Let’s talk results. Are you stuck at a muscle-gaining plateau, or are you just not seeing the results you want out of your efforts in the gym and kitchen? Don’t stress! This article will help you set up a plan of attack for you to follow for months to come that will keep your body guessing and the gains coming.
Failure To Plan = Plan For Failure
Without a strategic plan for the gym, you would just spin your wheels all week. Sure, you may get in some awesome workouts here and there…but you WILL run into a wall with the changes in your physique sooner than later. You need to plan your workouts at least a month out a time. It’s okay not to have each, individual workout planned perfectly – but what you do need to plan is your splits (your Monday-Sunday workout schedule by muscle group), sets, reps and rest periods progressively.
Don’t get overwhelmed – it’s simple, really!
You need to stress the different systems of the body in order keep the body growing and changing. Each one of us has different genetic potential and different muscle fibers that need to be stressed in the gym. Your muscles are composed of certain fibers that are already genetically predetermined. However, with the proper training you can actually control how much of each type of fiber you have and use.
If you have more slow twitch fibers, your muscles use oxygen to fire and can go for a long period of time without getting fatigued. If you enjoy long distance running, you likely have more slow twitch fibers.
If you have more fast twitch fibers, your muscles fire anaerobically (without oxygen) but they can get fatigued easily if used for too long (endurance). If you enjoy quick sprinting, interval training and/or weight training, you likely have more fast twitch fibers.
Imagine if you have more fast twitch fibers and each time you hit the weight room, your workout lasted 1.5-2 hours doing exercises in the 15-25 rep range. Workouts like that take A LOT of endurance, go against your genetic makeup and you will not see much results.
The same works the opposite way. Imagine you have more slow twitch fibers, and each time you hit the weight room you are lifting explosively for power, practicing CrossFit and/or lifting in the lower rep ranges of 6-12. Your given physique will be longing for more endurance-focused workouts.
Specific rep ranges are designed to promote different types of results – muscle growth, muscle strength and muscle conditioning are the three I focus on in my training. Rep ranges that promote growth would be in the 6-12 range, promoting strength would be in the 3-6 range and conditioning would be in the 15+ rep range (I go all the way up to 30-40 reps sometimes). Your month needs to include ALL of the above in order to transform, avoid plateaus, tax all systems of the body and create a well-rounded, beautiful physique.
The Plan: Periodization
The most simple way to set it up is to go week by week. Week one would focus on growth, sticking to 4 sets of 6-12 reps; week two would focus on strength, sticking to 4 sets of 3-6 reps; week three would focus on conditioning, sticking to 2-3 sets of 15+ reps. I always use week four as a “de-loading” week. I have a few extra yoga sessions, get outdoors to hike, bike or rock climb, take extra rest days if my body is telling me it needs them or do some bodyweight-only workouts.
Keep all of your exercises the same throughout weeks 1-3, so that you can track them, monitor your progression and know how to move on and progress the next week. Then I get back to week one with a vengeance!
Additionally, I like to switch up my exercise choices when planning month two so I don’t get bored. You can also switch up your weekly split at this time as well to further keep your body guessing.
How To Progress
If you start with 4 sets of 6-12 reps in week one, you would approach week two by first studying your workout log from week one. If your first exercise was squats, for example, and you completed 4 sets of 10 reps with 85 lbs (45lb bar plus 20lb on each side), you know that you can add weight to those squats in week two. You only have to do 4 sets of 3-6 reps in week two, so you could add 10-20 lbs, since you have less total reps to perform and are focusing on strength. During week three, your focus is conditioning and your total reps are much higher, so you would look back at week one and choose a weight the same or a bit lighter than you used that day/week and try to get all of your conditioning sets in with that weight.
Once you’re ready to start month two, you use all of your notes from the entire first month and try to add, or, progress on top of everything you’ve accomplished.
Keep in mind that progression can be in the form of rest periods, too! If you’re not ready to grab a heavier weight, look at your notes from your rest periods and cut them back for month two. Even completing an entire week with the same weight, sets and reps, you will still have progressed, if you cut all of your rest periods by 15 seconds!