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How to Put Together a Workout Routine

by
author image Ryan Mess
Ryan Mess earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Cal Poly SLO, where he played rugby. His fitness expertise bloomed during his college and semi-pro rugby career. And since then, he has been training everyone from youth to professional athletes to grandparents in all things fitness and health while still competing.
How to Put Together a Workout Routine
A plan-less plan is the best plan. Photo Credit Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Whether you are an athlete, a stay-at-home mom, or a youth starting to train, you should divide your week so that you can train all planned days at 100 percent effort. The intensity of a workout is a very different scale than the amount of effort given. Rather than a subjective description of the workout, intensity is an objective scale in measuring the workout in relation to a one-rep maximum. For example, if your best 100-meter sprint is 10.8 seconds, that 10.8 is 100 percent intensity, putting an 11.0-seconds 100-meter at 98 percent intensity on your individual scale. If today's workout is at 90 percent intensity, tomorrow should be lower intensity or it should concentrate on different body parts if staying at over 80 percent intensity. But every workout should be at 100 percent effort, so vary the intensity, the volume of work, the movements, and the total rest within each workout to do so.

Start with a Compound Movement

Perform a compound, multi-joint strength movement at least four workouts per week. Strength is the most important base to all fitness. Yes, even for distance runners. For doubters, consider the copious findings like these: "Individual decreased his [three-mile] run time by two minutes and 53 seconds with no cardio training at all during the four-week period. He only did the weight workouts. He increased his 1RM in the deadlift from 275 to 335 during the same time frame." Short, intense strength and power workouts will benefit you more than high-volume, long-duration workouts. Splitting your weight lifting into upper and lower body days allows for daily training without overuse injuries. Plan on alternating a variation of squats and deadlifts every lower day, and alternating bench press and overhead press every upper day.

Support the Compound Strength

The muscles that carry you through the compound movements -- squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls, heavy snatches, heavy cleans and jumping -- are the same muscles that support your daily sport and life demands. Additional concentration on the muscles that drive the compound movements is necessary for gains and injury prevention. Always train your weaknesses, because if you have a weak link in the chain, that weak link will cause injury in intense circumstances. On upper-body day, you will want to perform gymnastic movements, dips, pull-ups, push-up variations, barbell or dumbbell rows and light snatch variations. Always add trunk movements to every workout, as a strong core is imperative for health and safety. Trunk movements include trunk flexion, trunk extension, lateral flexion and extension and rotational movements for the abs, obliques, lats, and lower back. On lower-body day, follow your squats or deadlifts with sprints, hills sprints, bleacher sprints, jumping variations, hip extensions, sled pulling, rows and clean variations.

Keep Your Goal in Mind

If your goals are to get big, strong and beastly, you will want to use weighted movements as the primary form of any conditioning and use relatively heavy weights, as often as possible. If your goal is to lose fat and get ripped, you will want to perform more sprinting along with higher repetition sets of body weight movements at a higher tempo than the individual just trying to add mass and strength. Don't be afraid to mix everything up now and then. Variety adds excitement and forces adaptation. On any off days, consider swimming in a relaxing matter to decompress and mobilize your joints in a low-gravity environment.

Always Train Like an Athlete

Remember that even if your goal is to just lose fat, not necessarily to gain muscle, your body will respond to athletic, intense, low-repetition weight lifting and sprinting efforts much better than any slow, long-duration, high-volume endurance training. With the shorter, intense workouts your insulin response becomes ideal for losing fat, and with the low-intensity, long-duration training you can actually make yourself less likely to lose weight. When you place regular long-duration demands on the body, you can develop an unpleasant hormonal response, resulting in increased body fat accumulation and a chronically catabolic state. This means the body never rebuilds or recovers, so it cannot afford to build muscle and burn fat for fear that it will not be able to sustain.

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