In order to achieve our goals, be it weight loss, muscle building or getting really strong we need to have a good nutrition plan and of course a solid workout routine. In today’s article, I will cover the basic factors that will influence the choice of an appropriate routine.
So what is the best workout routine for you? Is there such a thing as the best routine? I think there is but as the name of the article suggests it has to be one most suited to you, your training experience level and your goals.
Division by training experience:
Division by goal – there are two big groups:
Training Experience Level
You need to know your training experience before choosing a routine because if you are a beginner it would be sub-optimal to use intermediate or even advanced routine. Similarly, if you are an advanced trainee using beginner routine. So what kind of trainee are you?
I would describe beginner as someone who has never trained with weights or trained less than 3 – 6 months with an appropriate training program. This is pretty straightforward. But I would use beginner label also for someone who trained consistently for a few years but used bad form, inappropriate training routine (beginner using advanced routine) or who never implemented progressive overload into their training.
The beginner also applies to someone who trained correctly and consistently but then had a long break (month and longer). You are a beginner again but your beginner period could be shorter than for someone who never lifted before. Of course, it depends on the length of the break.
Beginners think otherwise but it’s good to be a beginner. It’s the time when you can achieve the greatest progress in the shortest amount of time. When you progress into intermediate and especially advanced waters your progress will slow down.
The intermediate trainee is someone who trained consistently, using appropriate training routine for more than 6 months. In this time you should have learned a good form for every exercise you’ve used, build some basic work capacity, build some muscle and gained strength. The strength gains are disproportionately larger than muscle gains because they come mainly from your nervous system getting used to the heavy loads, which is a lot quicker than building muscle.
As an intermediate you should aim to achieve something like this (from Martin Berkhans article):
- squat – 1RM = body weight x 1.6
- bench press – 1RM = body weight x 1.2
- deadlift – 1RM = body weight x 2
- chin-ups (pull-ups) – 1RM = body weight x 1.2 or 8 reps with body weight
These goals should be attainable after around 2 years of proper strength training.
If you are not comfortable testing your 1 repetition maximum you can test your strength also by doing one set all out to find your 3 RM or 5 RM or similar. Then use a calculator like this one to estimate your 1 RM. Just input the load and number of reps you’ve done and it will estimate your 1 RM. Bear in mind that estimate will be more precise with lower reps (up to 5).
Advanced are a level above intermediates. At this point, you are very close to your genetic potential which means you have build most of the muscle mass and gained most of your attainable strength. This of course means that your progress will slow down even more compared to intermediates.
As an advanced you should aim to achieve these levels of relative strength (3 out of 4) (from Martin Berkhans article):
- squat – 1RM = body weight x 2
- bench press – 1RM = body weight x 1.5
- deadlift – 1RM = body weight x 2.5
- chin-ups (pull-ups) – 1RM = body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight
These goals should be attainable after around 5 years of proper strength training.
Knowing beforehand what do you want to achieve is important because it will influence which training routine to choose or how to structure your own. Most common goals are probably something like this – lose fat, build muscle, lose weight, gain weight, get stronger, get bigger, get fit, get healthier etc. Of course your goals can, and probably will, change over time.
This is easy, you simply want to look better, lose fat and build muscle. If your main goal is to improve how your body looks, you belong here.
Since I was obese at the start of my get fit journey, this was my first goal. I wanted to lose all that excess fat. But when my weight reached normal levels I wanted more, I wanted a six pack. Now when I have a hint of visible abs, I want more once again, I want to be really lean. And I already have plans to get bigger after achieving that:)
This one is about getting stronger, faster, improve endurance etc. If you want to improve the performance of your body this is your group.
As I wrote in the “looks” paragraph my first goal was to lose fat. When I’ve achieved normal weight levels my primary focus switched from looks to performance. I still wanted to be leaner but I become hooked to adding more and more weight to the bar.
It is important to mention that these two main goals have a lot of overlap. This means that if you want to train for looks, you will also get stronger. And if you’ll train for strength, it will also change your appearance (you will build muscle, lose fat etc.)
- You want to get stronger? You can lose fat or build muscle at the same time.
- You want to lose fat or build muscle? You can get stronger in the process. And If you are a beginner, you can even achieve all of these at once.
Be vary because not all combinations of goals go together. A good example is “I want to lose fat and build muscle”. It is possible but the progress will be very slow for both.
Of course, progress towards your primary goal will be faster, since your training will be better suited to it. But the second goal will a positive side effect. Don’t forget that training is just a part of the equation, you also need a solid nutrition plan suited to your goal.
I am just one of many examples that it is possible. When I’ve switched my main focus to getting stronger, I was still able to lose fat! Of course, it was much slower as when it was my main objective.
To Wrap It Up
The first thing you need to do is realistically assess your training experience level. Don’t think that being intermediate or advanced is better than a beginner. Generally, you will see the fastest results as a beginner.
The second thing you need to consider is what do you want to achieve, what is your goal? Get leaner? Stronger? Build more muscle? These goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive. For example, if you want to build more muscle you also need to get stronger so you can always apply the principle of progressive overload. But you should pick a priority – lose fat, build muscle or get stronger.
Once you’ve decided on your training level and goal you can choose appropriate routine (or create your own) that will be best suited for you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the post. If you have any suggestions or just want to share your experiences regarding the topic, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment:)