In the past we discussed exactly how you should structure your workouts. After getting some questions about that post, I have decided to put an article together discussing the flow of your workouts.
No matter what kind of workout you do, this will be helpful:
Pre-Gym Preparation: The two main points you need to remember for your pre-gym preparation are nutrition and having a plan. Let’s first discuss nutrition. Everyone is different when it comes to when they can eat before a workout. For myself, I can eat up to 30 minutes before and be completely fine while others need at least 2-3 hours to let their food digest.
It really just depends on how you handle food before working out. Figure out when that time is and stick with it. Pre-workout meals should consist of some protein and carbs coming from fruit. Your best options will be strawberries, raspberries, black berries, or blueberries. Protein should can be chicken, fish, beef, or a protein shake.
In the past, we have discussed the importance of having a plan when getting to the gym. The last thing you want is to be walking around wondering what you will be doing next. Not only will you be wasting time but your workouts will suffer.
Write out a plan on your smart phone, piece of paper, in a notebook, or even on a napkin before you get to the gym. Your plan should include what exercises you will do, the amount of reps and sets, rest periods, and how long your workout will take.
The Warm-Up: After you get to the gym and getting changed, it is time to prepare for your workout. Most people recommend going up and doing some cardio before the workout, but not me. A better and more productive warm-up will depend on what you are doing that day and will consist of dynamic stretching and bodyweight exercises.
The dynamic stretching (or active stretching) will get your muscles loosened up and ready to go. You will then perform some bodyweight exercises replicating the workout that you will do that day. If you are going to be doing squats, then in your warm up you would do some bodyweight squats, lunges, and squat jumps to get your legs going.
After going through a 5-10 minute warm up, it is always recommended that you do at least two sets of the first exercise on your list with lighter weight. So if you are doing barbell squats as your first exercise, do at least two sets with a lighter weight before jumping into your actual workout.
First 10-25 minutes: Within the first 10-25 minutes of your workout, you should do your hardest exercises first. So sticking to our theme, if you are doing legs that day, you would want to do squats and deadlifts first before moving on to the less demanding exercises.
The reason for this is you want to have full energy for your big lifts. It is a lot more important to have full energy on squats than it is on leg extensions, leg curls, or calf raises. Don’t wear yourself out by doing exercises that don’t require as much energy as your big lifts. For starters, here’s a list of exercises to focus on first in your workouts depending on which muscle group you are targeting:
- Legs: Squat or deadlifts, leg press, lunges, …
- Chest: Bench press or dumbbell presses
- Back: deadlifts, bent over row, weighted pull-ups, …
- Shoulders: overhead press (barbell, dumbbell, or Arnold’s)
Middle 5-10 minutes: You have gotten through the toughest part of your workout and are now on to the middle 5-10 minutes. Most times, this is when you are starting to feel the affects of the first 10-25 minutes but still have a few more exercises written on the plan you put together earlier.
During this portion of the workout, it is a good idea to do some isolation exercises if you have them on the list. For example, this is when you would do your leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises, bicep and tricep work, etc.
It is always best to save your isolation movements toward the end of the workout as they are much easier on your body to perform, and frankly it doesn’t really matter if your muscles are tired when performing them. It is much more important to go hard on squats, deadlifts, and leg press than it is on hamstring curls.
Last 5-10 minutes: The end of your workout is when you should perform your ab work and/or a finisher. If you have abs on the list that day, simply doing 2-3 exercises and repeating for 2-3 sets always works great.
As for a finisher, this will be a set of exercises that are very high intensity targeting similar muscle groups as your workout that day. For example, on a leg day you could do squat jumps, leap ups, jump lunges, burpees, rock climbers, etc.
A finisher is meant to be very high intensity for this short period of time. This is all the cardio you need for your workouts! You don’t need to go up and do 45 minutes of cardio after weight training if you perform your finishers properly.
Post Workout (5-10 minutes): Post workout is when you will cool down, foam roll, and stretch. I always like foam rolling and static stretching as a cool down period. Having a cool down will help you relax and recover better for your next workout.
Post Post Workout: After your cool down period, it is time for your post workout meal. As we already know, nutrition is 80-90% of the results you will see so your post workout nutrition is very important.
This meal should consist of a good, quick source of protein and some complex carbohydrates. The quickest way to get your protein is through a protein shake. Just mix it with water and you are good to go. Depending on your goals you can include 25-100 grams of complex carbohydrates immediately after your workout.
This will help with recovery and lean muscle growth!
Final Words: No matter what workout you go through, the structure above can be used as a guide. Start with writing out your plan and fueling your body, warm-up properly, go hard during your workout, cool down, and get some good post workout nutrition.
Remember that nutrition is 80-90% of the results you will see so don’t think that just because you worked out, you can go off and eat anything you want. Focus on eating real foods, and lots of them. If you do this, the results you want will come.
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