Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Healthy New Year, Part One: Creating a Weight Training Workout

Here is a little offering for the new year on how to create your own weight training workouts.

Most people don't plan to fail in their New Year's resolutions to get in shape or lose some weight, the problem is that they often fail to plan. That means having a strategy for workouts and a specific and measurable goal. This is the first part of a series designed to help you understand how to construct basic training programs.

Part Two will discuss ways to use weight training as cardio and to burn fat.

Creating a Weight Training Workout

From the following menu of exercises (not exhaustive - see for an exhaustive list), pick one exercise from each bodypart/body region using either free weights or machines (or some of each). Ideally, there is a leg exercise, a back movement, a chest movement, a shoulder exercise, and an ab exercise or two.

If you are pressed for time, go down to three exercises: a leg movement, a press, and a pull. Ideally, you will use one of the "Big" lifts for each exercise, for example, front squat, DB bench press, and pull ups.

You can also use full-body exercises and “odd equipment” movements to add intensity.

You’ll notice that there are no direct arm exercises - they are a waste of time if fat loss and muscle are the goals. All pulling exercises work your biceps and all pushing exercises work your triceps. If you want to add arm work, please feel free to do so, but add it in as a finisher (see Part Two, when it's posted).

Free Weights

  • Static Lunges or Walking Lunges
  • Barbell Squats, DB squats, Goblet Squats, Bodyweight Squats
  • Jump Squats, or Lunge Jumps (change feet in air), with or without dumbbells
  • Barbell Deadlift, DB deadlift, Romanian deadlift, Uni-lateral Romanian deadlift, KB Deadlift (sumo style, wide stance)
  • Overhead Squat (hold barbell or DBs overhead and squat), One-Arm Overhead Squat (DB or KB)
  • Sprints, Standing Broad Jump, and Lateral Jumps (if space allows)0
  • Drag or Pull a Sled (if available) or a wheelbarrow loaded with rocks
  • Core Ball Hamstring Curls (Lying on back, place feet on the core ball, legs straight, lift butt off the floor until body is in a straight line, then roll the ball toward your butt by pulling with heals, then roll back out - that’s one rep - can also be done one leg at a time to make it harder)

  • Pull-ups (bodyweight or assisted), Chin Ups (palms toward face, bodyweight, or assisted)
  • One Arm DB or KB Row, Body Row (use TRX, rings, or smith machine bar set low), Barbell Row, Double KB Row
  • DB Pullover (hold dumbbell with both hands over chest and lower behind the head as far as possible w/out pain, them using the lats pull the DB back to start position)
  • Bent laterals, Barbell/DB bent shrugs (pull shoulder blades together)
  • Shrugs, High pulls, Hang clean, Squat clean, Snatch (from floor or from hang) - Do not try Olympic lifts without some coaching on form.

  • Bench Press, DB Bench Press, Push-Ups, TRX Push-Ups, Spiderman Push-Ups, Resistance Band Standing Press (press straight out the front of the body, hands coming together slightly), Dips (weighted, bodyweight, or assisted)
  • Incline Variations of Bench Press, DB Press
  • DB Flies, Incline DB flies, TRX or Ring Flies, Resistance Band Flies
  • Pullover (works lats and pecs)

  • DB Overhead Press, KB Press, DB Push-Press (or one-arm variations of these)
  • Seated Barbell Press, Standing Barbell Press, Push Press
  • DB Side Laterals, DB Bent Laterals, DB Front Laterals, Combinations (of first three)
  • Upright barbell row, or Upright DB row

  • Planks, TRX or Ring Fall Outs, Side Planks, Bodysaw
  • Hand Step-Ups (step down and back up one hand at a time on a 6” riser), Plank to Push-Up Position (from push-up position, place one elbow on floor, then the other, then back up to push-up position), Push-Up Reach Under (from top of push-up position, reach one arm under and touch the opposite hip, alternate arms)
  • Reverse Crunch (lying on back, feet in the air, raise hips off the floor)
  • Inch Worm (from standing, touch the floor then walk hands out to slightly past shoulders and walk them back to feet, then stand up)
  • Back Bridges (lying on back, feet on floor w/ knees bent, lift hips off the floor and squeeze the butt muscles, then slowly lower back to floor) - Can be done one-legged, with feet on BOSU ball or with feet on Core Ball
  • Ab Wheel Roll-Outs (knees on floor, on BOSU Ball, or on stability disc) - Can also be done with a loaded barbell

