When I talk to most people about workout routines, there are three common themes I’ve found:
Confusion – What exercises to do, when, and how often?
Boredom – They’ve been doing the same workouts since high school or college
Time – They just don’t have the time to be in the gym 4-5 days a week like they used to
The good news is there is a super easy and very effective way to structure your workouts that can be done relatively quickly and with hundreds of different exercise combinations to avoid boredom.
What are you doing now?
Chances are it’s a bodypart split routine. Think chest day, back day, legs, etc. There is nothing wrong with this kind of routine at all, and people have used it successfully for a very long time. This doesn’t mean that it is the only way, or that these routines don’t have their drawbacks.
The other thing to consider is if the routine you are currently using actually fits your goals. Bodypart splits are most commonly used by bodybuilders – people who want to get as big and as muscular as possible (obviously eating plays a major role in this). From my experience getting bigger is NOT the goal of most people. Instead, the majority of people I talk to would like to lose some fat, feel better, or maybe improve their golf game. Shouldn’t your training (and eating, can’t overstate that) reflect your goals?
Rather than thinking of training body parts, or even muscles, you should think about training movements. In this program specifically, you are going to use pushing and pulling movements, which can further divided into upper or lower body pushing and pulling. By doing each of the following movements, you will be training your entire body each session.
- Lower Body Push (Squat, lunge, step up, leg press)
- Upper Body Push (Bench press, military press, pushups, dips)
- Lower Body Pull (Leg curls, deadlifts, RDLs, back extensions)
- Upper Body Pull (Pullups, pulldowns, rows)
For your workout you would simply pick an exercise that fits each category. It could be one that is listed above, a variation of those, or something else that fits the category. That’s it. Even if you do nothing else, that right there would be a balanced workout that hits every major muscle in your body. Next time you go to the gym you could repeat that workout or pick new exercises. Pretty simple, right?
Of course, there is a little more to it. You can set this type of routine up a number of different ways. Here are some tips on how to use this effectively.
Group Exercises Together
Whenever possible, try to group several exercises together. So you do one set of an exercise from each category, then start back at the beginning and do a second set of each. Then the third, fourth, or however many you plan to do. An example of this could be
A1. Front Squat x 10 reps – Rest 60s
A2. DB Bench Press x 10 reps – Rest 60s
A3. RDL x 10 reps – Rest 60s
A4. DB Row x 10 reps – Rest 60s
Now go back to A1.
What does this do?
A few things actually:
You get much more accomplished in a short time
Your rest between sets of the same exercise is actually longer, allowing you to use more weight than you could doing straight sets (3 sets of exercise A, then 3 of exercise B, and so on)
The cardiovascular effect of this should not be underestimated. Even with rest between sets, this will definitely have you winded.
Now this won’t always be possible depending on the configuration of your gym, but with a little creativity you should be able to at least pair a couple exercises. The following videos show two ways you can do an exercise from each category without using much equipment.
As I said before, even with a minute rest in between exercises, this can be very challenging from a cardiovascular standpoint. This makes it an excellent program choice for those looking to lose fat. If you really want to emphasize fat loss using this routine, you could try reducing the rest periods, or even taking them out all together.
Try to pick compound, multi-joint exercises from each category, and use free weights whenever possible. For example, squats over leg extensions or DB bench press over cable flyes. There are many reasons for doing this, but without going too in-depth, they just work better for building strength, endurance, and mobility.
Upper/Lower Body Splits
You don’t have to do full body routines every session. You can easily use this program to do upper and lower body days. Just pick 2-3 pairs of pushing and pulling exercises and you will be good to go. Follow that up with some extra upper back work on upper days or some glute and core work on lower days, and you have a very complete program.
There are so many different ways to set up your training, and as far as I’m concerned there is no wrong way to do it. Doing the worst program is certainly better than doing nothing. But if you aren’t sure what to do or are just looking for something different, this is a good routine to try.