HOW TO CREATE SUPER SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE WORKOUT ROUTINES FOR YOURSELF

What are your goals?

One of the first things I do with each client in my Personal Coaching Program is to assess how important certain goals are to them on a scale from 1 to 10.

  • Lose weight
  • Add muscle
  • Look and feel better
  • Learn to stay consistent
  • Gain more energy and vitality
  • Get off medications
  • Get control of my eating
  • Learn how to maintain my weight, habits, and performance after achieving my goal
  • Get stronger
  • Improve performance for my sport

What I’ve found is that most people want to achieve a lot of things. So I ask them to choose their top 4. After that, I ask them to put them in a little bracket like this and fight each other until one has been crowned most important goal in the entire Universe.

90% of the people I work with want to look better naked, have more energy every day and build a body they’re proud of. Without the gym taking over their life. 

If you want to lose some weight and body fat. Get stronger so you can pick your kid up over your head. Have more energy so you don’t get tired walking around Disneyland for a day. Or have more confidence when you and your significant other are… you know… bumping uglies. 

Then today’s article is for you.

GET FAMILIAR WITH MOVEMENT PATTERNS AND THE BEST EXERCISES

Choose exercises that are going to build as much muscle, generate the most power and strength, and facilitate as much fat loss as possible. To do that I’d like to introduce you to what I like to call the “Magnificent Seven Exercises.”

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pull-ups
  • Rows
  • Presses
  • Push-ups
  • Running (walking, rowing, swimming, crawling, climbing, jumping, play)

These 7 types of exercises fall into 7 different movement patters:

  • Squats and lunges – Lower body pressing exercises
  • Pull-ups and rows – Upper body pulling exercises
  • Push-ups and presses – Upper body pressing exercises
  • Deadlifts – Lower body pulling exercises or hip hinging exercises
  • Running, rowing, crawling, etc… – Movement

Did you just Keanu Reeves me?

Don’t worry. I want to familiarize you with those exercises and movement patterns for now. You’ll see how they come into play with the rest of this article. Just file that information away in the matrix known as your brain. You’ll be using those exercises to create your own training plans soon enough.

CHOOSE A TRAINING SCHEDULE BASED ON YOUR LIFESTYLE.

This is where shit usually hits the fan. You try to do what you’ve always done in the past. Train 5 to 6 days per week in the gym for at least 60 minutes.

Let me ask you something?

Is that realistic for you and your life right now? If it is, I want your life. I know for me it’s not and trying to train like that usually burns me out or frustrates me because I can’t do it anymore.

Ask yourself these 2 questions before jumping into a training schedule for yourself.

  1. What does a body I’m proud of look like? Feel like? And what can I do with it?
  2. What does a good enough workout look like and feel like to me?

Go ahead, take a few minutes to answer them. I’ll wait right here.

The reason I want you to do this is that lifting weights in the gym 4 to 5 days per week might not be necessary for you to build a body you’re proud of. Running outside might not be needed to build a body that you’re proud of. Hell, even stretching and improving flexibility and mobility might not be needed to build a body you’re proud of.

As for the good enough workout question, you’re doing this one because I want you to identify ways you can move your body so at the end of the day you’re satisfied. Often we get wrapped up living someone else’s fitness identity and forget to establish our own. We end up doing workout plans and following templates that we don’t enjoy or feel good about.

HOW MANY TIMES PER WEEK?

Looking at your schedule and your definitions of a body you’re proud of and good enough workouts, how many days per week can you confidently commit to training your body? Based on your answer here I’ve given some examples of what might be the best way for you to train.

1-3 WORKOUTS PER WEEK

Full-body workouts that use most, if not all of the 7 types of exercises.

  • Lower body: Squat or lunges
  • Upper body pulling: Pull-ups
  • Upper body pressing: Push-ups
  • Movement: Box jumps

4 WORKOUTS PER WEEK

This could be two upper body training sessions and two lower body training sessions done on non-consecutive days.

Upper body on Monday and Thursday.

  • Chest: Push-ups and presses
  • Back: Pull-ups and rows
  • Shoulders: Overhead presses

Lower body and Movement on Tuesday and Friday.

