In our previous articles above, we have discussed the basics of weight
training, planned your workout schedule and the importance of sets and
reps. In this article we will discuss what exercises are needed for each
body part to design a well-rounded and realistic weight training routine.
We are going to keep this simple for now and will cover more advanced
routines and exercises in future articles. Before you read the rest of
this article you may want to review my previous article on what exercises
you may want to avoid to reduce your risk of injury in the weight room.
Keep It Simple
I am assuming that most of you have pretty busy lives and do not have
lots of time to commit to exercise. In fact, time is the biggest excuse
I get for why people don't show up at the gym. Most of us are not body
builders or runway models so there really is no need to spend hours every
day in the gym to get fit. Keeping things simple down to the muscle group
also betters your chances of sticking with the program, which is really
what exercise is all about. Consistent exercise is what creates results
so once you build your plan, commit to it for 12 weeks or 90 days. Then
assess your results and adjust as needed.
Avoid Movements/Exercises That Aggravate Previous Injuries or Weak
You know what these are. A previous sports injury, a weak low back or
knee etc. I have included a small list of these under the "avoid"
bullet with each body part below. When in doubt contact your physician,
a physical therapist or certified trainer to confirm which exercises are
safe for you based on your current health and fitness level.
Your goal and progression defines your set and rep pattern
Start with 12 rep sets progressing to 15 set reps and then keep your reps
between 12 - 17 per set. For those that want more strength or muscle mass
you can progress to a 8-12 set routine. Most will benefit regardless of
the rep count if muscles are flexed every rep. Keep in mind that the heavy
weight and low reps always increase your risk of injury especially if
you are not ready for the additional weight. Also keep your weight increases
to 10% bumps. This avoids injury and allows your body to build muscle
more efficiently without stress on the joints.
Your available time determines your routine type
Whether its overall body, upper/lower split or a more specialized muscle
group split (chest, shoulders, biceps, abs) (legs, back, triceps, abs),
let the time you can commit to each week dictate the routine type. You
can always change it up later as you free more time up for exercise so
start on the conservative side. If you have 2 days per week to commit
then complete 2 overall body workouts each week. If you have 3 days per
week try 3 overall workouts or a 2-way split with an overall workout at
the end of the week. If you have four days go with a 2-way split twice
a week. When in doubt start with overall workouts and progress to splits
as you gain strength, stability and stamina. Remember to allow 48 hours
of recuperation between workouts for each muscle group.
Work every muscle group!
Leaving whole muscle groups out of your routine can create imbalances
in the body that may cause future injuries. That means woman must work
the chest and guys must work the legs. God put muscle there for a reason
and every muscle in the body has a purpose so work everything. The last
thing you want to do is create muscle imbalances by avoiding entire muscle
Recommended Moves By Muscle Group
Grab a cafeteria tray and let's pick get ready to pick your exercises.
This a complete list so there is no need to do all of these exercises
every workout. If you complete all of these within a week you are hitting
almost every strand of muscle in your body. Just Choose from our top picks
to create balance and symmetry in your program for well-rounded and low-risk
workouts. Do more sets for weaker links or areas you want to focus on.
We have used exercise names that should be recognized by most fitness
professionals or gym personnel. Additional exercise descriptions have
been added where we think it is necessary. We will be reviewing specific
exercises in more detail on the website soon so check back often for more
exercise specific info.
Overall legs - Squat (smith machine), machine leg press or
plate loaded leg press
Quadricep (mid thighs) - leg extensions
Hamstring - seated or prone (on stomach) machine leg curls
Glutes - smith machine or dumbbell stationary lunges, glute
Calfs - duo or iso stair raises, rotary calf machine, seated
calf - (plate loaded)
Outer thigh - lying iso side leg raises
Inner thigh - seated hip adduction machine
Hip flexors - seated iso leg raise/push
Training tips - Legs are big muscles and demand lots of energy.
