Planning your workouts
Published 2:02 pm Thursday, December 9, 2021
BY CHAD SALYER
A lot goes into staying fit. You have to diet, train, and keep your body healthy. These can all be complicated and difficult undertakings.
In each case, you should plan your strategies ahead of time. Failing to plan is planning to fail as they say. Too many athletes will put forth an immense amount of effort in the gym, but give minimal thought to the planning of their workouts.
A better strategy is to plan your workouts very carefully considering things like muscle confusion, intensity, and maximizing muscle stress.
Muscle confusion happens when you deviate from habitual workouts and do something different. This increases the healthy stress on your muscles and nervous system.
There is something called the “Law of Accommodation” that basically says the more often you do a specific exercise for a certain number of reps and sets, the lower the muscle stress that results.
In other words, your body “gets used to” a certain workout and it doesn’t do you as much good. When I worked out at ETSU’s Center for Physical Activity or the CPA for many years I watched hundreds of fellow students work out every day.
Very frequently, they would do the same tired workout week after week. For example, they might do 3 sets of 5 bench presses with basically the same weight every week. Then they might complete some curls and tricep press again with the same weight, reps, and sets week after week.
Now, this isn’t a “bad” workout at all. In fact, it is considerably better than sitting on the couch, but it could be improved with a variable rep and weight scheme.
To implement this, the lifter should start with a “high volume” plan where light weight and high reps are used. Around half of your one-rep max for eight sets of eight, for example.
Then they could reduce the reps and sets by one and increase the weight by 5-10 percent of their one-rep max every week for five weeks until they reach something like three sets of three with about 90 percent of that max amount.
Then, they might start the cycle over with a slightly higher initial weight amount. In this way, you are always making progress, your workouts don’t get as boring, and you keep your muscles “confused.”
Intensity is also key to make it to the next level in any fitness plan. You have to “go hard.” This means you should treat every set and rep as an important part of your workout.
Also, you should choose an appropriate weight, number of sets, and number of reps so that you are challenged to nearly max effort on the last rep of the last set for every exercise.
Anything less, and you are not maximizing your gains.
Maximizing muscle stress is the third key to workout planning. This is primarily accomplished by choosing the right exercises. A lot of times, people default to the exercises they “like.” It is quite possible you “like” a certain exercise because it is easy and does not stress your body as much as a compound movement like a squat, bench press, or deadlift would.
Always plan your workouts around these three movements. They should always be the core of any weightlifting plan.
In the dark ages, some doctors believed the worse something tasted, the more curative power it might have. You can imagine what sorts of medicine this thinking produced.
Now, of course, we know that thinking was wildly inaccurate, but there is an analogy in weightlifting. Often, the exercise that is uncomfortable or makes you the sorest, is the one you need the most to maximize your workout’s positive effects. Your time is precious.
So, plan your workouts in order to get the most out of the time and energy you are putting into yourself!