What workout is best?
The above is a question I do get quite often and the answer is: " I don't know...but you do."
What I mean is that most trainees do not really design their workouts to fit their needs, it is mostly a haphazard operation; Monday night is chest, bro.
Without getting into the whole periodization debate, I think anyone should be able to narrow down his/her workout through the process of elimination. In my opinion, many people fail because they do not define what they want (gettin hoooge, bro... is not a goal). Even the ones that do state their goals often fail to take other factors into consideration, such as time, training experience, energy levels, etc.
Focus your goals with these questions
Question #1 - What am I training for?
Your first question should be: what am I training for? here are basically two possible answers.
- To get better at a sport.
- To improve my physique.
Since you are on a bodybuilding website, I am assuming you are more of a physique athlete.
Question #2 - How long have you been training?
Second question: How long have you been training for? If the answer is less than a year, or you can not squat your body weight for 8-10 reps in proper form, I strongly suggest you stick with 2-3 whole body workouts per week for the time being.
Think legs, push pull. You will thank me for this nugget of wisdom...eventually.
Improving your physique
Improving your physique can mean the following things:
One and two happen in the kitchen, so that leaves us with number three.
Again, rank beginners who want to gain mass, or people with a lot of weight to lose, are best off doing whole body workouts. Once you have arrived at the body part you wish to improve, you need to get even more specific;
Legs: Will the focus be on hamstrings or quads? Volume or strength? Single leg work or machines?
As I said in previous articles, I would recommend having 2 leg days a week and pair them with a strong muscle of yours.
Chest: How long are your arms? Or, in other words, do flyes or presses work better for you?
People with longer arms tend to get better results with flyes, especially floor flyes. This does not mean that they should not do presses at all, by the way.
Back: Back training can be split into lower and upper and/or inner and outer back. If you focus on back, you should have two workouts per week. Unless you are planning to spend 2 plus hours in the gym.
Shoulders: Here the question is again: which part of the shoulder do you want to develop? Most people have relatively good anterior shoulders but lack the posterior part. The medial delt often falls victim to improper execution.
Arms: Should you prioritize biceps or triceps? Or maybe your arms are small because you simply do not have enough mass? In that case, you'll have go back to start. Do not collect $100 and do a whole body workout.
Once you decide on a program, you should give yourself 6-8 weeks to see some signification changes.
Other factors to consider
Other factors to be considered:
- How many times a week can I workout?
- How much time do I have per workout?
- How is my overall recovery? Meaning is this a very stressful phase in my life or can I afford to train 5 times a week?
- What is my budget? Can I afford all the foods I need? Maybe even hire a professional to draw up a plan for me? Or attend a seminar? Knowledge is muscle.
This is by no means an extensive list. But I think if you start thinking about your workout in those terms, you are much more likely to achieve a balanced physique like Andre (see image to the right).
When we started working with him, his objective was "to look good for the beach." Well, don't we all want that, but as a goal it is way too broad.
First things first, we needed to get a feel for his level of commitment.
Andre told us that he could train 4 -5 times a week, either on his own or with us and that he was open to redo his diet.
After a primary evaluation, we decided that we was doing too much cardio (one plus a day). This left him flat and watery. Very soon after making changes, he started to fill out. He looked much harder, especially as we added more fats into his diet.
He was also in the "I need to lift heavy" mindset, so he had to relearn certain exercises in order to achieve optimal contraction. Luckily, he was very open to suggestions and executed extremely well.
After taking a good look at his physique, we saw that he had a great x-frame (hello Toney Freeman) but the detail was not there. His hamstrings and calves needed to be brought up as his quads were overpowering.
So lunges, stiff legged deadlifts and single leg presses became his new best friends. His shoulders were good but not capped off enough. This was due to the fact that he initiated all lateral motions from his traps, not the medial delt. As soon as we fixed that, his shoulders widened.
His back was relatively well developed but lacked detail, especially in the upper part. We added high rows, deadlifts, rows and wide grip pull downs, done facing away from the pulley to his routine.
Very soon, his new appearance took shape. As he had wider shoulders, more of a 3D look in his back, more sweep in the legs and was a lot leaner with doing any cardio.
The whole process took about 3 months. It should illustrate how small changes can create a very different physique.