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Keep up the good work with your own fitness regime

Building your own training programme

Created by Jamie Spoor

2022-6-17

5 minute read

To continually make progress, you should always look to develop a set of core training principles to keep you on your toes. Whether you’re heading back to the gym after a long period away or you’re braving the weight room for the first time, figuring out what actually to do once you hit the gym can be daunting.

The good news is, as long as you know what your goals are and some weight training basics, you’ll be good to get started in the gym — be it a commercial gym or your personal home gym. Let us help you articulate your workout goals, choose your workout split, decide which exercises to do, figure out how many reps and sets to do, learn how to progress your gym training, and understand how to put it all together into a sustainable, effective workout program.

  1. Establish your goals
  2. Decide on the frequency
  3. Make it varied
  4. Pick your equipment wisely
  5. Keep an eye on progress

Establish your goals

It's important to be as specific and precise as possible when it comes to setting your ceiling. Merely aiming to lose weight won't cut it; it's not a goal, just an idea, a desire. Your goal needs to be exact, realistic, within your limits and befitting of your lifestyle.

Start small at first, then you can continue to grow when your confidence and fitness improves. Put a timeframe on them as well: a five or six-week timespan is best initially. Whatever goals you have, there are infinite options and training styles, techniques, exercises, and methods to get you where you need to be.

This leaves a lot of room for creativity, but that creativity must be accompanied by logic, which is where programming gets blurry. Once you’ve got a handle on your main goal(s), you’ll be able to take a deep dive into the nitty-gritty of creating a training program. You can then look to target specific areas to work on and develop most (chest, legs etc).

Decide on the frequency

Work out how many days you can dedicate to exercise without compromising on other aspects of life that are important to you. The body has a limited degree of reserves to draw from, and when these get tapped out progress will grind to a halt. This will vary from person to person, which is why some people can grow by training three times a week with little volume and heavy weights, and others need a totally different style. So decide if you want to...

  1. Train more frequently – Work out most days a week
  2. Train with high intensity – Go heavy or do hard sets close to failure (or both)
  3. Train with high volume – Use a high amount of sets, reps, and exercises

Then you can decide if you want to train with high volume and lower intensity or higher intensity but lower volume. Finding the right balance between cardio work and strength training is key when it comes to muscular growth. Aim for two or three days of cardio per week and focus on shorter, high-intensity sessions such as HIIT. At least two days a week of strength training is needed to maximise that muscle growth but this depends on the structure of your workouts and you own fitness level.

Make it varied

You want to avoid too many workouts which follow the same pattern. Rep times, loads and activities need to be altered regularly to avoid nagging injuries or RSI (repetitive strain injury).

Going through the same movements over and over, you’ll batter the same muscles, beat the same joints, and eventually, you’ll break: the repetitive stress overcoming your ability to recover.

Different activities can keep exercise boredom at bay. For example, cross-training using low-impact forms of activity, such as biking or water exercise, also reduces your chances of injuring or overusing one specific muscle or joint. Plan to alternate among activities that emphasise different parts of your body, such as walking, swimming and strength training. Avoid falling into the trap of doing the same routine week in week out as this is counter-productive and won't get the best out of yourself.

Pick your equipment wisely

You'll probably start with athletic shoes. Be sure to pick shoes designed for the activity you have in mind. For example, running shoes are lighter in weight than cross-training shoes, which are more supportive. If you're planning to invest in exercise equipment, choose something that's practical, enjoyable and easy to use.

You may want to try out certain types of equipment in a gym before investing in your own equipment. You might consider using fitness apps for smart devices or other activity tracking devices, such as ones that can track your distance, track calories burned or monitor your heart rate. You can then add this information to Train In Blocks to keep an eye on your progress.

Keep an eye on progress

Retake your personal fitness assessment six weeks after you start your program and then again every few months. You may notice that you need to increase the amount of time you exercise in order to continue improving. Or you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you're exercising just the right amount to meet your fitness goals.

If you lose motivation, consider setting new goals or try a new activity. Exercising with a friend or taking a class at a gym may help, too.

Starting an exercise program is an important decision. But it doesn't have to be an overwhelming one. By planning carefully and pacing yourself, you can establish a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime.

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