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Build Your Own Workout Routine: The Ultimate Guide

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The Ultimate Guide on How to Build a Workout Routine.
We’ve all been there, a beginner who just made their first workout routine. We go to the gym, perform 30 sets on chest, 30 sets on arms and about 20 sets on back.Nowadays we look back on it and cringe.  What were we thinking?
Lucky for us the good folks on the internet told us to do a routine like fierce 5 or something similar as our current routine sucked.
Now that we’ve had experience, gained about 30 pounds of muscle and look pretty good if i say so myself, we want to give making a routine another shot.
This guide is here to help you out and steer you on the course of having a kickass workout program.

Before I begin, this guide should be ignored by anyone with less than a years experience or hasn’t gained their first 25-30lbs of muscle as you probably don’t have enough experience or knowledge on what a good training program looks like.


What Days Should I train?
First thing to consider, you need to figure out what days you can get to the gym.
This is really about what times you can get to the gym each day.
Can’t get there on a Saturday? You may be busy, or you just want a day to go fishing with friends or family.
Well, Saturday can be your rest day.


How often should I hit each muscle?
Second thing to consider, how frequent do you want to hit each muscle group.
Once a week? Twice a week?  Maybe 3-4x a week for lagging body parts?

That will ultimately determine how you will train.

Please note: Hitting each body parts at LEAST twice a week is recommended, not these pathetic bro splits doing one body part each day. Click here for more information.

The more frequent you can hit a body part whilst still increasing reps or weight is what is actually optimal, so if you can hit shoulders 7x a week, do that.
The days you train should will help you determine the workout frequency and when to hit each body part.
For instance, you aren’t going to hit Triceps the day before or after Chest, you should give them a rest or train them the same day.
Each body part should be grouped accordingly etc.

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What types of training are there?
In this section I will be talking about different methods of training.
These will include the most popular methods.

  • Layne Norton’s P.H.A.T
  • Push Pull Legs
  • Full Body
  • Upper Lower
  • Standard Splits
  • Accumulation/Controlled overreaching
  • PHAT

PHAT – Power, Hypertrophy Adaptive Training
Phat consists of 5 days training per week.
There are 2 Power days, Upper Body and Lower Body.
These Days Consist of Mostly Compound movements doing low reps, focusing on Power and strength.

The other 3 days consist of Hypertrophy and Speed training.
Using Higher Volume, and Higher rep ranges, you will invoke a better pump, more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and Protein synthesis.

A split usually looks like this

  • Day 1: Upper Body Power
  • Day 2: Lower Body Power
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
  • Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
  • Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
  • Day 7: Rest

Pros:

  • Good for intermediate- Advanced
  • Builds a good strength base.
  • Builds speed and power as well as Size.
  • Balanced Routine

Cons:

  • Bad for beginners.
  • Could have higher frequency
  • High Volume
  • Easy to Burn out on.

Push Pull Legs
Push Pull Legs consists of a 3-4 day cycle, one day you focus on Upper Body Pushing/Pressing Movements (chest, tris, Front Delts), The next day you focus on Pulling Movements (Back, Bis, Rear Delts) and the 3rd day you focus on leg exercises (squats etc.). Afterwards you can choose to take a rest day or not.
Push Pull Legs is a Highly Versatile routine where you can also incorporate strength days, or strength training each day as well as hypertrophy training. You can really split PPL over as many days as you want ( for example, take a rest day between workout days) etc.

A Push Pull Legs split usually Looks like this:

  • Monday:   Push (chest, tris, OHP)
  • Tuesday:  Pull (Back, Bis, Shoulders)
  • Wednesday: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves)
  • Repeat

Pros:

  • Highly Versatile
  • Good for Intermediate and Advanced
  • Balanced routine.
  • Can also incorporate various training methods.

Cons:

  • Only hits each body part twice a week.
  • Not Optimal for Beginners.

Full Body Training
Full body training, Some of the original workout routines were based around this. This is what the Old school Bodybuilders grew up on.  It can range from training 2x a week to 4-5x a week.
Pick an exercise or two for each body part, and perform 2-3 sets per exercise.
As far as Full Body training is concerned, a lot of people claim they aren’t really versatile. I disagree, You can easily add Post failure methods, Strength training principles (5/3/1, 3×5 etc…) and advanced training techniques.

Full Body is mostly used by beginners, however can be used to achieve great results for any level of bodybuilder.
The best thing about full body is that as Protein Synthesis (main process of building muscle cells) last up to 48 hours, it means that each body part is growing almost the  ENTIRE WEEK compared to just 2 out of 7 days.

A Full Body split usually looks like:

  • Monday: Full Body
  • Wednesday: Full Body
  • Friday: Full Body

Pros

  • Great for all lifters.
  • Near optimal muscle growth
  • Somewhat Versatile

Cons

  • Not very versatile
  • Intensive on the nervous system

Upper/Lower
Upper Lower routines are great for Novices, and intermediates.
Reason being is that they can hit each muscle group from 2 times a week to 3 times a week.
Allowing optimal protein synthesis and calories burned (so you can eat more)
Like the full body, they aren’t that versatile, but you are able to incorporate strength training and all that good stuff.

