A pre-made workout plan is great, but at the end of the day it’s important to know what works for you. You can find this out by choosing to design your own workout. However, it’s important to come up with a plan rather than wandering around the gym aimlessly. If you want to build a serious workout routine for yourself here are five essential tips to keep in mind while doing so.
- Make Big Muscle Groups a Priority
Instead of walking over to the gym to immediately start banging out some curls try hitting back first. Likewise, hit chest before triceps. Working your auxiliary muscles (such as bi’s and tri’s) will harm your ability to train your primary muscle groups (back and chest). Now, I’m not saying you can’t take an arm day. Hitting two antagonistic auxiliary muscle groups in one day can be a great strategy. I’m simply saying it’s important to work your primary muscle groups first and to not give a single auxiliary muscle group its own day.
- Keep it Simple
There’s no need to incorporate 20 different exercises per body part. Keep it simple and stick to just a few exercises. Truthfully, if you are able to do 15-20 exercises, you probably weren’t pushing yourself hard enough on the first few. Your muscles should be crying for relief by the third or fourth exercise. Keep it simple, keep it short and go hard.
- Go Heavy First
Your energy levels are highest when you first start a workout. As such, it’s important to start with an exercise that functions as a primary mass builder. Typically this is the exercise that will allow you to move the most weight. If possible, use a compound exercise (one that forces you to use multiple muscle groups) as opposed to an isolation exercise (one that utilizes a singular muscle group). As a general rule of thumb, try to stick to free weights rather than machines for this first exercise. Machines have their place and are great for isolating muscles, but they do not belong at the forefront of your workout. For example, a chest workout should almost always start with a heavy press. Be it a barbell or dumbbell; incline, decline, or flat bench; go heavy early on. Similarly, back routines should start with some variation of a heavy rowing exercise. Shoulders should start with a heavy press as well. Legs are simple. The foundation of your routine should almost always be squats. They are a foundational exercise that is essential to building a bigger, stronger physique. Arms get slightly trickier as there are so many exercises to choose from. Typically though, start with a heavy barbell curl for biceps and a heavy press for your triceps (think skullcrushers, French press, close grip bench press, etc.).
- Incorporate Isolation Exercises Towards the End.
As I said earlier, machines and isolation movements have their place in a workout. Typically, however, this is towards the end. After working through some hard, compound movements it’s good to isolate the muscle. Cable exercises and machines are great additions to the end of any workout, allowing you to pump the muscle full of blood and focus on the contraction. While these won’t be huge mass gainers, they will allow you to develop better the shape of your muscle groups, and focus on an individual muscle head. For example, while concentration curls are a great way to develop the peak of the bicep, these are best used at the end, once the muscle has already been sufficiently worked by heavier exercises.
- Don’t Skip Out on Leg Days
I know it’s tempting. After all, you didn’t get into lifting weights to get huge legs, and leg days suck! Truthfully though, your legs are the largest muscle group in your body. When you work a muscle it releases testosterone, growth hormone, and other anabolic (muscle-building) compounds into your body. Ask any seasoned lifter the best way to get your bench up, and they’ll tell you to work on your squat. This isn’t because leg strength somehow translates to bench. It’s because working on your legs will build a solid foundation, while allowing you to make greater gains in your upper body as well. If you’re serious about improving your physique and overall health, leg day should be a staple in your training.
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