  • Legs: Squats, lunges, and deadlfts
  • Movement: Run, jump, climb, crawl, row

This could also be done as upper body pressing and lower body pulling exercises done on Monday and Thursday or upper body pulling exercises and lower body pressing exercises done on Tuesday and Friday.

Upper body pressing and lower body pulling

  • Chest: Push-ups and presses
  • Shoulders: Overhead presses
  • Lower body pulling: Deadlifts and hip hinging exercises (kettlebell swings and good mornings)

Upper body pulling and lower body pressing

  • Back: Pull-ups and rows
  • Lower body pressing: Squats, lunges, step-ups

5+ WORKOUTS PER WEEK

I don’t recommend you do this unless you’re competitively training for something. With that said, it doesn’t mean you can’t move your body 5 or more times per week. It’s totally cool to workout 1 to 4 days per week and fill the rest of those days with meaningful movement like hiking, yoga, long walks, rock climbing, and other fun active hobbies you enjoy.

WHAT TIME OF DAY CAN YOU TRAIN ON EACH OF THOSE DAYS?

Now that you’ve decided how many days you’ll be training it’s time to decide the time of day that is best for you.

Be specific.

Don’t just say morning, afternoon, or night. Can you train at 5:30am? Noon? 6:00pm? 9:00pm?

These are now appointments with CEO you. They do not get cancelled. Set reminders on your phone when it’s time to train. Let people close to you know that this is your time. 

HOW MANY MINUTES ON EACH OF THOSE DAYS?

Some how over the years it’s been hammered into our noodles that we need to get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Some people just don’t have that kind of time. But instead of throwing up your hands and saying fuck this shit, I’m out. Do the best you can with what you can.

  • Got 5 minutes? Cool, do a 5-minute workout.
  • Got 10 minutes? Cool, do a 10-minute workout.
  • Got 20 minutes? Cool, do a 20-minute workout.
  • Got 30 minutes? Cool, do a 30-minute workout.
  • Got 43 minutes and 12 seconds? Cool, do a 43 minute and 12 second workout

What’s realistic for you?

WHERE CAN YOU TRAIN?

Not only where can you train but where do you want to train?

  • The gym
  • At home
  • In a park
  • At the DMV
  • On top of a rooftop in Tokyo

SET UP YOUR ROUTINE OR LACK OF ROUTINE. PLAYERS CHOICE.

Now you’ve got how many days per week you’ll be training. The days you’ll be training. And the exact time, location, and duration of each training session. Hashtag crushing shit.

Now block off that time in your calendar for those training sessions. Set a reminder to go off about 30 minutes before you’re suppose to train.

You know… just so you don’t forget.

CHOOSE YOUR EXERCISES

If you’re training 2 to 3 times per week and doing full body routines I recommend choosing 1 lower body exercise, 1 upper body pressing exercise, 1 upper body pulling exercises, and 1 movement exercise. Then I’ll combine them in a strength circuit. Choose exercises that match your comfortability and skill level.

I’ve listed a few exercises below in different categories. The exercises go from most difficult to least difficult. You can watch video descriptions of all the exercises here.

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

  • Barbell squat → Goblet squat→ Jump squat → Bodyweight squat
  • Barbell lunge → Dumbbell lunge → Jump lunge → Bodyweight lunge
  • Barbell step-ups → Dumbbell step-ups → Bodyweight step-ups

UPPER BODY PRESSING

  • Bench press → Dumbbell bench press → Push-ups
  • Dips → Band assisted dips → Bodyweight dips
  • Barbell press → Dumbbell press

UPPER BODY PULLING

  • Bent-over barbell row → Single arm dumbbell row
  • Pull-ups → Band assisted pull-ups → Inverted rows

MOVEMENT

  • Running
  • Box jumps
  • Burpees
  • Walking
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Rowing
  • Biking
  • Battle ropes
  • Broad jumps
  • Jump rope
  • Jumping jacks
  • Mountain climbers

An example workout might look like this:

  • Dumbbell lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Inverted rows
  • Box jumps

But what if you’re training more than 3 days per week and not doing full body routines? As mentioned earlier in the article there are a couple of different ways you can go about this.

