Designing Your Weekly Workout Schedule by Michael J. Merlino, BBA, ACE, BSMI (CPFT, RES,SCS),
Owner, Merlino Fitness, MerlinoFitness.com
I have found that the key to maximizing your results in the gym is having
a weekly plan. It amazes me how diligent most people are about planning
their work in their daytimers and now on their palm pilots but do not
take the same approach to their fitness program. The power of planning
and logging what you are doing during your workouts cannot be over stated.
So before we get into the nuts and bolts of weight training letís explore
what it takes to map out a realistic workout schedule that will work for
Workout Schedule Ground Rules
Letís set some ground rules that will help you avoid let downs. These
have worked well with my clients and my own workout schedule by keeping
things on track and sustaining fitness momentum:
Cross out the days that you cannot commit to
These are days that never seem to work or conflict with other important
things in your life. My suggestion would be to take a look and taking
Mondays, Fridays or Sundays as potential days off. Mondays because well
theyíre Monday and always more hectic. Fridays because well...who the
heck wants to work out on Friday anyway? In Houston Fridays are synonymous
with socializing and eating out. Sundays because it is a good day for
church, family, running errands or just taking it easy. In the end you
make your day off choice and donít be afraid to change if other things
Take a day off and shut everything down!
Use this day to recuperate and focus on doing a good job on your nutrition
to fuel up for the next round of workouts. Your body will enjoy the
day off and you deserve it if you are sticking to your plan.
Plan your week out every Sunday for the upcoming week
Work around obstacles and assure yourself that you are getting enough
activity in to meet your goals. Ask yourself what got in the way last
week and how you can avoid those situations in the future but donít
dwell in the past two long. Youíve still got the rest of the week ahead
Avoid playing catch up on missed workouts
This will drive you nuts over time and is sometimes self-defeating.
Realize that some days will spin out of your control and time may not
allow you to get to the gym. We are all entitled to a bad day once in
awhile when nothing seems to be clicking right. Yesterdayís gone and
you canít get it back. Donít sweat it and set your sights on tomorrowís
plan. If lack of time is the issue then find ways to avoid potential
conflicts the next time, scale back workouts to get at least something
in or modify your activity. For example, if you scheduled a 30 minute
walk do 15 if that is all you have time for. If you planned a weight
training workout but you donít have enough time to commute to the gym
then do a quick 20-30 minute home session using light dumbbells,
exercise tubing and good old fashioned
pushups and crunches.
Write it down! Ė Buy an exercise log and write down what you are
Log your cardio minutes and what you did. Write down specifics on your
weight training workouts like what body part you worked along with what
exercises you performed and how much weight, sets, reps etc. How do
you know what to change later if you donít know what is working and
more importantly what is not working?
Planning Cardio Workouts
Most of us should be doing some type of cardiovascular fitness a minimum
of 3 days a week. Optimal is at least 5 and in some cases almost every
day. The more body fat you have to lose the more cardio work you will
be required to do to burn excess fat stores. Here are a few tips for mapping
our your fat burning sessions:
If weight loss is your goal make cardio days your top priority
- You should be spending 80% of your workout time doing cardio and
about 20% weight training or resistance training at first.
Plan cardio sessions following weight workouts - You will burn
more fat since you are already depleting the sugar stores in your muscles
while lifting weights. This allows you to start burning fat quicker
during cardio activities.
Plan cardio sessions first thing in the morning - If you are
a morning person, this will rev up your metabolism all day and allow
you to burn more fat even at rest. Word to the wise...donít force a
workout time upon yourself which you know will not or has not worked
in the past. For example if you are not a morning person then you canít
expect to be to consistent working out at 5:00 am.
Avoid intense cardio on days when you workout legs with weights
- Iím not saying donít work out legs when you do cardio just do
less intense cardio. I like to get in non-weight bearing cardio in on
leg weight lifting days like the elliptical trainer (EFX), stationary
or recumbent bike. That way you get a nice slow fat burn without the
weight bearing pounding of a treadmill or sidewalk.
Mix It Up - Everyone has their favorite piece of cardio equipment
where you spend most of your fat burning days. However, your body will
love you for adding some variety once in awhile. This hits a wider range
of muscles and varies the weight bearing load on the body not to mention
reduces your gym boredom. Get out of your comfort zone once in awhile
and try something new. If you are not sure how to operate the machine
make the gym guy earn his wage by showing you how.
Planning Weight Training Workouts
Iíll admit, this gets a little tricky and complicated. If you read Bill
Phillips Body For Life book you would think that we should all
be on a bodybuilder workout schedule. Not realistic. I donít use cookie
cutter weight training programs and schedules with my clients nor to I
expect you to do it. The biggest reason why is that everyone has different
goals and time issues that donít allow you to stick with your plan 100%
every week. So I would recommend building wild cards into the schedule
in case your plan A crumbles before your very eyes before Tuesday afternoon.
Your goal with weights should be working every major muscle group at least
two times per week for maximum benefit. Research shows that this is optimal
for most people. This assumes that you are not a runway model or body
builder which covers about 99.99% of us. It also applies to those trying
to lose weight or bulk up. There are many ways to get there. Here are
a few tips that should help:
Arrange your schedule so every muscle group including abs gets
48 hours of recuperation time before it is worked again - The rest
phase is just as important as the work phase when it comes to building
lean muscle mass.
Muscle variety is key! - Guys are notorious for hitting the
glamour muscles (pecs, biceps, shoulders) and avoiding legs, hips etc.
Women have a tendency to workout the glutes, thighs and hips and avoid
the upper body. The anatomy is all the same and God put muscle there
for a reason so work it all! Remember that no amount of weight training
can spot reduce fat. Only cardio training will burn unwanted fat by
Decide how many days per week you can commit to weight or resistance
training - Structure your workouts as follows. Beginners should
stick to overall body workouts for a few weeks before attempting split
body routines. 2 days per week Ė perform two overall body workouts 3 days per week Ė perform one overall and two split routines
(upper or lower) or splitting your muscle groups in half. We will discuss
split routines in a future article 4 days per week Ė two split body routines
Give yourself a workout time limit - Too much more than an
hour is sometimes overkill unless you are an athlete or training for
a major event. Avoid idle chit-chat and get to work! Socialize between
sets and keep it short or you will be closing the place down.
A two set routine is still optimal but if you are pressed for time
1 set still gives you muscle maintaining and building benefits - New
research points out that 3 set routines may not be what they are cracked
up to be for the average American. I will be writing a future article
that covers sets and reps in much more detail.
I remember a phrase that still sticks in my head from my corporate days.
"Work your plan...plan your work." This also applies to your own exercise
plan so take it as serious as your job or your profession. Keep consistent
but never be afraid to change or improve your plan. Realize that you are
human and life will not always allow you to make every workout. You know
your body better than anyone else on this planet. You are well qualified
for the job at hand, know what has worked well in the past and know what
you should avoid. Stay consistent, sustain momentum, try these tips and
you should be well on your way to a new, improved you.
"Exercise often...train smart...eat well...fuel your body...stay
focused...train for life" TM