One thing I want to emphasize before we go any further is that training itself will *NOT* put on any muscle mass or burn off fat. A good diet is the ONLY way to lose fat or gain muscle mass or vice versa. Training coupled with a good diet accomplishes this; however, I will not be discussing any diet in this article.
I've recently been asked by a lot of people advice on how to build their own workouts according to their specific goals. It's not a hard process, so I feel that this article will be helpful to everyone on how to construct a routine to focus on your goals. Anyway, let's get started...
I've decided to rewrite and add to some of the guide as apparently some people still don't get it. This will be an even more comprehensive version including new sections on explosiveness/power work as well as further elaboration into my recommendations for newer trainees. I am going to be providing a Q&A at the end to reasonably common questions such as soreness, overtraining, and other things of this nature so hopefully this will expand as more common questions are asked as I will probably not discuss a lot of these within the article itself.
Please note I will include links if I feel I need to. As I am writing from primarily memory there may be a few mistakes so call me out of it if you know of any; if there's a few concepts you want some elaboration on feel free to google them first before you post to try to ask me because that really gets annoying. Since this is not a paper or anything that is getting published I don't feel compelled to source any or all of my information as this thing is already 15 pages long at the time I am writing this introduction. Hate me if you will but again most of this is easily found on the net with a good google search.
This is not complete and will be updated accordingly as I finish more sections.
v1.2 is located here: http://eshlow.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-construct-your-own-workout.html
(I strongly suggest reading this one b/c it now has HTML anchors for easier navigation + the updates)
Additions since 1.0:
- Added sections for III. (indepth look at muscles/CNS), V. (hierarchy of a routine), IX. (Q&A)
- Elaborated more on goals section as people were having problems
- ~40-50% completion of hierarchy of a routine
- ~25-33% completion of muscle/CNS
- Added parts on warmup in hierarchy
- Added Power to the strength category; 0% complete
v1.2 (on the blog above) – 2008/12/18
- Added more on goal setting specifically on aligning goals with an overarching “aim"
- Breaking up CNS/muscles topic into two topics... CNS/muscle interaction & energy pathways.
- Finished energy pathways section – brought in previous material to complete it rather quickly
- Finished hierarchy of a routine although will probably add in more later. It's bare bones at the moment IMO.
- Minor editing to be more concise in some sections though still long winded, sorry!
- Added overtraining & soreness to the Q&A.. probably the most common two, heh
- Revamped a bit of the strength and power section. Did not add any power yet though.
First, determine your goals. Good goals are tangible feats that you can accomplish. For example, being able to do 10 dips and run 400m in 60 seconds are both good goals. An example of bad goals would 'gaining muscle mass' or 'improving broad jump' or 'improving fitness.' They are bad goals because they are not defined – gaining 10 lbs of muscle or improving your broad jump 6” would be good goals. Anyone can say they want to gain muscle mass, but it takes commitment to write down that you are going to aim to accomplish a particular feat. Good goals are tangible ones that you can cross off your list like you would a grocery list. Making good goals is not only critical to developing a routine, but it keeps your motivation up which you need to succeed.
Here are some examples on what are good goals versus what are bad goals:
Bad goals: get toned, gain muscle mass, lose fat, work my pullups and dips, work my precisions, do more dashses, handstands
Good goals: gain 10 lbs of muscle, lose 10 lbs of fat, do 40 pushups, 10 muscle ups, deadlift 400 lbs, 100 precisions, 100 rolls, do 1 minute of handstand work a day
As you can see, they generally all include NUMBERS. They are able to be obtained in the sense that you achieved a status and then you can move onto another new and harder goal. These are the types of goals we want because then we can begin to construct a routine around them. For most goals that can be quantified, one can see the logical progression in obtaining them – if my goal is 10 pushups and I can do one, then I need to work my pushups capacity so that I can get 2 then 3 then 4 and so on until I hit that 10. For others such as planche work, for example, there needs to be some creativity to sufficiently strengthen the muscles using multiple different exercises. Mostly, this just comes into play with tough bodyweight exercises though and a lot of them have been answered by people like Coach Sommer's planche and front lever progressions, beastskills.com, drillsandskills.com, and places like these so check there instead of asking questions that have been asked thousands of times already.
One good model if you are still having trouble is SMART:
Time and Resource Constrained
Make sure your goals are at the very least modeled SMARTly!
The terms of exerciseEdit
Now, let's define some terms so that you are familiar with what I will be talking about. These will be VERY important and are critical for understand not only how to construct a routine but to also understand how your body works and how other routines work even if you aren't constructing your own routine and using another.