A split usually looks like:

  • A: Upper
  • B: Lower
  • C: rest  (or repeat A and B)
  • A: Upper
  • B: Lower
  • C: Rest

Pros:

  • Good for Beginners
  • Lots of days working out
  • Fun

Cons:

  • Not great for advanced lifters
  • Not a lot of volume

Split workouts
A split workout generally consists of training 1-3 body parts a day, (usually corresponding body parts). They are extremely versatile as you can incorporate Strength training, hypertrophy, advanced techniques to them quite easily.

Although some people do them horribly (too much volume, only train a muscle once per week etc.).

Typically you add some extra volume to each body part as you usually just train them twice a week, however its easy to get carried away with volume, so a good recommendation is 6-12  working sets  (not including warmup) per body part (depending on how large it is). After 12 sets, you’ve pretty much smashed any body part that doing more is typically just a waste of energy or getting a pump

Pros:

  • Highly Versatile
  • If done right can be very good.

Cons:

  • Easy to have too much volume
  • Easy to mess up how often you train and when you train each body part

Accumulation training
Accumulation training, or super compensation, is basically the KING of all training routines, in terms of how much muscle you can gain, and how much strength you can gain in small periods of time.
It consists of overtraining your entire body so you end up losing strength and feel like complete cr*p (overreaching). A good guideline is losing 20-30% strength on all lifts, in which you then take 3-7 days off and continue eating a crapload. There is a lot of science which explains how this works, but that could easily add up to a 15000 word article and no one has time for that.  This sort of training style shouldn’t be used ALL the time, but every now and then to smash a plateau, or to induce some extra growth.

  • Pros:
  • King of muscle growth
  • King of strength gains
  • Great for busting plateaus.

Cons:

  • Horrible Idea for beginner’s
  • Greater risk of Injury
  • Constantly sore and feel like crap.
  • Hard to make a worthwhile routine for.

Progression
Progression is a technical name for the process in which you constant improve on everything you do. You can’t grow without progressing your lifts. There are multiple methods to do this.

The best types of progression systems are:

  • Wendlers 5/3/1
  • Linear Periodization
  • HST style periodization.
  • Undulating periodization
  • 3×5
  • Each of these focuses on some sort of strength training, this is important as gaining strength, will not only help you minimise plateaus but get you lifting heavier on all other lifts.

5/3/1
First: Find your current 1 rep max’s for your big 3 or 4. (I use it for Squat, Bench, DL, and OHP).§
You will be doing 3 warm up sets, and 3 working sets.

Week 1: 5 week

  • 5x 40% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 50% of max [warm up]
  • 3x 60% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 65% of max
  • 5x 75% of max
  • 5+ 85% of max [ + means you MUST get atleast the recommended reps(in this case 5) but do more if you can!! ]

Week 2: 3 week

  • 5x 40% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 50% of max [warm up]
  • 3x 60% of max [warm up]
  • 3x 70% of max
  • 3x 80% of max
  • 3+ 90% of max

Week 3: 5 3 1 week (heaviest week)

  • 5x 40% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 50% of max [warm up]
  • 3x 60% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 75% of max
  • 3x 85% of max
  • 1+ 95% of max

Week 4: DELOAD

  • 5x 40% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 40% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 40% of max [warm up]
  • 5x 40% of max
  • 5x 50% of max
  • 5x 60% of max

Now 5/3/1 is one of the best strength training principles of all time, people have reported using it for 3 years and still not plateauing.
To incorporate 5/3/1 into any routine, its important you keep it to only Deadlifts, Overhead Press, Bench Press and Squats. If your routine consists of any of these exercises, it’s a smart Idea to incorporate 5/3/1 into it. 

Progressive overload
Linear periodisation is the most basic form of progressing. It’s simple, keep increasing the number of reps and weight you do per exercise every time you do it. Great for beginners, experts and advanced may struggle with progressing.

For instance on squats
One workout you may do:
315lbs for 7 reps.

Next time you squat, you should do:
315lbs for 8 reps.

Undulating periodisation
This is an extremely good method of training.
However, it is quite complicated so we will get someone who knows the ins and outs of it like the back of his own hand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlSDeWrNZY0

3×5
3×5 is a simple, yet highly effective system for strength training; it consists of the 4 main lifts, Barbell row, Bench Press, Squat and Deadlifts.

If you aren’t interested in 5/3/1, this is a must do, especially for beginners if you include the above 4 lifts above.

The concept is easy. You simply perform 5 reps on each of those exercises, for 3 sets.  If you can get 5 reps on each set, then you add 5lbs. Repeat. If you don’t get 5 reps on the last set, then continue at that weight until you do.

This allows you to get stronger and continue progressing for longer.

For instance.

Workout 1:

  • Squat 315lbs x 5
  • Squat 315lbs x 5
  • Squat 315lbs x 5

Workout 2:

  • Squat 320lbs x 5
  • Squat 320lbs x 5
  • Squat 320lbs x 5

You can add any of these periodization methods into any routine you do, and it’s fairly important you do to maximise results.


