So you’ve decided to change your looks. In particular, you want to yank off some fats, pack on some muscles and look totally shredded. Great!
Like the typical 21st century citizen of earth, you’ve searched the internet for lots, lots, even more lots of information on how you can get this dream body. You’ve seen guides that revolve around “dumbbell squat: 3 sets, 8 to 10 reps; bench press: 3 sets, 8 to 10 reps; wide-grip pull-up: 3 sets, 8 to 10 reps”. They told you how these exercises can help you stack up muscles in a matter of months, and you honest-to-God want to get into it.
Thankfully, you’re like several million others who’d rather design their workout routine by themselves. In fact, you’re already half-way through. Before you proceed, though, press pause and read this article that enlightens you on the basic (and essential) elements of an effective fitness plan. Yes, you need a plan.
If you’ve employed the services of a pro fitness trainer, you have no problem. However, If you’re trying to draw a workout plan for yourself, you need to be aware of the fundamental elements of workout plans that work in real life. Not the, “I worked out 7 hours every single day for 6 months” stories now scattered all over the internet.
The first element of a perfect workout plan is
An Achievable Goal
The first thing you must decide before drawing a workout or fitness plan is your fitness goal. You must first answer the why-question:
Why am I doing this?
- I just want to look like Rihanna. Slender, not skinny.
- All I want is to look like Vin Diesel.
- I can barely lift anything heavy; I need more strength.
- I’m too tiny, I really need to add some muscles.
- I seriously want to look intimidating.
Your fitness goal will be a determining factor in your exercises and lifestyle. It must be realistic enough that you’ll be motivated to go for it. Stop thinking “from Michael Jackson to Anthony Joshua in 6 months”. 🙄🙄
The next thing after setting a goal is working towards achieving it. Controlling about 80% of your fitness achievements is your diet. So, you must have a
Definite Calorie Consumption
Whether your desire is to lose weight or to add as much muscle as you can, you’ll most likely need an adjustment to your current diet. The adjustment may be to increase your calorie intake or to decrease it. It depends on your achievable goal.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need to cut your calorie-per-day to lose weight. What you need may simply be the right amount of exercise per week — though cutting your diet and exercising will yield faster results. However, dieting doesn’t start and stop with how much food you eat. It has more to do with what you eat.
If you’re building muscle mass, you may need to increase calorie intake and adjust the intake of certain nutrients in the adding phase. But in the cutting phase, the calories need to go down. A high-protein diet, by meals, supplements, or both, will always be part of a bodybuilder’s lifestyle.
Once your required calorie consumption is figured out, you’ll need
A Definite Workout Routine
This is where you choose a training type — cardio or strength; routine type — full-body workouts or split training; and the exercises you’ll train with. While your routine determines how many times you hit the gym in a week, you decide which days. The days you don’t go to the gym are your rest days. Rest days are important too because that’s when your muscles grow.
The number of your rest days depends largely on your workout routine. People who favour full-body routines tend to get up to 4 rest days a week. On the other hand, people who favour split routines can only get up to 3 rest days a week. Sometimes, even less.
You simply want to lose weight? Consider
Cardiovascular exercises, also known as aerobic or cardio exercises, are efficient for weight loss. They do not require lifting of any sort. They’re all just activities designed to get your heart rate up. In effect, this will make your blood pump faster, and you’ll also burn calories. The most common (and most effective) cardio exercise is running, because it burns the most calorie per hour.
Running can be done outdoors or indoors — on a treadmill. While the treadmill is significantly safer and somewhat risk-free, those qualities are bought with money. Meanwhile, outdoor running could be dangerous and injurious.
Running is of high-intensity. “Gentler” alternatives include walking, jogging, and cycling. If your goal, however, is to build muscle mass, then you’ll definitely go with
Strength training is generally divided into push and pull exercise. While push exercise involves pushing objects away from the body or the body away from objects (e.g. push-ups, bench presses, and leg presses), pull exercises involve pulling things to the body or the body to something (e.g. pull-ups, bicep curls, and lying dumbbell curls).
Strength training, also resistance training, could be done with weights and/or bodyweight. While bodyweight exercises can be done indoors, weight training will require that you hit the gym. Depending on your goal, hitting the gym may be a necessity. Bodyweight exercises can help maintain the muscles you’ve already built, but won’t get you new one’s. You need weights for that. Where else can you easily get them if not in a gym?
This routine will guide you through each week, and each day at the gym — like a to-do list.
Depending on whether you want to lose weight or you want to bulk up, you must also decide
Where You’ll Workout.
If your goal is to lose weight (or to get a bit bulky) and you have the funds, you can easily buy some equipment (or none, if you prefer bodyweight or won’t be strength-training) and set up a home gym. If, however, your goal is to get especially big and muscular, a home gym will likely not suffice. A better option will be to get a gym membership.
Where you’ll workout plays another (psychological) role in your fitness journey. If you made friends at the gym, they might become your source of motivation to go there and workout on every workday. Trust me, you’ll need the motivation.
Once you’ve decided your workout locale, you’ll need:
A Fixed Training Time
A lot of people don’t pay attention to this. They believe there’s nothing wrong with you going to the gym at any time you feel like it or are chanced to go. Yes, there’s no such thing as a “general gym-time”, but you’ll need a gym-time for yourself. It could be 6 a.m before you set out for the day or 6 p.m after you’ve closed from work.
In the long run, your brain will develop neural pathways for this activity, and getting up to workout at that particular time will become a habit. So you must have (and stay committed to) a defined time you’ll hit the gym, whoop your workouts, and grow those muscles — or shed those fats.
The things above make up the foundational framework on which you should develop your fitness plan. Narrowing things down to personalizing a routine, you’ll have to choose exercises to work different muscles: chest, biceps, triceps, back, core (abs and lower back), hamstrings, glutes, calves, and forearms. This is where things change for a lot of people. But that’s not a topic for today.