- The repetition continuum has strength at one end and endurance at the other. At one end, we have strength which is gained at low repetitions and heavier weight where a 1 repetition max (1 RM) elicits the most strength. On the other hand, endurance occurs with less weight and more repetitions where being able to do hundreds of pushups would be an example of extreme endurance.
There are three VERY important point to take away from the repetition continuum.
- First, strength and endurance cannot OPTIMALLY be developed at the same time since they are opposite of each other. This is why if you can do 50 dips and you start working weighted dips, your 50 dips will probably be a lower 30 or so the next time you try.
- Developing maximal strength increases the potential for maximum endurance. This is why cyclists often work maximum strength work in their offseason. However, the potential for endurance must be realized by actually doing endurance work after strength is developed.
- Strength takes longer to develop than endurance/conditioning.
- Intensity (how 'intense' an exercise is) is how tough an exercise is for you. This is generally defined in RM such that 1 RM is the highest intensity while 20 RM will be at a lower intensity.
- Volume or Load can be defined as the total amount of weight lifted in a workout. 10 dips and 10 handstand pushups at the bodyweight of 100 would exert 10*100+10*100 = 2000 lbs on your triceps for the whole workout.
- Frequency is how often you train or workout. Pretty simple.
- Failure is when you cannot complete an exercise with good form. I feel this is necessary to define mainly because much of optimal training especially strength requires that you stop short of failure most of the time. Although failure can, at times, be used effectively, it should be the exception not the rule.
- The Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulates muscle contractions. Initial gains in strength for the first 2-3 weeks that beginners often see are based upon increasing neural connections and efficiency of the CNS to stimulate muscles to contract. CNS fatigue from going to failure early in workouts often leads to a decreased capacity to lift heavy weights later which results in less stress being placed on the muscle to force it to adapt to become stronger.
- The Energy pathway systems are composed of the phosphagen pathway, glycolytic and aerobic pathway. The phosphagen pathway encompasses the ATP-creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine) pathway which is used to rapidly supply ATP from used ADP. This system is one of the initial ones your body uses especially for short term energy needs like sets in weightlifting. The glycolytic pathway is the biological catabolism of glucose to pyruvate/Acetyl-CoA. This system is used to produce energy when the phosphagen pathway is depleted. If the demands for energy from the muscles are too much for the glycolytic system to provide, the oxidative phosphorylation system takes over which utilizes the citric acid cycle, mitochondria and oxygen to produce ATP.
These pathways, like the repetition continuum, do not switch on and off when one is exhausted. They are all always running at the same time, but one is emphasized over the other at certain times. Here's a good illustration of the process in two different activities (it's a bit off scale.. area under each color curve should be the same):
- Metabolic conditioning (metcon) is a form of workout which exhausts the body's muscles as well as energy pathways. Generally, metcon exercises are performed in a row one right after the other to exhaust the body fairly quickly. A workout done for time to push the participant to go through it as quickly as possible with as little breaks as possible can be considered metcon. Circuit training is a form of metcon. The CrossFit program utilizes many metcon exercises in its WOD.
- Programming will both be encountered as you become stronger. Generally I wouldn't worry too much about these terms and what they mean for you now as you will come to understand that the complexity of training needs to increase as your strength increases to near its max potential. More on this will be forthcoming in sections VI and VII.
The Muscles and Central Nervous System (CNS)Edit
This section is actually going to be very brief look at how muscles and the central nervous system interact on a largescale method to move weights. Obviously, I cannot be indepth as needed as chapters are written in anatomy books on this stuff; however, I can provide at least a decent background beyond the terms discussed above.
Here is a very short summary of how muscles are organized. This will be elaborated more later, but this knowledge is imperative to know as we will go from the CNS where everything begins to the innervation of muscles and how they respond.
Muscles are organized down to a cellular level. A muscle is made up of many fascicles. These fascicles are made up of muscle fibers. Then the muscle fibers are organized from structures called myofibrils. Myofibrils are composed of long chains of the smallest type unit of the muscle that can provide a contractile force called a sarcomere. In short:
Muscle -> fascicles -> muscle fibers -> myofibrils -> sarcomere
The central nervous system (CNS) is composed of the brain and spinal cord and is primarily responsible for handling sensory input, information processing and decision making and the primary thing in training which is obviously motor output. Once the brain makes a decision, it stimulates the primary motor cortex in the brain to send action potentials down to motor neurons which innervate specific muscles.
Along these lines, the motor neurons innervate specific muscle fibers. Each motor neuron has approximately three to thousands or so muscle fibers it innervates. The less fibers that a motor unit has, the more precise and fine movements you can get. Therefore, the dexterity of your hands comes from many motor units with fewer numbers of muscle fibers in each unit as opposed to the quadriceps which have few motor units with many more muscle fibers because its movements are on a larger scale. A motor unit innervates RANDOM fibers without each muscle (so they can be on different fascicles).
