First of all, I hope you have at least some kind of training plan. If you go to the gym to just get onto some machines you like or that are unoccupied at the moment, that would not be training, that’s just “working out” and as efficient as eating soup with a fork. You need a plan that leads you to your goals and that plan doesn’t have to be fancy! So let’s take a closer look of what every good training plan should include.
You should understand that training more doesn’t per se give you more muscle growth. At least to a certain point. Muscle growth suffers from diminishing returns – the more you train, the lower the additional gains. To give you an example: if you do 2 sets of biceps curls and your biceps grows by an amount of X, increasing your curls to 4 sets, won’t result in a growth of 2X, it will be less than that. Keep this in mind when you are motivated and want to train more.
Cover The Basic Movements
A minimalistic approach to training makes a lot of sense, especially if you don’t have much time to spend in the gym. To make sure that you don’t leave any important muscle groups out, I’ll give you an overview of what the bare bones of every training plan should include:
- Squat: you are looking for a movement or exercise with knee and hip flexion over as much range of motion as it is possible for you. Good choices are: all barbell or goblet squats, including one legged variations and leg presses.
- Hip hinge: knee and hip extension should be your goal. Common examples are: deadlifts, kettlebell swings and good mornings.
- Horizontal pull: to target the “upper” part of your back. Use all rowing exercises, rear delt flyes, band pull aparts and face pulls.
- Horizontal push: mainly for your chest. Common examples are push ups and the bench press. Machines are fine too.
- Vertical pull: focusing on your latissimus. Pull ups are king, but if you are a beginner, the lat pull machine is a good substitute.
- Vertical push: for your shoulders. Overhead pressing with dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells (it doesn’t even matter).
Determine Set Volume
The next step is to choose a volume (number of sets per week per exercise) that gives you a good stimulus to grow and that you can recover from. How to find the right volume is a topic for an entire new post and many fitness experts have different opinions on it. The harder you train, the closer you go to muscle failure, the less sets you have to do. For beginners only 6 “hard sets” per week should be enough to ensure an optimal growth stimulus. But going closer to failure requires more mental effort and is much more difficult to recover from. So choose your poison wisely 😉 !
A template training plan for a beginner who wants to train two times per week and doesn’t have much other stress in life and therefore can afford to go “all out” in his training, could look like this:
Leg Press 3×8
Romanian Deadlift 3×8
Ring Rows 3×10
Push Ups 3×12
Lat Pull Machine 3×8
Dumbbell Overhead Press 3×10
Want To Do More?
If you have more drive and time to train, there are countless possibilities of what to add to your training plan. But adding is easy, cutting away unnecessary stuff is hard. So think about what you want to accomplish and only then start adding more.
Done? Perfect! I want to give you some inspiration of what I deem worthwhile of adding to your program:
- Weighted carries: an excellent addition to almost every plan! Train your grip strength and overall resilience with farmers walk, sandbag carries or overhead carries.
- Core work: work on stabilization to protect your spine from unwanted movements. If you do enough compound movements, this is not a must, but is still a good idea.
- Isolation work: if you really want a particular body part to grow, it might be a good idea to implement isolation exercises. Yes, that’s the only reason to do biceps curls.
Now you have a blueprint of a solid training plan and are ready to go and lift some weights. Do you need more help to set up an individualized plan for you? Then let’s work together!
Feel free to share this article with your workout buddy to make sure he/she spends his time productive at the gym. If you have any questions, just contact me!