Exercise selection – Compounds, Isolations
This will probably be a short section due to me already covering what compounds should be in all routines, you can’t go wrong with the compounds I explain in this article.
In terms of Isolation exercises, well these should be something simple, covering the basics (for instance, chest = fly variations, Triceps, Skull Crushers, Pull downs etc.. , Legs= Quad extensions, Hamstring curls).
Assuming you aren’t a beginner, you will know what isolations work best for you and you should include those.
Depending on your frame you may want to include more compounds into your chest training as I explain Here.


Volume
Volume is a big deal in terms of weight training.
Too much volume can result in too much stress on the nervous system and may cause injuries over time. Volume also correlates with frequency and Intensity.

Think of it like this.

  • Volume
  • Frequency
  • Intensity.

If one of these variables decrease (for instance, less volume), the other has to go up (which could mean more intensity, or more frequency)
Whereas if 1 goes up, 1 of them has to go down (vice versa)
I found that per body part, you should be doing anywhere from 3-12 sets, depending on how long you have been training and how often you train.If you train a body part twice per week, you should be doing more sets each time you train it, due to longer rest periods.
When you train every body part 3 days a week, you need less volume. A beginner can get away with just 3 or 4 sets and get good results. But a more advanced trainer could be doing 4-8 sets per body part because the body doesn’t grow as easily, and needs more stimuli. Also the nervous system has become conditioned to handle these workloads.
The more advanced you are, the more volume you can do regardless of training frequency.


Number of exercises per body part
The amount of exercises you do should correlate between how many heads/ parts of the muscle you want to hit and how big the muscle is. For instance, Legs, they have quads, hamstrings and calves, so you should be striving for an exercise to target them all + 1 or 2 major compound lifts. Same goes for Shoulders (Front, side and rear delt), Back, chest and arms.

This is the hardest part of figuring out your workout, because you don’t want to be doing way too much, but you also want to smash the muscle whilst still being able to hit everything frequently. The more experience you have, the easier this will be for you to figure out.


Amount of sets per exercise.
This is a bit of a personal thing. Some people like having 5 sets per exercise, some people like 10 sets. Some even like 1 set.

Well truth is, there’s a LOT of literature out there stating no measurable growth in a muscle (measure off of protein synthesis) after 3 sets have been completed. Of course, this depends on how intense those sets are, you probably need to be doing a decent rep range close to failure for this to be true (you should be in an appropriate rep range going close to failure anyways).

After each set, less growth is induced (think of a downwards sloping graph). Doing 2 or 3 sets per exercise is probably the smartest way to ensure you get the most results from your routine. Of course, this doesn’t include warm up sets. If your periodisation requires you to do 3 sets of warmups, then you do 3 sets of warmups.


Post failure techniques
Post failure techniques are helpful in the fact they are great to finish off your workout.
You do these techniques to continue working the muscle past you usual point of max fatigue.

The best post failure techniques are:

Drops sets
Drops sets are amazing for reaching a pump, and destroying the muscle. The process involves   hitting failure, the decrease the weight by 30-40%, and continues doing this a few more times.

So you might be doing side raises:

Drop Set:

  • Perform a set of side raises: 25lbs,
  • Hit Failure.
  • Drop weight.   Side raise, 15lbs
  • Hit Failure.
  • Drop Weight. Side raise, 8lbs.
  • Hit failure.

Rest Pause
Rest pause became popular with Dante Trudel when he introduced DC training. Rest Pause sets are when you hit failure, you rest for 10 seconds or less, then pick up the same weight and hit failure again (you will generally get a little more or less than half the previous reps, and continue once more.

So you might be doing side raises:

  • Rest Pause set 1: DB side raise, 25lbs 8 reps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Rest Pause set 2: DB side raise, 25lbs, 4 reps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Rest Pause set 3: DB side raise, 25lbs, 3 reps

Burnout sets
Burnout sets are great to finish off a workout. These are where you just get a light weight, and do as many reps as possible, sometimes 30+. This gives an awesome pump and may help with recovery (High reps= More lactic acid= tendons and ligaments recover better).

All these techniques shouldn’t be done too much in a workout, as they are just unnecessary and can cause too much stress on the nervous system. You may want to just limit these techniques to isolation and do one at the end of your workouts.


Other things to consider
Lagging body parts can wreck a physique in terms of aesthetics, You should obviously try to bring up each body part so its all in proportion, but most of us out there will have a bodypart too small, or too big.When it’s too small, the solution is simple, add an extra day of training for that body part into a day which won’t ruin recovery or affect other workouts due to soreness, or just add volume to the days you already train it.

When it is too big, just limit training it to once per week, or just don’t improve your lifts for it.

Muscle imbalances and inflexibility can cause A LOT of problems, such as back and spine, poor posture and injury.  A good way to fix this, is by doing a lot of posterior chain exercises (strengthening lower back, abdominals, spinal erectors, rear delts) to fix your posture, and of course working on muscle imbalances.

If you find that you’ve plateaued,  strength has dropped, or just getting minor stress injuries, you may need a deload week, which is essentially a week where you do light weights, you may drop it to 40% max volume if you want, or just take a week off.

This will stop you from burning out, and you may even be stronger.

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