Try alternating between a leg exercise and an upper body exercise to
give them a rest during your workout. Some like to just train legs by
What to avoid - Leg extension to full extension (locking knees
out), squats with legs lower than 90 degrees and traveling lunges. If
you have had previous acl knee surgery avoid leg extensions.
Lats - seated lat pulls, assisted pull-ups, dumbbell iso rows
Mid back - seted machine or cable rows
Upper back (traps) - seated DB shrugs
Lower lumbar - Cybex platform extensions or Cybex machine extensions
Training tips - when training back think about lifting the
shoulder blades not the shoulders. The shoulder blades are rotating
downward on a pull down, upward on a shrug and tilting together on a
What to avoid - lat pull downs behind the head and excessive
shoulder joint movement. If you have a very weak back avoid back extensions.
Dumbbell or barbell flat or incline press
Dumbbell or cable flat or incline flys
Training tips - pick a fly and press movement with one exercise
in an incline position and one in a flat position. Squeeze or chest
muscle or create muscle cleavage by gently shifting the shoulder blades
forward on the bench, pressing the shoulder blades into the bench and
squeezing the pecs together at the top of the movement
What to avoid - Cybex incline pec deck or any fly machine that
puts tension on the shoulder (undue stress to shoulder joint)
Mid (medial) - standing or seated side dumbbell lateral raises,
seated barbell military press (smith machine)
Front (anterior) - seated front duo dumbell raises
Rear (posterior) - prone (on stomach) incline or flat dumbbell
raises or reverse flys
Rotator cuff - standing tube or dumbbell external rotation
off side of hip, standing exercise tube internal rotation
Training tips - This muscle is one that is tough to flex so
keep the movement slow on the negative phase. Hold the weight at the
top of the movement for about a second forcing gravity to contract or
"flex" the muscle.
What to avoid - rotating forearm by flexing the wrist or rotating
the elbow joint. Also avoid excessive rotation of the shoulder joint
which puts undue stress on the rotator cuffs (i.e. - arny presses)
Concentration iso dumbbell curls
Dumbbell or barbell preacher curls
Training tips - This is one muscle that most people can really
flex so hold a good flex for one second at the top of the movement.
Your biceps should feel like they are jumping out of your skin!
What to avoid - moving the shoulders or bending the back to
help lift the weight. Only the elbow joints should be moving.
Dumbell seated iso wrist curls
Dumbell iso standing hammer curls
Training tips - Use a weight that is less than what you are
using for bicep curls. Iso moves (working right and left separate) work
best for forearms.
What to avoid - training forearms early in your workout. They
are used as assister muscles on almost every upper body exercise so
wait until the end of your workout to train them
Supine (on back) duo dumbbell or barbell extensions on bench
Assisted dips (Cybex machine)
Training tips - Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together
while flexing the triceps as the arms become straight
What to avoid - moving shoulder joint. Elbow is the only joint
that should be moving while working triceps
Supine (on back) mat or fit ball crunches
Cross over crunches - on back or with feet anchored on bench
Side crunches - Off Cybex 45 degree platform, on mat or off
the side of a fitness ball
Training tips - use varied angles by working the mid stomach
and the sides (obliques). Really focus on squeezing or flexing the stomach
muscles and drawing the stomach into the body with every rep. Thing
of your stomach as an accordion that you squeeze together ever rep.
What to avoid - using or bending your upper spine. Your movement
should come from the lower spine, lower vertebrae or low back.
That should give you more than enough to get started with your plan.
Remember to work larger muscle groups like legs, back and chest first
followed by smaller muscle groups like shoulders, triceps and biceps last.
I would recommend doing abdominal work first since many of us tend to
blow abs off if we are running short on time toward the end of the workout.
Plan your workouts and workout your plan. Added muscle is just a few weeks
Michael Merlino is a Freelance, Certified Professional Fitness
Trainer and owner of Merlino Fitness and MerlinoFitness.com. He trains
his clients at the Houston Downtown YMCA and in their homes and offices.
Michael can be reached at 832-577-7770. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on one of the links below for more information on Michael and his
fitness and nutrition services.