These motor units are grouped according from high to low depending on the force production needed. If the force production needed is low, the first motor units recruited are “low threshold” which are primarily composed of slow twitch (type I oxidative) fibers. This is primarily because slow twitch fibers have very strong endurance qualities and can sustain contractions because of the energy produced by oxidative phosphorylation for hours. Secondly, we have our “medium threshold” motor units which are composed mainly of fast twitch (type IIa oxidative-glycolytic) fibers which contract with a higher force (and speed) than the slow twitch fibers. These derive energy from glycogen and then through oxidative phosphorylation as the energy need exceeds the muscle's glycogen stores. Lastly, we have fast twitch (type IIb glycolytic) fibers which contract the fastest out of all of the fibers. These fibers use energy from glycogen only and therefore tire very quickly as their glycogen stores run out.
P.S. I hope you don't hate me too bad for leaving you hanging... but again, this stuff is fairly easily google-able. :)
In the meantime, here's a nice overview of the CNS:
This is not a hard concept, but it can be difficult if you want to do more types of bodyweight exercises. These will mainly be dependent on what type of goals you choose.
Generally, full body training is the most effective way to gain both strength and endurance especially for beginners, and this guide will mainly be focused on such. Therefore, compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press and others will for the most part be emphasized much, much more than isolation exercises like triceps extensions and biceps curls. This is not to say that biceps curls are useless especially if your goal is to gain 18” biceps. However, they are not usually particularly useful when you can work multiple muscles at the same time instead of just one.
Let's say our goals were to hold a straddle planche (strength), 100 pushups (endurance), run 3 miles in 18 minutes (cardiovascular endurance), and to increase our broad jump from 6” to 8” (power). Choosing exercises to fit your needs should have two basic things in common which are
- exercises that work the movement of the exercise you want and
- exercises that work the muscle groups or capacity that you need to develop.
For planche, we would have isometric strength holds like tuck planche holds and advanced tuck planche holds. These would fall under working the specific movement. There are other exercises that work the same muscle groups (deltoids, chest, biceps) required for planche as well such as pseudo planche pushups or tuck planche pushups. Exercises that work the deltoids hard as well like handstand pushups are also viable.
For 100 pushups it is critical to work the movement a lot. This is where #1 would be emphasized a lot. Doing a lot of work with the triceps is critical to develop both the CNS and energy system pathways to allow for proper muscle contraction to do all 100 pushups. Corollary exercises like handstand pushups (HSPUs) which also work the triceps are needed less because HSPUs are more strength based as they are more intense, and therefore one would be able to do less of them (working energy systems less). The CNS is also not worked on the pushup movement while doing HSPUs obviously.
For cardiovascular endurance basically you just need to run a lot. Start by working up to running 3 miles and then start shaving off time by pacing yourself for each ¼ mile and such. Mixing up aerobic runs with high intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly effective at working the cardiovascular component needed. Fartlek is also another viable option.
For increasing the broad jump, practicing broad jumps are needed. Technique is definitely one thing that many people (including myself) need to work on to optimize the distance gained. However, beyond that strength and power need to be developed which is often the most important part. Power, which is the most critical component, can be developed through explosive movements like olympic lifts. Strength can be developed from exercises like deadlifts, squats and other leg exercises. Plyometrics can then be used, if necessary, to turn the strength developed into explosiveness.
As you can see, a certain blend of actual movements and related movements or training can be used to work towards goals depending on the situation. Strength or power goals like improving jumps or speed often will focus on explosive training with only a little emphasis on actual movements. Endurance goals often focus on doing the actual movement a lot to get the CNS and energy pathways up to par to complete them. And last but not least, isometric strength holds benefit most from doing the movement itself and related movements.
Broad jump and posterior chain analysis:
Here's a link of many exercises to get you started if you are having trouble:
Hierarchy of a RoutineEdit
Building a routine should follow a few simple rules namely to maximize the amount of training 'ability' you have in a single workout. For example, if I had to do a 2 mile run, do a 1 RM of squats, test my vertical leap and hold a handstand as long as I can which order would I do it in to maximize my results? This is precisely what this section aims to accomplish. Mainly, I am going to outline the general structure and then explain.
Here is the structure:
- Skill or technique work (handstands, flips, L-sits, gymnastics tumbling, breakdancing work, etc.)
- Power, isometrics, eccentrics work
- Strength work
- Endurance, metabolic conditioning, tabata method, interval training, gauntlets, circuits, etc.
