bodybuilder thinking

How to design your own workouts

You can be a beginner, intermediate or an advanced fitness enthusiast.

But most of the time we are dependent on our gym trainers to tell us what exercises we should do, what will be the next exercise. Isn’t it?

Well if you know what to do at the gym then congratulations. But do read this article. Maybe you learn something new here or maybe I learn something from you when we interact later.

But if you are struggling in this area then this article is for you.

Have you ever wondered why some exercises should be done first and others in a sequence?

Is it important to do bench-press or dumbell press as your first exercise at your chest workout day and so on?

Well you will get all your answers step by step.

So lets start!!!

First thing first. We all have individual differences and we can only know what is best for us only by experimenting and experiences.

When you go to the gym next time ask yourself some questions:

Following points should be kept in mind while deciding the answers of the above questions:

WHAT IS MY GOAL?

and standing with bat
Goals

Know the demand of your body. You want to loose fat , gain muscle mass or want to improve your strength.

Now! A question will pop up in your mind : Why not do all three at the same time.

I am not saying that it is impossible. Whatever your goal may be, other things will also be in function automatically but you need to focus what is most important for you right now.

All the other things will change according to your goal like your nutritionyour workouts and most importantly your nervous system training.

Have a clear goal and proceed further.

WHAT EXERCISES?

two men exercising

Now you need to define what exercises you need to choose because choice of exercises can have huge impact on your goal.

For gaining muscle mass

  • Priority exercises : mostly isolation exercises like preacher curl, chest cable fly, leg extension, hamstring curls etc.
  • Secondary exercises : a few compound or complex exercises like bench-press, deadlift, military press, squat, barbell row etc.
  • Cardio : 5 – 10 mins after every workout

For strength training

  • Priority exercises : mostly compound or complex exercises
  • Secondary exercises : a few isolation exercises.
  • Cardio : once or twice a week

For fat loss or muscle endurance

  • Cardio : 20- 25 mins before weight training and 10 mins after weight training.
  • Priority exercises : compound exercises like clean and jerk, squats etc.
  • Secondary exercises : isolations with high rep ranges.

WHAT ORDER OR SEQUENCE TO FOLLOW

steps

The sequence of your exercises must be chosen according to your goal.

For gaining muscle mass

  • First two exercises should be compound movements. For example if you are working out your chest then start with 3-4 sets of flat bench-press then follow it with 3-4  sets of incline dumbell press. 
  • Then next 3 or 4 exercises should be isolations (machine decline press, plate presses, cable fly, machine chest fly, etc.)

For strength training

  • Mostly compound exercises with heavy weights. For example 3-4 sets of Squats then 3-4 sets of bench-press, then 3-4 sets of deadlift.
  • After that 1 or 2 any isolation exercises with light weights like triceps cable pushdown, cable chest fly, lat pulldown etc.

For fat loss or muscle endurance

  • You can use either of the above two sequences but with low weights and high rep ranges.

HOW MANY SETS OR REPS

bodybuilder doing squat

Well you need to calculate the volume of your workout. But, I will be covering this topic later in a separate post.

Here are some simple examples for you:

If you are a beginner then start with 15- 16 sets in total and as you advance increase the number of sets to 17 – 25 You can do it in several ways like :

For muscle gain/ muscle hypertrophy

  • 5 exercises X 3 sets of each X (10 – 12) reps in each set (use more than your comfortable weight)

OR

  • 4 exercises X 4 sets of each X (10-12) reps in each set (use more than your comfortable weight)

OR

  • When you begin to advance then make it 5 exercises X 4 sets X (10-12) reps

For strength training

  • 5 exercises X 3 sets each X (6-8) reps (Use heavy weights)

OR

  • 4 exercises X 4 sets of each X (6-8) reps (Use heavy weights)

OR

  • When you begin to advance then make it 5 exercises X 5 sets of each X (6-8) reps

For fat loss or muscle endurance

  • 5 exercises X 3 sets of each X (15-20) reps (use 60 % of maximum weight you can push or pull in a particular exercise)

OR

  • 4 exercises X 4 sets of each X (6-8) reps (use 60 % of maximum weight you can push or pull in a particular exercise)

OR

  • When you begin to advance then make it 5 exercises X 4 sets of each X (15-20) reps

Some other points to keep in mind while deciding the number of sets you are going to work out:

  1. What was the nutrition status of the day?
omelette rice cuddle

That means how much calories did you consume during the day. For example, if you couldn’t consume much calories during the day due to some reasons then you should plan to workout with small number of total sets.

If your calorie status was good for the day then plan to hit large number of total sets.

Checkout some pre workout and post workout recipes here.

  • Always listen to your body.
photo of man touching his head
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If your day was hectic and tiring then you should plan lower number of total sets but if your day was fine and you are feeling energetic before your workout then go for higher number of sets.

HOW MUCH WEIGHT?

dumbles

You need to calculate your 1RM i.e one rep max.

1RM= maximum weight you can push or pull for 1 rep only.

For example if can push 100 kg maximum weight on Bench-press, then it’s your 1RM.

Now,

For muscle gain/ muscle hypertrophy

Use 75 % of your 1RM. 

For example if your 1RM in bench-press is 100 kg then you should use 75 kg for 10-12 reps in a set for muscle hypertrophy.

For strength training

Use 90 % of your 1RM and try to push or pull it for at least 5 reps and try to increase it to 92% in your next workout day and so on and one day you will surpass your 1RM.

For strength training there are several training programmes to increase your 1RM, but I will discuss it in separate post.

For fat loss or muscle endurance

Use 60 % of your 1RM for fat loss or muscle endurance training for 15-20 reps or more.

HOW MUCH REST BETWEEN SETS?

bodybuilder resting

There is simple fact more weight you are pushing in a set more you need rest between the sets to recover your ATP levels and vice-versa

  • Strength training- Long rests between sets (2-3 mins)
  • Hypertrophy training – Short rest between sets (1-2 mins)
  • High intensity – no rest (like circuit training, etc.)

HOW OFTEN TO TRAIN A PARTICULAR MUSCLE GROUP?

bodybuilder in pain

Wait for the recovery from the previous session and make your workout splits.

  • If it recovers in 2 days then you can train same muscle group twice a week.
  • It it takes more than 2 days then it is suggested to hit a muscle group once in a week..

I hope this will help. 

Now try and experiment on framing your workouts and see what is working for you. After all we all have our individual differences. What works for you may not work for me and vice-versa.

ALL THE BEST 😊

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