First is to train your upper body one day and lower body the next. Or you can train your upper body pressing movements and lower body pulling movements one day and upper body pulling movements and lower body pressing movements the next. Lets use this as an example because it’s a little more confusing.

Just like the full body training example above let’s make this super simple and time effective and work in strength circuits where you move from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible.

Day 1: Lower body pressing and upper body pulling

  • Goblet squat
  • Pull-up
  • Walking lunges
  • Single arm dumbbell row
  • Run

Day 2: Lower body pulling and upper body pressing

  • Kettlebell deadlift
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Elevated hip raises
  • Dips
  • Jump rope

CHOOSE YOUR REPS, SETS, AND REST

I wrote a detailed article about reps, sets, rest, and tempo here but below I’ve shared the majority of it.

HOW MANY REPS?

It really depends on your goals. Are you looking to be able to move a house and just be strong as shit? Do you prefer a balance between strength gains and muscle-building?

Are you looking to add as much muscle as possible with not as much emphasis on strength? Or are you looking to improve muscular endurance with limited strength and muscular gains?

There really is no wrong answer here. Just personal preference. It should be noted that the number of repetitions is the variable in the fitness equation that is adapted to most quickly. So a rule of thumb is to vary this often.

In order to make sure you’re continually progressing towards transforming from Clark Kent to Superman frequent variation will be needed. Most will adapt to any given rep range after 5-7 workouts. So keep a journal handy to track your progress and pay special attention for when it’s time to switch it up.

DIFFERENT REP RANGES FOR DIFFERENT RESULTS

1 to 5 Reps

Typical used for maximal strength gains. If you are looking to pick up Oak trees and throw them at someone I would highly suggest taking this approach. 1-5 reps is usually around 85% of your 1 rep maximum (1RM) in any given lift.

A good approach before starting any training routine may be to test yourself in a few of the basic movements in order to have some “NERD ALERT” data to work with. If you are a novice lifter I would not suggest training in this rep range until your form is on point.

6 to 8 Reps

This is a pretty standard rep range for most fellas and ladies to follow because it elicits a pretty nice balance between strength and muscular gains. 6-8 reps usually falls at about 79-84% of your 1RM. So if you have not already, think about testing those 1RM’s. Just make sure you have proper form and a partner on stand by.

9 to 12 Reps

This is the rep range that the majority of trainees use. However, they train in this range with not much intensity. By that, I mean moving a weight for 12 reps when they could have done 20. This rep range will usually be around 70-78% of your 1RM.

This rep range allows for optimal muscular development.

If you’re looking for serious body composition changes… aka… looking good naked then think about dabbling in this pool. With that said, don’t forget to experiment with rep ranges. Your body will adjust very quickly and those gains will start to decrease.

13+ Reps

This is usually anything under 70% of your 1RM. Most novice lifters can experience tremendous gains when working with these higher rep ranges. This is also an excellent rep range for beginners in order to develop proper form and control of the movements. Body weight movements will allow for rep ranges in this range. If yo’re a noob to all of this, think about starting with a body weight routine until you develop some muscular strength, coordination, and confidence.

Note: It is not necessary to find your 1RM to work within these rep ranges. An easy rule to follow when working in each rep range is that the last rep you do (say 8) should be difficult but not the last one you could do. It should feel like you “might” be able to do one more. “Might” is the keyword here.

HOW MANY SETS?

If you’re new to the  training game and have really never touched a weight before or much alone looked at one then 1-2 tough sets are usually enough to elicit a positive response. However, it will not take your body very long to get use to that.

Much like reps, varying your sets becomes important as well.

After introducing yourself to the weight training game 3-6 sets per exercise is usually sufficient to see consistent results.

More reps = fewer sets: Your muscle need to perform a certain amount of work in order to see results. Lifting a super heavy weight 2 times for 1 set is not going to do you much good. We want to make sure we do not train a muscle too much. 15 reps of a bench press done with 15 sets is just not smart. You’re most likely just over-training a muscle group. When we look back at the rep ranges provided above a good protocol to follow can be seen here.