- Static flexibility work & cool down
Warmup is first. This should be quite obvious and if you do not agree you should just stop reading. Basically to get in optimal mode to do work a couple things need to happen. The core temperature needs to be higher which means that the chemical reactions in the muscles will take place faster leading to better contractile function of the muscles. Also, heart rate and blood flow should be elevated to provide oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and to export the waste generated by said muscles. A fairly light sweat is a good sign that you are warmed up enough to start working out.
Here's a couple of examples:
Skill and technique work should ALWAYS be second. There is very little fatigue as just the warmup has been performed as well. Once your muscles and body is warmed up and primed to go, this is the optimal time for the body to learn new skills or movement patterns.
Good skill and technique practice should be emphasized here. If you are practicing poorly such as sloppy form handstands with loose legs that are flopping all over the place, the body memorizes such patterns and will remember them. Therefore, when you go to practice them right it will be that much harder to change your ways. If you're too fatigued to practice just stop. Do not give a half effort to practice. This is the easiest way to get hurt and just learn poor movements.
Power work, isometrics and eccentrics are solidly in third place. The reason I would put these here is because they all require a very large stimulus from the central nervous system (CNS) to operate effectively.
lol, again leaving you hanging.. but I feel this is necessary because I never provided an outline structure so at least you know a general structure you can use for making such a routine.
Routines for power and strengthEdit
I am mainly grouping this together because they are very similar in how they are trained as opposed to endurance.
Power and strength are not one in the same. Strength is clearly the amount of force you can exert while power is the amount of force you can exert over time. Power is interesting because working it gives some benefits towards strength while the vice versa (strength to power) is not always the case. For example, olympic weightlifters who use power for clean and jerk and snatch often have very strong deadlifts and squats while, on the other hand, powerlifters often have very poor power output.
To be straight out frank here for beginner lifters I recommend a *FULL BODY* routine which incorporates approximately 1-3 exercises for legs, 1-3 for pushing and 1-3 for pulling per session. Quite a few of the examples of routines I will go over are variations off this. Do not be fooled. It is generally best for beginning lifters to follow a full body routine for each workout because this will be THE most bang for your buck especially if you have time constraints on working out. One very good example is Starting Strength (which is discussed later in various programs) which follows a linear progression for adding weight each workout. Initially, a M,W,F setup will be effective and it is imperative that you are improving EVERY workout because your body will adapt very quickly as you are new to exercise.
Power is in progress... this is mostly just previous strength stuff from before!
As you may know from part II, constructing routines on strength relies on working out with low repetitions per set and heavy weight or tough progressive strength bodyweight exercises. Generally for people that are newer and even intermediate in weightlifting 5 repetitions works pretty well to build strength with some endurance (credit to Starting Strength). 2-3 RM are much like 1 RM and can be used with training albeit the sets need to be pretty high to get enough volume in the workout the stimulate muscle growth. With that said let me say a couple general rules on certain exercises you are putting in your routine:
1. NEVER go to failure. Always stop 1-2 repetitions short of failure or a couple of seconds with isometrics. Failure puts a lot of stress on the CNS and will therefore prolong recovery time both during the workout and possibly for days afterwards. This does not allow you to adequately put enough stress on your muscles to grow stronger which limits the effectiveness of your workouts.
2. Always rest at least 2-3 minutes between sets. Sometimes with strength you want to rest up to 5-7 minutes between sets. Resting a lot gives the muscle enough time to recuperate so that you will be working muscular strength. If you do not allow them enough time to recover then you are going to start working the energy pathways in your muscle cells rather than the contractile strength of the muscle. The shorter the rest time, the more the exercises become like metabolic conditioning and endurance. So keep your rest times at least above 2 minutes if not more.
I think the first concept with a strength routine that should be learned is how to manipulate volume correctly. Since I post on a bodybuilding board as well as many others, tons of people are concerned with overtraining and soreness and what they all means. Managing volume with a strength routine is one of the most important aspects to keep you progressing but to not do too much or too little. I like alternating day strength routines like m,w,f so I'll go over the general concept for that, and then I'll discuss multiple day in a row routines such as m,tu,th,f and other variations.
So with a simple alternating day routine such as a m,w,f or 3x a week routine the volume should be somewhere around 25-50 total repetitions per muscle group. What I mean per muscle group with compound movements is for the upper body push/pull exercises. For example, handstand pushups and dips both work chest, triceps and anterior deltoids. Pullups and rows both work biceps, lats and back. If you are well conditioned to handle a large amount of work, the numbers may be even higher to somewhere around 50-75 repetitions or maybe even more.