Full-Body Exercises
  • Kettlebell Swing (or DB) One or Two-hand, Full-Body Extensions, Burpees (add push-up and/or jump), DB Clean and Press, DB Snatch, Battling Ropes, Medicine Ball Slams, DB Squat-Press, Spiderman Push-ups, Renegade Push-ups with Row, Snatch into uni-lateral overhead squat (DB or KB)

Machine Exercises

  • Horizontal Leg Press or Seated Leg Press (NOT 45 degree angle machines)
  • Seated, Standing, or Lying Leg Curl
  • Leg Extension (do lower weights for higher reps)

  • Lat Pull-Down (wide handles or narrow v-grip), One-Arm Lat Pull (use cable handles), Straight-Arm Lat Pull (Standing, arms straight but elbows not locked, bar slightly higher than head, use upper back pull to bar to the hips while heeping arms straight, then reverse under control)
  • Seated Row, Seated Cable Row, Seated One-Arm Cable Row (use cable handles)
  • Standing Cable Row (knees soft), Standing One-Arm Cable Row (knees soft)
  • Seated pullover

  • Seated Chest Press, Incline Chest Press
  • Seated Chest Flies, Cable Chest Flies
  • Seated pullover

  • Seated Overhead Press, Seated Laterals

SAMPLE Work Outs:

General guidelines:
  • Use a rep range of 3 to 20 (lower reps = heavier weights; higher reps = lower weights)
  • Aim for 24-60 reps per exercise total (so 10 sets of 3 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps, or 6 sets of 6 reps, or 3 sets of 12 reps, and so on)
  • Heavier weights, lower reps (3-6) = strength; Lighter weights, medium reps (6-10) = muscle and strength; Light weights, high reps (10 or more) = muscular endurance - All are good for fat loss if rest periods are minimal
  • These suggestions apply to machine exercises, too
  • For best metabolic effect, use supersets (2 exercises) or giant sets (3 or more exercises)
  • On average, do 2 back exercises for every chest exercise
  • When supersetting, pair a push and a pull, or an upper body and lower body
  • Total workout time should be 30-45 minutes
  • If you have access, add sprints, sled pulls/pushes, sledge hammer swings, tire flipping, etc.
  • ALWAYS use good form, and if form is failing, put the weight down
Workout A:
  • DB Jump Squats
  • Unilateral Kettlebell Row
  • Spiderman Push-Ups
  • DB Squat-Press
  • Bodysaw
  • Battling Ropes
For the above workout, it might look like this if we use supersets:

A1: DB Jump Squats, 8 reps
A2: Unilateral KB row, 8 reps
> 4 sets

B1: Spiderman Push-ups, 12 reps
B2: DB Squat-Press, 12 reps
> 3 sets

C1: Bodysaw, 30 seconds
C2: Battling Ropes, 30 seconds
> 30 seconds rest, then repeat for 6 total sets

Workout B:
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Lat Pulldowns (vertical pull)
  • Incline Chest Machine
  • Seated Overhead Press
  • Seated Cable Rows (horizontal pull)
  • DB Swing
  • Ab Wheel Roll-outs
I might do this in the following way (assuming easy access to all machines, which is tough in a commercial gym):

A1: Seated Leg Press, 20 reps
A2: Lat Pulldowns, 8 reps
A3: Incline Chest Machine, 8 reps
> 3 sets - on lats and chest aim for a quick pull or push, then let the lat bar go up on a 3-5 seconds count, and the chest machine handle come down on 3-5 seconds count

B1: Seated Overhead Press, 6 reps
B2: Seated Cable Rows, 6 reps
> 5 sets

C1: DB Swing, 15 reps
C2: Ab Wheel, 12 reps
> 3 sets, minimal rest

In Part Two, I will discuss ways to make weight training into the best fat burning exercise you can do - and still build cardiovascular capacity and maintain or even build muscle.

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