Updated: Feb 21, 2019
As a Personal Trainer I spend a lot of time observing people and how they train.
And not only when they train, as body language is informative too.
I think that when it comes to training, many people are uncertain as to what they should do, or what it is good for them when they do workout.
Many people can also tend to ‘feel their way’ in the gym and when it comes to their training routines.
To make a parallel with my experience as a rugby player, I have had several coaches during my on-field career. Now, it is not an easy thing to manage 15 guys and to make them play together in a way that optimises their game, and what I have learnt over the years by being so coached is that sometimes the fewer instructions the better. In many instances in fact, a few words can do the trick and get the message across, to an individual or a team.
Undue technicality can add unwanted complication.
When it comes to training people, I have tried to remember what my previous coaches advised me over and over, which is to always ‘Think about what you do’.
Or, to put it another way, always use your brain as well as your body to make physical and sporting progress.
So, let’s break down how to build an intelligent workout to your individual requirements.
Below are the questions I would advise that you go through before training (in order to be efficient once on the gym floor):
What types of exercises should I choose to meet my goals?
Though, first things first, what is your goal (or goals)?
You have options where goals and objectives are concerned:
Do you want to gain muscle mass to a specific part of your body?
Do you want to burn fat in order to look more defined (toned)?
Do you train for a sport (to improve performance in your sport)?
Do you train to strengthen your core stability so as to improve posture (generally an obligation for people with a history of back injury)?
Those questions need to be clarified in your head before you train because it will affect the structure of workout (i.e. the number of reps, sets, etc.).
So, for example, to add muscle mass, the full body workout really is the best.
A full body workout gives you the opportunity to work a large number of muscle fibres in a limited time, while a booster to this workout would be to add some extra workouts with specific exercises as the full body workout may not exhaust your muscles enough (depending on your levels of strength and fitness).
To add that all important muscle, focus the workout as you train through your week.
An example of a programme to achieve this would run as follows:
Monday, exercise chest and triceps.
Tuesday, exercise the back and biceps.
Thursday, exercise legs.
Friday, exercise shoulders.
unday, exercise abs.
In training this way you will be able to target to the maximum the muscles that you see as important.
The significant issue that you may face with the programme, however, is to do with the amount of time that you will need to allocate to the programme (as you will inevitably spend a lot of time in the gym).
To burn fat, improve your fitness and to avoid spending a lot of time on the gym floor, the super circuit may probably be better for you (particularly if you cannot allocate such a large amount of time through the course of your week to the gym).
By following a super circuit routine you perform different exercises back to back (with no rest between sets!) and you also keep the weights light (if you want to survive the workout!).
If you want to build bigger muscles obviously avoid this kind of routine, as it will have the effect of making you look lean and defined.
A good alternative to the super circuit routine, if you are looking for a more rounded workout programme, is the the superset workout.
When following this programme you undertake back to back exercises (two exercises, with a break in between), with the idea being to choose antagonistic muscle (opposite muscle groups, biceps and triceps, the back and chest) as you move through the routine.
That way you can lift heavier weights because your muscles will have time to recover before you perform the second exercise in the routine. If you can lift more weight this will help you to more effectively build muscle (plus you will get better balanced results by paying attention to opposing muscles).
So there you have it, three principled routines to address different needs, depending on your objectives and the time you can allocate to the gym.
Simply think about what you want to achieve (get bigger, get leaner, get fitter), consider how much time you can allocate to your workout and how comfortable you feel in the gym, then build a routine up from the three foundation options available, a full week muscle-gaining routine, a fat burning routine or a balanced super circuit routine.
The choices are yours, as are the rewards.