Isometrics are interesting in particular because how long you do them influences how many “repetitions” they could count as. If you were doing Coach Sommer's 60s planche and front lever progressions, then I'd count it as anywhere from 15-25 reps depending on how many sets you did it in. For example, if you were able to do the 60s in <= 3 sets, the exercise itself is not that intense for you and therefore will count as probably about 15 repetitions. If you were between 4-7 sets then it will probably count about 20 repetitions, and anything more than 8 sets would probably count as 25 repetitions or even more. The more sets, the more intense the exercise is for you so the above is just a general guideline/suggestion, but it gives you an idea of how to equate isometrics to total repetitions to construct your own routine.
Going on the previous paragraphs, an overview of constructing a routine would be something like this:
1. If we are doing 5 repetitions per set then it could be 3 sets of exercises for 3x5 or 2 exercises for 4x5 or 5x5. You can even mix it up with one 3x5 and one 5x5 or whatever you want to do depending if you need more repetitions for a particular exercise (for CNS adaptation), on how you are feeling or if you're short on time.
2. Another option is Pavel's 3-5 rule which is 3-5 exercises for 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions. It works particularly well here. If you are newer, you probably want to be doing 3ish exercises for 5x3, 4x4 or 3x5. If more advanced add in another exercise or two.
Now that you have an idea of how to construct one let me go over a sample routine. This will give you an idea of how to put one together if the above was not clear or if you just want an example. Let's say our goals were to obtain a planche, front lever, increase broad jump 12” and deadlift 2x bodyweight.
The exercises you might have chosen could look something like: cleans (broad jump), snatches (broad jump), deadlifts (deadlift), squats (deadlift), planche isometrics and progression pushups (planche), front lever isometrics and progression pullups (front lever), weighted dips (planche) and weighted pullups (front lever) and/or rows and HSPUs. For simplicity since we have 2 isometric moves we are working towards, we will break our routine into 2 different workouts.
Workout A would be done Mon, then Workout B on Wed, Workout A on Fri, Workout B Mon, etc. Instead of two rest days on the weekend you could continue alternating days if you want. A sample routine would look somewhat like:
Workout A – do not forget to warm up for each exercise
- 60s of appropriate planche isometric
- 4x5 deadlifts
- 4x5 power cleans (DLs and cleans are too similar so we separate them)
- 3x5 appropriate front lever progression pullup
- 3x5 weighted dips
- 3x5 weighted pullups
Workout B – do not forget to warm up for each exercise
- 60s of appropriate front lever isometric
- 4x5 cleans (big power movements before heavy compound)
- 4x5 squats (can be DLs again if DL is really being emphasized)
- 3x5 appropriate planche progression pushup
- 3x5 weighted pullups (could also be rows if you want)
- 3x5 weighted dips (could also be HSPUs if you want)
If you feel like your strength is progressing really slowly with 3x5, perhaps add more weight or increase the volume by adding more sets. This is just one setup of how to implement a routine with tangible strength goals. As we can see the legs are getting two 4x5 which is 40 repetitions and the push & pull muscles of the upper body are getting two 3x5 each which is 30 repetitions. One final note is that if you are going to add in conditioning afterwards, you will probably want to drop exercises 5 and 6.
For routines that go consecutive days such as m,tu,th,f, there are a number of ways to set up this. One of the most common is push-pull days or light-heavy days.
1. With push-pull, all of the exercises would be categorized into push and pull. So Workout A would contain say deadlifts, power cleans, planche isometrics, dips and HSPUs. Workout B would contain cleans, squats, front lever isometrics, weighted pullups and rows.
2. With light-heavy you could keep the same setup as the sample workout above, but on Mon you would do a light day where you used light weights and did 3x5 or even higher repetitions such as 3x8 or 3x10. On Tues you would go heavy which would be what is posted above. On Thurs you would go light with the workout you did on Tues. On Fri you would go heavy with the workout you did on Mon. If you only have one workout and not two like the example above, you can modify it so you go light with 3x8 or 3x10 the first day and then 5x5 the second day.
The general theory behind light-heavy days close together is that the light day will hit slow twitch fibers because they are geared towards endurance (higher repetitions) while the heavy day will hit the faster twitch fibers because they can exert more maximal force (low repetitions, heavy weight).
The possibilities with push-pull and light-heavy days are pretty much endless. You could even combine light-heavy with push-pull. The great part about consecutive day workouts is that they generally allow you to hit the muscles with a lot more frequency during the week which, if you manage your fatigue correctly, you will be able to make faster strength gains. Optimally strength is gained by training with high frequency, not-to-failure with heavy weight and low repetitions.
