It can be tough to know how to structure a training programme. How many hours should you train? How do you exercise all your muscles equally? How do you gain those extra pounds of muscle before the next competition? The answer is, as always with bodybuilding, organization.
When designing a training routine ask yourself these basic questions first:
1. How much time do you have to train?
2. What can you realistically achieve in that time?
3. Which of your muscles need the most work?
Answer these questions honestly and you’re already well on your way to devising a helpful, efficient and, most importantly, achievable training plan. Training is largely to do with being realistic. If you set yourself impossible goals then you will never reach them and therefore feel less motivated to keep training. By looking at things in both a short and long term perspective, setting yourself smaller goals in order to reach that huge one, you will be more likely to succeed.
So, having answered these questions, what else will help you to create a good training routine?
- Once you have isolated what exactly you want to work on, whether it is to boost a particular group of muscles or just to increase your stamina or strength, this should give you a clue as to which exercises will be best for you. If you want to grow your arm muscles there’s no point spending your time doing lunges. Having said this, you should always look to do some core training of your abs, hips and spine. These muscles are integral to every movement you do and you will always need to keep them in tiptop condition.
- Think about how you can be efficient in your workout. Many exercises use multiple muscles, so why use one that uses only one muscle? Some exercises that use multiple joints include squats, pull up and deadlifts. Even better, try exercises that involve using your whole body as a unit. These include carrying sandbags and doing farmer’s walks. Doing multi-joint exercises has added benefits too: for one they don’t put undue stress on just one joint, and for another full body exercises help with basics like stability and overall conditioning.
- Give your body a break. It’s very easy, when you’re in a hurry, to just push through without pausing at all. This may make you feel more productive but it doesn’t allow your body to repair at all. If you really need to cram lots of training into a very short time period, then at least pair up your exercises so that individual muscle groups get a chance to rest. This way, when you are stretching your arms your legs get a chance to rest and vice versa. You could even work out a circuit so that you work all your muscles in small reps without overloading one particular muscle. In fact, balance is the key ingredient to a successful training regime. Do lots of different exercises in small reps over the course of your workout to avoid causing too much stress to your joints.
- Finally, don’t overwork yourself. Overtraining can cause just as much harm as good. In fact, studies show that after 56 minutes of intensive training, the body’s testosterone levels decrease by up to 80%. At this point the body risks losing as much muscle as it had gained. This can be negated in some part by making sure that you eat enough protein, but don’t overdo things or your muscles just won’t be able to keep up. If you have to reach a specific goal in a short space of time it is best to spread your training out over the whole week. This also means that you can give certain muscle groups a rest for a day (see my point above): for example, one day you could work on your upper body and the next stretch your lower body. While we’re on the subject of overtraining; get out of the gym once in a while! I’m not necessarily advocating a trip to the pub, but you can still keep fit away from the gym equipment. Sports such as circuit training can help you shed extra calories and give you some fresh air into the bargain.
The main components of a workout routine are realism and balance. Achieve these and you should be able to create the perfect schedule. If you’ve already done so feel free to share it in the comments below, particularly if you have any useful routines for boosting particular muscle groups.