The thought of building your own workout plan can feel really daunting if you don't know where to start. It's just like heading to the gym for the first time, if you don't know how to use a certain piece of equipment, you can end up using it wrong or not get the best possible outcome!
This is something we don't want you going through! AYBL sat down with Fitness Coach, Jane Campbell, who is going to provide her advice and knowledge on how to build an efficient work out plan, all ready for 2022.
I am going to help you understand, how to write your own workout plan that is the most efficient for YOU. First off, you need to know how exercise works, and why some exercises are more efficient than others. Now, you might be doing lots of cardio or workout classes and you are not seeing any progress, and you’re wondering, why? This is because, these types of exercises (while being effective at getting your heart rate up) do not necessarily build up muscle. To build muscle, we need to focus on a type of training called, hypertrophy training.
Hypertrophy training is a type of training that causes good damage to our muscles, the body then repairs the damage with the protein we currently eat in our diets. Therefore, every time we weight train, our body uses protein to repair the muscle which overtime gets bigger and bigger, resulting in a ‘toned’ look.
To achieve this, we need to do something called ‘progressive overload’.
Progressive overload simply means according to Health Line:
“When you gradually increase the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions in your strength training routine”
To simplify it down, it means to gradually increase the stress you are placing on your muscles. This can be done by lifting a heavier weight than you did the week before, taking a shorter rest between sets or mixing the exercise up a bit with pauses, drop sets and negatives. If you are a beginner, you will not need to worry about these things just yet as it will come in time after a couple of months of training.
Hypertrophy training (as I mentioned above) is the best way to achieve progressive overload, and consists of repeating an exercise for 12-15 reps.
Step 1 - The structure of a workout plan - what exercises should I be adding?
A good workout plan consists of around 5 or 6 exercises repeated 3-4 times. Your first exercises should be ‘compound’ exercises. Compound exercises are exercises that use more than one muscle group, for example, a squat is a compound move that uses your glutes, hamstrings, quads and core. Therefore, if you are training legs or glutes this is a great exercise to start with. After your first two or 3 compound exercises, you should start to incorporate more accessory movements, focusing more on one specific muscle. For example, if you are doing a glute workout, a glute kickback will isolate your glutes so you can really focus on that one muscle while performing it. This also helps you get a ‘pump’ which is also important for muscle building.
Here is an example of a well-structured leg/ glute workout:
Step 2 - How advanced are you & how many days can you train?
The next step is to figure out how advanced you are with training, an exercise plan for a beginner will look very different to that of someone who is advanced. If you are a complete beginner, I would suggest starting off with a 3 day a week workout plan with simple exercises. This means that, your body has enough time on your days off to recover, and you need to ensure you are not throwing yourself into something that you can't keep up with. It’s much better to start off small, than doing something so complicated that you can’t keep up with after a few weeks. If you are more advanced in your training, I would suggest 4-5 days a week of workouts.
Step 3 - Do you have any injuries you need to accommodate for?
Before writing up your plan, think about any injuries or limitations you might have. For example, if you have bad knees, you want to make sure there are no high impact exercises such as any type of jumping exercise. If you are struggling to figure out what you can and can’t do, simply google your injury and add what exercises to avoid or try to work around it.
Step 4 – What do you want to achieve?
Are your goals weight loss or weight gain? This is important when writing up your plan. If your goal is weight loss, then it is a good idea to add in some cardio to your plan. For example, if you are training 3 days per week, I would add in some cardio/HIIT workout on your upper body day after your workout. This could be an incline walk on the treadmill or a higher impact workout like HIIT. If your goal is to build muscle, I would skip the cardio and simply focus on weight training.
Step 5 - Choosing a workout split
A workout split means what sort of muscles you are going to be training each day. This could be a push/pull split for upper body or a body part split - both are just as effective. For example, a push day mainly focuses on the shoulders/triceps and consists of ‘pushing’ exercises such as shoulder pressing, push ups - basically any exercise where you are pushing forward or upwards. A pull day - mainly focusing on the back/ biceps - is any exercise where you are ‘pulling’, such as pull ups and rows. A body part split would simply be shoulders and triceps one day, then back & biceps the other. Leg days can be overall leg days each time, or you can split them up into glutes/hamstrings, then quads. Therefore, you would perform only hamstring/glute exercises for your first lower body day, then quad focused exercises on your second.
Step 6 - Getting the right nutrition for YOU
For a workout plan to be effective, you need to make sure you are eating correctly. If you are trying to build muscle, you want to be eating in a calorie surplus (more calories than you are burning). If you are trying to lose weight, you want to be eating in a calorie deficit (less calories that you are burning). If you need help with figuring out your calories, my fitness app STRONGERYOU has a calorie calculator where you can input your goals and it will give you your calories and macros for either muscle building or weight loss. You can also find workout plans and follow along workouts to try out too if you are struggling to write up your own.