A lot of what you do will depend on your conditioning level. If you make the routine and it is too hard for you, then scale back the amount of repetitions or add in an extra rest day. You will inevitably have to work up to the capacity to perform a lot of these routines especially if you are new. If you are advanced and have tons of free time, you can be working out 4-6 times a week and even twice a day if you manage fatigue correctly. For example, two sets of 3x4 in the morning and then the same in the evening for a muscle group. High frequency stimulates very rapid CNS and muscular adaptation, so if you do not burn yourself out you can make very quick strength gains. This example is, of course, at the extreme end of the spectrum.
A few questions were posed to me as to how to program multiple workouts into a week. One question was based on integrating 6 total workouts into a week. The other was about 6 total workouts 4 of which were 2 heavy push and 2 heavy pull while the other two were 1 light push and 1 light pull. Let's take a look at some specific examples (the ones above) to give you an idea on how to program these right.
1. Let's say you are trying to integrate 6 workouts with low-medium volume into a week. Putting one everyday of the week such as Mon-Sat would be pretty rough on the body because it is indeed 6 weeks in a row. It can be worked up to (like elite gymnasts and olympic weightlifters do); however, it generally takes a while to do this because a higher conditioning level is needed. On the other hand, we can integrate them easily if we do 2 in a day. In this case, the question was posed to be as to which would be better for a Mon-Fri workout – A) 2/0/2/02 or B) 2/1/0/2/1 to which I responded that C) 1/2/0/1/2 would be best. C would be best due to the fact that from a fatigue management standpoint we want to plan our routines such that the days with the heaviest amount of work are before a day off to give the body ample time to recover. The gains you would get from each would probably be similar, BUT you would be able to sustain C longer without overreaching/overtraining which would lend itself to increased frequency over a couple of weeks and thus better strength gains.
2. Alright, so let's look at the example of 4 heavy (2 heavy push, 2 heavy pull) and 2 light (1 light push, 1 light pull). In my opinion, this is actually very sustainable routine, and, due to its high frequency, you will make strength gains very rapidly on this type of routine as light days will help out a TON if not just for CNS efficiency and motor coordination. The question originally posed to me was whether a routine of Mon-Sat (Sun off) of heavy push/heavy pull/heavy push/heavy pull/light push/light pull would work. Well, it could since you are working opposing muscle groups you technically have 48 hours between each workout. However, constant repetitive stress as a whole on the body isn't that great from a fatigue management standpoint. A better option would be to combine light push with heavy pull and heavy push with light pull. This would cut down the workouts to 4x a week with more rest days. An example of how this would look is:
Mon - heavy pull
Tues - heavy push
Wed - Rest
Thurs - Heavy pull, light push
Fri - Heavy push, light pull
Sat - Rest
Sun - Rest
Light should generally go before heavy because lighter days don't fatigue muscles & CNS as much (and hence less chance for burnout the next day), but in this case it is not possible so we alternate them instead. Consecutive days of light-heavy/heavy-light is not a big of factor for fatigue as 4 consecutive heavy days in a row is, *and* there is ample time to recover from fatigue on Sat and Sun instead of going straight into more workouts like the 6 consecutive workouts had. Adding in light days on Mon-Tues is also not as of a big deal as well because of the rest day on Wed, but that type of volume would probably have to be worked up to by increasing your conditioning level.
Here is another good example of how to do this (page 46 is main post but read the others for a good background):
Here is another more recent variation with two more routine constructions:
At 85-90% of 1 RM *all* muscle fibers in the large muscles are being recruited which means approximately 3 RM will recruit pretty much all of the muscle. Therefore, 3 RM is probably the lowest amount of repetitions in a set you want to go. Add to that the fact that it is hard to get enough volume to successfully continue strength gains (as 15x2 to get 30 total reps is wayyy too many sets) and 3 RM is appealing for near optimal strength gains. In this sense, 5x3 is the same volume as 3x5 and 8x3 is nearly the same volume as 5x5. The trade off comes in the fact that even though with 3 repetitions you can use more weight, it will take more overall time because you have more sets and have to rest between sets. Still, the lower RM will elicit better strength gains. Keep this in mind if you are working on particular difficult exercises especially bodyweight ones because sometimes those 3 RM will help out quicker than subbing an easier 5 RM.
Also, switching between 3 RM and 5 RM like in the light-heavy days (like switching from 5 RM to 10 RM) is a good way to change your program if you are plateauing. This is another example of programming incorporated into a routine.
Here's some information if you're interested in some more in-depth material (with studies) on muscle fiber recruitment and rate coding (rate of muscle fiber firing):
Routines for endurance & metabolic conditioningEdit
I grouped endurance and metabolic conditioning into the same category because they work similarly on the biological level. High repetitions that work endurance require a high amount of CNS adaptation as well as energy pathway efficiency to constantly produce ATP. Metabolic conditioning requires the exact same adaptations, but is a bit heavier on the energy pathway efficiency since you are going to be doing more exercises and somewhat lighter on the CNS. So, in summary, endurance work requires very high CNS adaptation and high energy pathway efficiency while metabolic conditioning medium CNS adaptation and very high energy pathway efficiency.
