Published: May 30, 2014 9:43 AM EDT


Determine your Goals

What do you hope to accomplish with your workout routine? Do you want to lose weight, build

muscle, both? If you only have a few pounds to lose, or if you’re already in decent physical

shape and just want to get a little more fit, you may not have to adopt as rigorous of a workout

routine. On the other hand, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose or if you are quite

out of shape, then you may need to create a long-term plan. For long-term goals it’s important to

work toward them gradually, rather than diving in and trying to get there overnight.


Where do you need the most help? The perfect workout routine will also focus heavily on areas

where you need the most help. For example, if your cardiovascular fitness level is far below

where it should be, you’ll need to steadily work on increasing that. All workout routines require

a time investment, but some require much more than others. If you have an extremely busy

schedule, you may need to explore workout routines that allow you to get the maximum results

in the least amount of time, like HIIT. Finally, your perfect workout routine will address any

weaknesses you may have. For example, you may be in decent shape physically, but your legs

are weak. In that case you’ll want to choose exercises that will strengthen your leg muscles and

improve balance.

Your Reps Should Change with YOUR Goals!

Your repetitions can be the most important part of your workout program; they control

everything from your strength and size gains to how your muscles develop and look. Most

people stick with “3 sets of 10” forever! A general guideline of what each rep range does:

• 1 - 5 reps: Maximal Strength and Muscle Size

• 6 - 12 reps: Balance of Strength, Size, and Endurance

• 13 - 20 reps: Anaerobic endurance, with some increases to muscle size, limited strength

• 15+ reps: Endurance

Organize your workout program into phases lasting a few weeks each, choose the rep range you

want for each phase (ex. 4 - 6), and do that for all your main exercises. Then, in the next phase,

choose a different rep range. Here’s a sample workout program with four, month-long phases:

Month One: 8 reps, Month Two: 15 reps, Month Three: 6 reps, Month Four: 12 reps

Now, you’ll build all aspects of endurance, power, strength, and size in just a few months.

Do the Most Important Exercises First

Exercises that blast every muscle in your body and demand tremendous strength and focus

always come first. Heavy squats and Presses require the most energy and muscle, if you wait

until you’re tired to do these, you’ll rob your strength, shortchange your muscle growth, and

compromise your technique.

After your heavy lifts, do the exercises that target two or more muscles at the same time like

overhead presses. Add the exercises that focus on individual muscles: this is when you’ll

hammer your biceps, pump your shoulders, and blast your hammies.

Move In All Directions

Most of your favorite gym exercises move in just one direction. Treadmills, stationary bikes,

squats, bench presses, sit-ups, bicep curls, and rows all move front-to-back. In all these exercises,

the primary movement is flexing your muscles forward and backward without moving side to

side or twisting (called the “sagittal plane”). But there’s more to fitness than just one plane.

Watch any sport: we twist, turn, lean, shuffle, and constantly and rapidly change directions.

These movements all fall into three different planes of motion: the sagittal plane, frontal plane,

and transverse plane.

The sagittal plane moves front to back (which you already do plenty of); the frontal plane moves

side-to-side, like with a lateral raise or lateral squat; and the transverse plane contains rotational

movements like chops and twists. To build an athletic body and prevent injuries, however,

include exercises from all planes. Start by adding one from each plane to your workout: Lateral

squats, Lateral step ups, Russian twists, and Medicine ball rotational throws.

Stay Balanced

A great workout program focuses on symmetry: making sure nothing is neglected and that

nothing is too weak, or too strong, in proportion with the rest of your body. Is your chest much

stronger than on your back? This builds bad posture because your pecs pull your shoulders

forward and leads to injury. Are your quads stronger than your hamstrings? This develops an

uneven pull at your knee joint which could cause pain. Keep your body in equilibrium. For every

exercise that hammers your chest, include at least one back exercise. For every exercise that hits

your quads, include at least one exercise to target your hamstrings and glutes.

Also, balance your body between left and right sides by adding exercises that target each leg or

arm separately: include single-leg exercises or use dumbbells instead of barbells for your upper-
body exercises.