  • 1-5 reps: 4-6 sets
  • 6-8 reps: 3-5 sets
  • 9-12 reps: 3-4 sets
  • 13+ reps: 2-3 sets (depending on training maybe 4)

HOW MUCH REST?

I would ask you what your superhero goal is.

  • Strength?
  • Endurance?
  • Muscle building?
  • Fat loss

There are a ton of factors that come into play but lets simplify it.

Training for strength: Usually training for strength means you are working in that 1-5 rep range. Resting 3-5 minutes after each set is ideal to allow for almost a full recovery.

Strength/Muscle building: The 6-8 rep range will usually call for a 2-3 minute rest interval.

Muscle building: If you are looking to see major body composition changes and an overall improvement in your “Look good naked” quotient, then resting 90 seconds – 2 minutes is where you’ll want to be. As you get comfortable with the exercises and your stamina improves you should be able to keep the rest between 60-90 seconds.

Muscular endurance 13+ reps: and your rest can be anywhere from 10 seconds to 90 seconds. You can vary this depending on how much time you have for your workout that day, your current conditioning, and your goals.

More rest for bigger muscles: You’ll find that working out the larger muscles are much more taxing then the smaller ones. Performing a back squat is significantly more difficult than doing a dumbbell curl. More rest is often needed more after working with larger muscle groups as opposed to smaller ones.

INCORPORATE PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

This article is getting pretty long so I don’t want to get all crazy with progressive overload. Essentially the concept is pushing yourself a little harder the next workout. This can be done a number of ways.

  • Add a little more weight to your lifts
  • Slow down the tempo at which you move your weight or body (try taking 5 seconds to lower your chest to the ground when you do a push-up)
  • Shorten your rest in-between exercises
  • Try to do an extra rep or two

The idea is to challenging yourself a little more than you did the last week. Aim to get 1% better. If you want to dive a little deeper into the specifics of progressive overload I suggest this article

A PERSONAL EXAMPLE AND A TRAINING ROUTINE I RECOMMEND TO MOST OF MY CLIENTS

I want to wrap today’s article with an example of how I now train. If you’ve been reading the site for a while you’ll know I went from a gym rat, to Crossfit addict, to recovering fitness junkie. Basically, I burned myself out, was exhasuted and achining all the time, and hated working out in the traditional sense.

Over the last few years, I’ve redefined what fitness is for me. What a body I’m proud of looks like and what a good enough workout is to me. Below is how I currently train. It’s basically built upon everything you read in this article.

Monday: Strength training in the gym

  • Back squats, 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Weighted dips, 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Weighted pull-ups, 5 sets x 5 reps

Stretch and I’m out!

Tuesday: Meaningful movement

Wednesday: HIIT or Metabolic conditioning (A fancy word for working really hard and fast)

This workout is the only one that changes a lot, usually weekly. It almost always is body weight only and involves a kettlebell… who doesn’t love a good kettlebell workout?

Complete as many rounds and reps in 12 minutes as possible of:

  • 8 push-ups
  • 8 ring-rows
  • 16 jumping lunges
  • 16 kettlebell swings
  • 100 meter sprint

This sucks! Then I stretch.

Thursday: Meaningful movement

Friday: Strength training in the gym

This day usually involves some olympic lifting but the example below just shows the last part of the workout.

  • Deadlift, 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Overhead press, 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Bentover barbell rows, 5 sets x 5 reps

Stretch and I’m out!

Saturday: Meaningful movement

Sunday: Meaningful movement or total lazy man

Usually, a long hike in the morning and maybe some play later like tennis, throwing the football, surfing, or skateboarding. Well there you have it. A super simple way to create your own effective training routines.

There’s a lot of info in this bad boy so if you have any questions feel free to contact me and fire away or comment below.

Live limitless,

Justin

PS: If you’re looking for some direction when it comes to your health. I’m opening up a few Personal Coaching spots.

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Photo: Autumn Goodman

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