One of the most important attributes of these workouts besides reaching your goals is that they both work towards increasing your work capacity. This means that if you suddenly decided to start strength training (or even if you're combining strength training and endurance/metcon) your muscles and CNS should be able to handle more work during a workout which allows you stress them more for increased growth without overtraining.
Building a routine is pretty much exactly like strength training except without the exceptions. The only general thing to note with both of these is that failure is fine to go to some of the time and in some cases most of the time. The biggest instance of where failure is fine most of the time is metabolic conditioning which has such a high energy requirement because of the different exercises done that it does not put as much stress on the CNS as it does on the energy systems. Therefore, it will not burn out the CNS that much while it will stimulate your muscle cells to make their energy producing more efficient thus increasing your work capacity for the next workout. Doing this “through the burn” is akin to pushing your lactic acid threshold (glycolytic pathway)
On the other hand though not going to failure can also be utilized well with endurance and metabolic conditioning. Again, with metabolic conditioning, if one stops short of failure, their work capacity [u]for the workout[/u] will be increased and therefore allow them to complete it sooner. This increases the amount of work per the amount of time (e.g. total power output is higher). This is akin to a higher intensity because although it is not like a 1 RM exercise, the total intensity is distributed throughout the body more by different exercises instead. This is one difference where metabolic conditioning is more like strength than endurance.
Metabolic conditioning workouts are not that hard to do. Basically you want to pick anywhere from 2-5 exercises that you normally do more than 10+ repetitions of them. Then you can arrange them however you want and set an arbitrary number of repetitions for each exercise to do usually somewhere between 25-75% of your max ability. Then pick a number of rounds you will do each one like 3-5 and then go through all of the exercises as fast as you can. That's just a simple form of a metabolic conditioning workout.
There are also other various forms of metabolic conditioning with different protocols. I'm just going to outline two of them, but you will see the point:
1. High intensity interval training. We've gone this before with picking exercises but HIIT (along with fartlek) are good ways to work all of the energy systems in your body because it depletes them very fast. These are generally composed of full all out sprints for a short period of time like 15-30 seconds followed by jogging (or walking if not conditioned) for the rest of the 45-30 seconds. This will build up both the aerobic and anaerobic pathways in the body very quickly which lends towards good metabolic conditioning as well as cardiovascular health. The links are still above if you want to go check them out now.
2. Tabata protocol is very similar to HIIT except it is done with exercises instead of running in jogging. For instance, let's take a look at bodyweight squats. Basically with the tabata method utilizes a period of on and off activity. Generally cycles run on 30 or 60 second intervals where you go all out and then rest. So with bodyweight squats in a 30s interval you would do as many squats as you can in 20s and then rest for 10s. After that time is up, repeat the process for multiple rounds usually 5 or more. The 60s protocol works on the scale of 45s on and 15s off. Again, pretty much a different type of metabolic conditioning workout that works all of the energy systems in the body very rapidly. Go to here for some more information:
CrossFit has a whole host of different types in their FAQ where most of them are based on completing them in the least time possible. I would suggest looking at them to see what you can do if you want to create your own. If not, you can just use CrossFit workouts for metabolic conditioniong. Examples of metabolic conditioning workouts from CrossFit:
Now, endurance is pretty simple and has one added benefit when transferred to strength training. Since endurance promotes a large amount of CNS adaptation this carries over as strength to *the specific exercise*. So if you were working endurance dips for 50 repetitions, this will also help your weighted dips should you decide to do them. It will NOT, however, lend strength to other triceps, deltoid and chest exercises like pushups or handstand pushups at all. I refer to this phenomena as “specific strength” which is pretty much strength related to that exercise from doing it a lot.
Usually there's a couple of exercises that people want to improve to high repetitions like pushups or pullups or dips. These are fairly easy exercises to accomplish without weight given you come in with a good base of strength. Increasing endurance can be completed in a couple of ways:
1. One of the general ways to do endurance exercises is to go to your max obviously. Failure is optional as it can help, but failure on the first set is often not encouraged as it decreases the maxes for subsequent sets. The total amount of repetitions for the whole workout will usually be higher if failure is not hit on the first few sets. So, for example, if I could do 20 dips and want to increase my numbers up to 50, then one workout for endurance could be 3x18. If I only did 15 then a 5x15 would probably be possible. The higher number you pick, the less sets you will probably be able to do so be wary. Generally, the best workout is one that maximizes the amount of repetitions per workout so 5x15 would be better than 3x18 since it is 75 repetitions versus 54. Some people are more naturally inclined to endurance exercises than others (e.g. more type I slow twitch fibers), so they might be able to do closer to their endurance RM for more sets than others. Find out what your body can do, and go with that.
