Components of a workout
We all talk about working out and training in the gym but very rarely do we stop and think about what we are talking about. We throw around phrases such “how many sets you got left bro?” or “what you training today?” (other typical gym phrases are available), but what does that even mean. I want to break down the components of training in the gym and talk about each variable.
The only splits I can do is a banana split and a workout split. A workout split is how you are going to break up your training. There are endless options of how you want group various muscle groups together. You can go for the classic ‘bro’ split of a single body part per day, with chest obviously on a Monday and legs being skipped all together. The other option is to group each movement together. For example, a push, pull and legs with each day including all the muscles required for that movement. Or you have the option of an upper and lower body split. Take your pick.
This should be dictated by the number of days you have available to train, how fast you can recover and by what you enjoy the most.
This is how often you are planning on repeating workouts or muscle groups. This should be dictated by your schedule. I would aim for anywhere between 2 and 4 times a week. If you are planning on repeating the same workout I would recommend a day or two rest in between muscle groups, depending on the intensity you are training.
As I mentioned early there are many different ways to structure your sets. There are more options than just carrying out your standard 3 sets of 10 reps. That gets boring very fast! Let me give you a few alternatives.
Straight sets – This is the standard. Carry out all your reps, take and rest and then repeat. Nothing fancy just getting it done.
Supersets – This is two exercises completed back to back with no rest in between. Once you carry out both exercises you take a rest in between and then start again. This is usually carried out with apposing muscle groups, such as triceps and biceps.
Pyramid sets – This is when you can out a set on a heavy weight, then the next set will be a lighter weight and next set etc. You then reverse this process climbing back up the weights.
Giant sets – This is similar to a superset but with 4 exercises instead of 2. This is hard work and can be great for an overload on a particular muscle group and for those short on time. I would avoid working out like this all the time as it can be very taxing on your body.
There are endless studies and arguments over how many reps to carry out. There isn’t a magical number that will give you instant results. I would recommend varying your rep range aiming for anywhere between 4 and 20. The main aim should be to put your muscles under tension whilst keeping quality form (I bang on about form here). Variety is the spice of life apparently, and remains true for rep ranges.
Rest is an important factor to training with weights. If you leave it too short you won’t recover and the next set will suffer, leave it too long and you may as well get out the picnic and call it a day. I would aim for a rest period between 45 seconds and 2 minutes, depending on the desired intensity. If you want a short sharp warm-up then keep the short, if you have more time on your hands then increase the weight and take a longer rest. A varied approach is usually the best for most things.
I like to keep warm-ups very specific to the workout. So if you are doing a cardio workout then use cardio at a slow pace to warm up. If you are training legs then maybe some lightweight squats will do the trick. Don’t just throw yourself in the deep end. Let your body adjust to the workout.
A cool down is also workout specific. For a weights workout I would end with some stretches specific to the muscle group workout. If you are training a cardio workout I would taper the intensity down towards the end. This will allow your heart rate to come back down to a more suitable level, your core temperature to reduce and you blood flow to return to normal.
Make your workouts enjoyable. If you don’t like training in the gym then do something else. There are thousands of ways to stay fit and healthy. I love lifting weights so that’s what I do, but that doesn’t mean you have to lift weights. By making your training fun and varied you will keep your mind engaged and are more likely to train.
PS: fun doesn’t not mean easy.
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The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.