered as cardio.
Your choices of cardiovascular exercises is important, because we don’t have all day to run or cycle. I’m a big fan of cardio exercises that works the whole body. Running for example only works your body in one plane, you’re simply mindlessly moving forward.
Cardio exercises that needs you to focus on form and works on multiple muscle groups is gold. Here are some examples:
– Jumping jacks. You’ll need coordination for this one, big time. I found it hard to coordinate my hands and feet when I first did this so it’ll take time.
– Squat jumps. Like the squats, only you’re on air for a split second before landing.
– Jump lunges. Like the squat jumps, in a lunge position.
– Box jumps. Jumping up onto a box, or a raised platform.
– Mountain climbers. This is a great heart rate raiser, forcing you to focus on your form and uses your core to stabilise yourself.
– Burpees. Unless you’re new to fitness, you’ve probably heard about burpees. Yep, they’re a killer.
– Jump knee tucks. You’re jumping, trying to tuck your upper and lower body together.
The list is endless but for starters, these are great.
If you still want to use the treadmill for some reason (too attached, perhaps?), then fit in short bursts of sprints, like 1 min sprint at a speed you can maintain (e.g at 7mph or 11km/h). I find doing sprints of 500m on the rowing machine is great too.
Number of Reps
According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, number of reps is important in oxygen uptake and ultimately determining how hard you work. If you’re looking to burn fat, keep your reps between 12-15. If you’re looking to grow muscle, keep your reps low with heavy weights, say between 8-10 reps.
You can even mix it up a little bit, although I would not recommend this for anyone who is just starting out. I like to mix my routine up, all the time, to keep my muscle guessing. Some days I go heavy and target 1-5 reps, and some days I do 12 reps of a particular exercise. But like I said, if you’re just starting out, focus on your goal. For fat loss do 12-15 reps and for muscle building do 8-10 reps.
Amount of Weight
Heavy enough to feel the burn at the 12th rep (for 12-15 rep people) and heavy enough to feel the burn at the 8th rep (for 8-10 rep people). When I say feel the burn, it means you are beginning to feel tired. You could probably do 1 or 2 reps more but you can’t lift anything more than that. If say for example you can lift more than 15 reps, the weight is too light! Go heavier and don’t worry ladies, you will not turn into Incredible Hulk!
Picking a weight when you’re just starting out is not easy, so for this one you should really try it out.
Speaking of heaviness, always focus on your form and don’t try to be over-ambitious lifting too heavy and doing it wrong. Listen to your body and never ever compromise on safety.
Number of Sets
If you’re using enough weights and targeting multiple body parts (which you should), you will probably hit fatigue at 3 sets. I would normally stick to 3-5 sets of each exercises. Anything more you’re probably going to harm yourself or you’re not efficient enough.
For fat loss
Enough to catch your breath. You want to burn as much calories as possible, so always try to keep your heart rate up. Don’t let it go too low otherwise you’ll lose the momentum.
For this, I’d recommend a heart rate monitor watch, one that can monitor your heart rate in real time. I’m currently using Suunto M5 and it’s amazing because it notifies me when my heart rate drops to a level I don’t want it to go. Once it beeps, it means times up, break is over.
Having short breaks might not work for everyone, so listen to your body. If you feel a little light headed during a workout, take longer breaks. It’s okay, especially if you’re starting out. Your body will get better and one day you will turn into a machine needing no breaks at all. So, be smart!
For strength and hypertrophy
A study in the concluded that short rests between sets increase testosterone and cortisol more than long rest between sets.
What this simply means that a short rest time (about 1 min) is great to increase hormonal response and ultimately growth in size. For strength training (about 8-10 reps) though, they found out that a longer rest time is important. So aim to rest for about 2 minutes.
Circuit and split training
I love circuit training. If you use the exercises I’ve said above, not only will you be working every single muscle in your body, you will burn heaps of fat because you won’t give room for your body to rest. Here’s an example of a circuit:
BOOM! Repeat that 3 times and you’ll walk out feeling like a champion. The whole point of circuit training is to maximise your heart rate making you burn tons of calories. It also has the potential to make you swear at objects in the gym because it takes a lot out of you. Another good thing? You don’t even need a gym for most of the exercises above.
Split training on the other hand is a term we use to divide our training into different body parts. Here’s an example:
Monday: Chest and triceps
Tuesday: Back and biceps
And so on. This can be a little too advanced for the newbies so don’t complicate things. Like I said, focus on exercises that work all parts of your body, especially if you’re wanting to burn fat. Keep your heart rate up by adding some cardio exercises and you’re set.
Depending on how much time you spend day-dreaming or chatting (which you shouldn’t!), try not to spend any longer than an hour. You will be wasting time. 45 minutes is great and anything less than 60 minutes is perfect if you include your warm up and cool down. Efficiency.
In other words, keep track of everything! It’s the only way you can tell if you’re getting fitter, stronger and faster or you’re just wasting time.
How often should I change my routine?
I normally take about four weeks to feel the changes in my body. If you’re asking me how long before you see results, I can honestly say it depends on individual and their genes. Mark at Mark’s Daily Apple explains this well and thorough.
The most important thing is, if you’re planning your own workout routine, stick to it. Don’t keep changing your mind after three weeks just because you’re bored. Anything between 6-12 weeks is good. You won’t give your body a chance to see results if you keep changing your routine so be kind to yourself.
Here’s to you…
Ready for some actionable steps? I know it’s a lot to digest, but really it’s not that hard. Here’s a summary of what we’ve covered today.
1) Always warm up. 5-10 minutes is great. A short jog around your block or on the rowing machine. Anything that gradually raises up your heart rate.
2) Pick one or two exercise from each of the big muscle groups. Example – two from the upper body, one for the core and two for lower body.
3) Add in one or two cardio exercises if you want to maximise fat loss.
4) Pick a weight that is heavy enough for you. This will take some trial and error for those starting out but once you’ve found the right weight, you’ll be surprised to see how it can work wonders for you.
5) Aim to complete 3-5 sets of the exercises.
6) Mix it up for different days. Keep it interesting for you.
7) Work hard. Always push yourself to your limit and don’t waste time. Get it over and done with fast.
8) Always focus on your form and worry about that first before you worry about how much weight you’re lifting.
9) Write everything down. Record your progress.
10) Stretch after each workout.
Done. Your own workout routine.
Seriously, it’s not too difficult to think about your own workout. With a little bit of thought and preparation, you can make your own workout routine. You don’t have to spend hundreds to get a new workout program and you will be giving those fitness marketers a run for their money.
Let me know what you think. If it’s too confusing tell me! If you like it and you’re going to write out your own training routine now, maybe drop me a comment below and tell me that too. I would love to hear from you.
Keep a lookout for example videos soon too. I’ll get that up very soon.
Have a great week, Pretty Awesomes.