2. Grease the groove (GTG) method is basically a way to increase your endurance and specific strength in an exercise very fast. Basically what you want to do like 5 times interspersed throughout the day (say, before breakfast, brunch-ish, after lunch, right before dinner and right before you sleep) is to do submaximal sets of pullups and dips. So, for example, you do 8 pullups and 4 dips. 5 times during the day you would want to do 5-6 pullups and 2-3 dips for one set each and then just stop and go about the rest of your day.
For some more information on GTG see:
3. Ladders are a fairly simple concept. Basically, you start a timer and do 1 repetition of the exercise then wait until the minute is up. Next, you do 2 of the exercise and rest until the minute is up. Continue this progression until you cannot complete the ladder any longer. A minute is an arbitrary amount of time so if you want it to be 30 seconds instead or 2 minutes you can make it as short or long as you want. Also, if you want you can increase the amount of repetitions you do by twos or threes or whatever you want.
4. Pyramids as basically the same thing as ladders except without a time requirement. After you “climb up the ladder” you also climb back down. For example, if you got up to 7 repetitions with pullups and failed on the set with 8, then you could do 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 to finish. Like with ladders you can also do it by twos, threes or whatever.
There's tons of other methods to increase endurance; however, I have just outlined 4 of them. Creating a workout isn't that hard as generally you are probably only going to have one exercise per the muscle group you are working. For instance, if you are working up endurance dips, it is probably not a good idea to try to do endurance pushups or handstand pushups as well because your triceps will be pretty much burnt out afterwards. You can generally do about 4-5 types of exercises in a totally endurance workout – legs (squats, pistols, jumping squats, etc.), core (abs and back), a pull exercise (inverted pullups, rows, pullups, etc.) and a push exercise (dips, HSPUs, pushups, etc.). This general rule applies back to if you are trying to combine strength and endurance/metcon at the same time.
I wrote this for a couple of fitness boards, so I feel I must comment on this specific topic since Parkour has skills and techniques like gymnastics or any other sport. [u]Parkour and its techniques are generally considered skill training and/or in the endurance/metcon category.[/u] For example, quadrupedal movement is an excellent technique for body awareness and coordination, and I would consider it more as a skill technique unless you are walking more than probably 200-400m with it. Vaults and wall climbs are all considered considered techniques/skills rather than under endurance unless you are doing absurd amounts of them and getting exhausted. Demon's skill training and conditioning gauntlets, WHEN you use them, are considered endurance because you are exhausted your body performing different skills. Therefore, plan your workouts with these things in mind accordingly.
I'd like to note that a lot of programs are out there that can fit some of the goals you have (links provided at the end).
Crossfit is a good example of mostly metcon program suited towards improving 10 components of fitness. While it is not specifically geared towards strength related goals, the conditioning level improvements it provides (specifically from metcon) is great for people like law enforcement or military where you need to be ready to go at all times. Conditioning level is important for increasing the volume of workouts as well which lends towards better strength training.
Mark Rippetoe's Starting StrengthEdit
Starting Strength is an excellent program for beginners to increase their strength in a number of core lifts with emphasis on the squat. I highly suggest this program for anyone looking into increase their muscle mass significantly, or anyone who is going to be doing any high impact activities in the future such as football, basketball, track and field, Parkour, etc.
Bill Starr's Linear 5x5 IntermediateEdit
Bill Starr's 5x5 is an excellent strength program designed for the intermediate lifter to keep pushing the envelope on strength gains. Many people off of Starting Strength go to this program because it includes includes some programming to keep the strength gains coming. There is also an advanced version as well.
There are other programs out there and some are good for particular training, but others are not so good. Based on the concepts about training I outlined in part II and how you found out to apply them in parts IV and V you should be able to determine whether a particular routine will be effective. A program like High Intensity Training (e.g. HIT a la Mike Mentzer) would obviously be suboptimal because it involves 'obliterating' your muscles once every week and letting them rest until you do it again. As we know, that would not be a good way to train either strength, endurance or metcon at all so it is not particularly effective unless you're on steroids. That's just one case, but if you look at the principles behind each program you should have no trouble figure out if it works or if it doesn't.
1. Crossfit – http://crossfit.com
Good elaboration on the important of conditioning level: http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/workcapacity101.html
2. Starting Strength (the book costs money, but I would recommend getting it):
3. Bill Starr's 5x5 Intermediate: