Time is Precious
Designing a workout program is like planning a vacation. When you want to get-away you first identify your destination and then determine the quickest, most affordable way to get there. Sure, taking the bus will save money but if you only have a few days off you probably don’t want to waste it getting to your destination. Flying costs more but you will have more time to spend actually being on vacation. Planning an exercise program is the same way; some workout strategies could take you a long time to reach your goals, while other workout strategies can help you crush your goals in a limited amount of time. This blog identifies creative and effective time-saving ways to organize your workouts so that you get the results you want without wasting any time.
First Things First
The first step is to identify a specific fitness goal. The next step is determining what types of workouts will help you to reach that goal. Just because a workout feels hard doesn’t mean that it will create the mechanical or metabolic overhead necessary to produce desired results.
Want to lose weight?
Workouts should use metabolic conditioning to focus on burning as many calories as possible.
Want to gain muscle?
It will be important to lift heavy and practice appropriate recovery strategies so that your muscles have both the stimulus and time to grow.
Want to improve definition?
It will take some trial and error of the two previous strategies, PLUS you’ll have to change your nutrition to limit excess calories.
Total Body Core Training – online course; $67
This course will teach you how to design exercise programs for endurance, strength and power. It’s called Total Body Core because it starts with your core muscles as the foundation and moves out from there. It includes the Functional Core Training ebook and a number of exercise programs that show you how to apply the information. Fitness professionals, personal trainers and group fitness instructors will earn continuing education credits – CECs; 0.4 ACE; 0.5 NASM and 5 AFAA
Finding Out What Works Best for You
The most important factor that can determine the success of a workout program is the total training volume. Volume is the amount of intensity (the actual amount of weight used) combined with the number repetitions and sets performed in a workout. No matter what your goal is, the volume of the exercise you do can have the greatest effect on whether you achieve it.
There are a number of different ways to organize reps, sets and rest intervals; the methods below could help you to identify the most effective method for your goals. Here’s the kicker, no one method is perfect, it will take a little trial and error to determine what works best for you.
Here’s the challenging part with designing an effective workout program: Muscles need consistent stimulus to change, but if they same stimulus is applied for too long, they will stop adapting, therefore, for best results, you will want to change your workouts up every six-to-eight weeks or so.
For strength-training exercises I focus on the fundamental patterns of hinge, squat, lunge, push – in front and overhead, pull – in front and overhead and rotation. When lifting, the goal is to lift heavy and move linearly in a single plane of motion. However, when core training, the goal is to use a lighter weight to move in multiple directions; the workouts below focus on strength training.
General fitness and weight management? Circuit training WORKS
Move from one exercise to the next with little-to-no rest between each exercise; alternate exercises between upper body pushing and pulling movements and squat or single leg movements so that one set of muscles is resting and re-charging while the other muscles are working. When circuit training, doing reps for time can be a way to burn more calories – set a timer for 30-45 seconds and do as many reps as possible in the allotted time, give yourself 15-20 seconds to transition exercises and do 3-4 circuits.
My go-to circuit when I’m exercising outdoors: TRX Rows – 20 / TRX T/Y/I – 8 / push-ups – 20 / reverse lunges – 10 each leg / TRX inverted shoulder presses – 10 / bodyweight squats – 20; or set a timer for 45 seconds of work, 15 sec. of rest and do 3-4 circuits.
Limited time for exercise? EMOM is the way to go
EMOM stands for Every Minute on the Minute which is an extremely time-efficient way to organize a workout. Select 2-4 exercises, pick between 8-20 reps for each one. Do a warm-up then set a timer, at the start of every minute do one of the exercises for the amount of reps you chose, once you are finished you have the rest of the minute to rest. EMOMs can either focus on only one exercise like kettlebell swings or can alternate between upper and lower body movements like deadlifts on the even minutes and chin-ups on the odd minutes.
Kettlebell swings – 20 reps / push-ups – 20 / goblet squats – 20 / Windmills 6 each arm. 12 minutes = 3 sets of each; 16 min. = 4 sets; 20 min. = 5 sets
Want muscle growth? High volume training to fatigue
Hypertrophy, the technical term for muscle growth, is the result of a high volume of exercise to the point of fatigue – not being able to complete another rep. For best results, use a weight that makes between 8 ad 20 reps challenging; for muscle growth, doing reps to fatigue is more important than the actual number of reps. This is perfect for super-setting two competing movements in a workout like incline chest press and bent-over barbell rows; or alternating between upper and lower body like between shoulder presses and squats.
Barbell deadlifts / bent over rows / push-ups / goblet squats / one-arm shoulder presses
Want to get stronger? Russia 5 x 5
Training for muscle growth will increase overall muscle volume, which is influenced by the amount of water in muscle cells – glycogen holds on to water, exercising to fatigue depletes glycogen; as muscles adapt to store more glycogen they will store more water and increase in total volume. Training for strength focuses on activating motor units and muscle fibers and the Russian 5×5 method is one of the best for that outcome. The former Soviet Union produced some of the best sport scientists in the world. In the 60s and 70s while most professional athletes in the U.S. weren’t even lifting weight (the thought was it would make them slower) Soviet scientists were studying how to use strength training to improve human performance. One effective method they identified for improving total body strength is to do 5 sets of 5 reps for 5 different exercises. Following this method, use a weight that makes 5 reps extremely hard, the goal is to focus on form, NOT going to fatigue.
Barbell front squats / barbell incline press / barbell bent over rows / Romanian deadlift / one-arm shoulder press
Great news – strength training can slow down aging! Here’s how:
Want explosive muscles? Complex sets are for you
Known as post-activation potentiation, the theory for this method is that strength training will activate more motor units; power training will increase the speed at which the muscle fibers contract. Select two exercises for each movement pattern; the 1st exercise should focus on strength and only be heavy enough to allow 4-6 reps, the 2nd exercise will focus on explosive action and speed of movement and should focus on moving as fast as possible for 6 reps or less. Allow a brief rest, between 30-60 seconds between the strength and power exercise and rest for 90 sec. – 2 min. after both exercises.
Sample workout, 4-6 reps for each strength and power exercise: barbell squats and squat jumps / barbell bent-over rows and medicine ball slams / dumbbell incline press and medicine ball chest passes / barbell shoulder presses and barbell push-presses. 3 sets of each complex will produce a great workout.
No Matter What
It doesn’t matter which method you decide, what matters is that you do something EVERY DAY! Some days you want to work hard, on other days, you’ll want to take it a little easier, but for best results be active every day and no matter what type of workouts you do, change them up every 6-to-8 weeks. To learn more, pick up a copy of my book:
Smarter Workouts: The Science of Exercise Made Simple
Try it before you buy it, subscribe to my e-mail list to get a free chapter and workout
One of my favorite workouts:
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