It can seem intimidating trying to structure your own weight training routine but it’s really not that difficult. Many women just don’t have the budget to hire a personal trainer and feel lost. The truth of the matter is that there are only a few fundamentals that you need to be aware of. The rest is just listening to your body and staying on track.
Now let’s see how you should structure a weight training workout.
- Warm up
There is often debate about whether one should stretch prior to a weight training workout. The general consensus is that too much stretching will increase the muscles’ elasticity and this will adversely affect the force-generating capacity of the muscle. In simple words, it just means that your muscles are too relaxed to lift the heavier weights effectively.
It’s best to keep all warm ups cardio based. A brisk 5 minute walk on the treadmill or 3 minutes with a jump rope is enough to get your body warmed up. You just want your joints moving and your blood flowing. 5 minutes of warming up with a few short light stretches will suffice.
- Compound exercises
You want to focus on compound exercises that work different muscle groups. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups and are multi joint movements. That’s exactly how your body moves.
Bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc. are isolation movements that target only one muscle group. You do not really need isolation movements. You’re not bodybuilding.
Focus on compound exercises such as chest presses, deadlifts, front squats, Split squat lunges, shoulder presses, lat pulldowns, kettlebell swings & clean and press, pull ups, etc. You can find many different types of compound exercises if you search online or on YouTube.
- Free weights
Work mostly with free weights. Most of the sleek, fancy machines make things easier on your body by removing the body’s need to stabilize the movement. Free weights do not give you that luxury or ease. You’ll get stronger when your body recruits your core muscles and other muscles while you maintain good form and posture as you execute the moves.
- Training load
Ideally, you should be able to lift the weight you’re moving for at least 8 reps. If you’re struggling at 6 reps, the weight is too heavy. So, you’ll need to spend one or two workouts figuring out through trial and error what your current level of strength is and what weight you can move for 8 reps with good form.
Do this for all the exercises you’re doing. It would be a good idea to keep a training journal to see how you’re progressing.
- Target 4 to 5 muscle groups
Aim to target 4 to 5 muscle groups per workout. If you’re doing compound exercises, you’ll most probably target several muscle groups. However, if you’re trying to tone your upper body, your routine should focus the majority of the exercises on your arms and shoulders but still have at least 2 or 3 exercises to work your lower body and/or core. Full body workouts burn more calories and boost your metabolism.
- Work on your balance
It’s not always about building muscle. You also need to focus on balance. You may choose to use stability balls or BOSU balance trainers to improve your balance.
- Good technique
When training with weights, good form is everything. Learn how to execute the different exercises properly. When structuring your workout, if you do a set of shoulder raises, the next set should be lunges or some exercise that works the legs. This will give your shoulder muscles time to recover before you hit them with the next set.
Ensure that there is sufficient recovery times between sets. Generally 2 to 3 minutes is good. Don’t go overboard and take a 15 minute phone call between sets.
- Progressive overload
Progressively increase the weights over time so that you build strength. This is where your training journal comes in so handy. If you notice that you’re able to do 17 reps of deadlifts with relative ease, then it’s time to increase the weight. Once again, you’ll need to add a weight that allows you to do just about 8 reps. It should be a little challenging but not a struggle.
Varying your workouts is essential to training your body well. Have 3 or 4 workout routines that you follow. There should be different exercises and also workout equipment in each routine to mix things up. This will ensure that you’re targeting different muscles and your workouts are balanced.
Every 3 months, come up with brand new routines with new exercises. You could use heavier weights with lower reps or spend 2 to 3 weeks using lighter weights with more repetitions.
This change in training will confuse your body and prevent it from hitting a training plateau. Doing the same workouts over and over will just make the body hit a plateau and your progress will be halted. So, add variety.
Get sufficient rest between workouts. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep if your muscles are sore or you’re exhausted. Take another day or two break. You must be refreshed and pain-free when you hit the gym. You’ll then be able to give your best effort and improve.
Take all these points into account when creating your workout routine. Vary your exercises, have sufficient rest intervals between sets, focus on compound exercises, keep an eye on your form and make sure you’re doing the right amount of reps. That’s really all there is to it.
The more you engage in weight/resistance training, the more you’ll understand how your body works and responds to the training. You’ll know what exercises work better for you and where you need to work extra. It’s a journey and if you listen to the feedback your body gives you, you’ll be on the right track.