Guess what I did yesterday? I killed it in the gym. Since I’ve been taking my mileage a little easier until I figure out my racing plans for 2012, I decided to focus on a longer strength session than normal.
I went through each group for three sets. The different variations on standard moves gave that extra little burn. I felt like jello leaving the gym. But the kind of jello that firms up and doesn’t keep wiggling.
While going through the workout, I kept thinking about the different ways I like to do strength workouts and various ways I keep things interesting. Below, find a number of the workout details I switch up to prevent workout boredom in the weight room.
No, not the type of splits done in gymnastics. Body part splits. The breakdown of what muscles you will hit in each workout.
- Full Body – As you can imagine, this style of training hits all of the major muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and abdominals) in a single workout. This set-up will work each muscle group in 1-3 workouts a week.
- Push / Pull Split – This split breaks the body down into muscles that go through a pushing motion (quadriceps, chest, triceps, front & side delts) and muscles that go through pulling motions (hamstrings, back, biceps, rear delts). Each group receives a more focused workout 1-2 times per week.
- Upper / Lower Split – Switch between workouts that focus on solely the upper body and solely the lower body on alternate workouts. Each group receives a more focused workout 1-2 times per week.
- Body Part Split – Each workout focuses solely on one (or maybe two) body parts. For example – Chest, Back, Arms, Legs, and Shoulders all done on a separate day. This plan works each muscle group once a week at a higher training volume.
I know whenever I pull out an upper/lower plan, I push myself out of my comfort zone! Leg days hurt!
Layout of Exercises
After deciding which workout split to use, choose a layout for the individual workouts.
- Straight Sets – Complete each exercise one at a time, before moving on to the next exercise in the workout.
- Super Sets – Complete two grouped exercises back to back with minimal rest. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets. Finish all sets of each group before moving on to the next set of exercises.
- Circuit Training – Do ONE set of each move in the circuit back to back with little to no rest in between. Rest 1-2 minutes after completing all exercises, then go through the circuit completing all moves back to back again. Continue that pattern of all exercises followed by a brief rest until the workout is completed.
I love straight sets for a tough, heavier workout. I love circuit training when I’m looking to fit in cardio and weights with one challenging workout.
Types of Exercises
There are so many different styles of exercises. I love them ALL.
- The Basics – Squats. Deadlifts. Bench Presses. Rows. These moves have been around forever because they work. Don’t shy away from them.
- Body Weight Exercises – Just because something doesn’t use equipment doesn’t mean it is easy. These types of exercises challenge the body effectively…and can be done anywhere. Bonus!
- Stabilization Exercises – Adding a component of stability and balance to a move gives an extra challenge and forces the muscles to work in new, more functional ways.
- Plyometric Exercises – Add a few high intensity moves to a workout to not only increase the heart rate, but also increase power and lean muscle.
- Compound Exercises – These moves challenge more than one body part at at time and can help make effective use of workout time. Plus, they often require more stabilization.
- Functional Exercises – These exercises mimic everyday movements or a common range of motion in a specific sport or activity. They help to build strength, stabilization, and endurance where you need it.
I credit a good mix of these exercises to keeping my body progressing and strengthening, even still.
Determine the number of reps for the individual exercises in your plan.
- Lower Reps (8 and under range): Challenge strength with lower reps at a heavier weight. You will NOT bulk!
- Moderate Rep Range (8-12): Increase strength and endurance with moderate weights at moderate reps.
- Higher Reps (15 and up): Build up endurance for particular movements while using slightly lighter weights.
- Pyramids: Increase or decrease the number of reps completed in each set. For example, start with 15 reps on the first set, then 12 on the second set, 10 on the third set, and 6 on the fourth set, while increasing the weight with each set. Or start low and work up in the number of reps.
- Drop Sets: Instead of stopping a set at the point of fatigue, lower the amount of weight used in the exercise by about 10% and continue to do as many reps as possible at the lower weight. Drop the weight a second or third time if desired to reach maximum muscle fatigue.
- Timed Sets: Instead of shooting for a certain number or reps, set a timer and complete as many reps as possible with good form for the duration of the allotted time.
- Tempo Sets: Train a lower number of reps but using a tempo much slower than normal or holding the weight for a few counts in the middle of the movement (for example, at the bottom of a squat).
The above are all a few of the ways I liven up my training plans. I switch a few of the above variables out every 2-3 months at the least and sometimes even every couple of weeks. Each of these layouts provide different benefits, so I make sure to include them all in my various workouts. Variety is the spice of
life progress! And I would be happy to come up with a plan specialized for YOU. Because I seriously have too much fun making workout plans. No need to wait until the New Year! Start switching things up NOW.
Do you like strength training? How do you use any of the above to switch things up? If you don’t like strength training, what holds you back?