There are, literally, thousands upon thousands of workout routines on the Internet. Venturing into the World Wide Web to create your own workout program can be daunting. Most of the time we get overwhelmed and never start training or we get ADD and jump from one program to the next and see minimal results. While variety is the spice of life you don’t need many variables to create your own workouts. It’s best to use the KISS method (Keep It Stupid Simple).
Below you’ll find 8 options to help you create your own workout program. You can mix and match a few together and see what you like best. The choice is yours! Before you begin building your own program from the list below I have to warn you that some of you will be upset because I didn’t include some of your favorite workouts. Workouts that include kickboxing, pilates, yoga, spinning, and more are not on this list for a very specific reason; if you want to do those type of workouts you can join a gym and attend a group fitness class. The options below are a method for creating your own workouts on your own time. Nothing is wrong with punching and kicking a back. It’s great stress relief! Nothing’s wrong with performing yoga or attending a pilates class. They’re low impact, build core strength, and great for mobility! But, if you’re looking to create your own style, your own Frankenstein of a workout, you can find it below. Now, create your own monster!
Option 1: Split Routines
If you have ever read a fitness magazine, participated in a strength & conditioning program, or a fan of 80s/90s action stars, then, you, more than likely, conducted a split routine program. Split routines are where you set up your training schedule to work on a specific body part or movement pattern. A good example is the traditional “bodybuilder” workout program:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Quads
- Wednesday: Back
- Thursday: Hamstrings
- Friday: Shoulders & Arms
The method is simplistic but effective. Pick 3-5 exercises of the muscle group you wish to work and complete those exercises 1x week. Keep in mind this means you must hit that muscle group hard in order for it to stimulate change. If you have plenty of time on your hands, want easy-to-follow workouts, and can manage a training schedule for 5-6 days a week then this option best for you.
Side note: This is just ONE example of a split routine. There are several different styles of split routines but this example listed above is most common.
Option 2: Full Body Routines
Full-body routines are exactly what you would expect; working all muscle groups or movement patterns each time you train. Below is a sample full-body routine:
- Dumbbell Bench Press (chest/triceps)
- Pull-Ups (back/biceps)
- Military Press (shoulders/triceps)
- Barbell Curl (biceps)
- Dumbbell Lunges (hamstrings/quadriceps/gluteus maximus)
- Barbell Squats (quadriceps/gluteus maximus)
As you can see, some of muscles overlap into other exercises ensuring you create enough breakdown to see change (if work load is high enough). This style of training is very beneficial to people who are short on time and like to add variety to their workouts. Unlike a split routine, you can improve body composition with a full-body routine by training 3x week versus 5-6x week. In addition, you can keep boredom at bay by changing the exercises each training session.
Option 3: Bodyweight/Suspension Training
It’s a common misconception to think you have to lift heavy weights to build a stronger, leaner body. While there is much to be said regarding weight training (covered in Option 4 below), one can accomplish a great deal with their own body weight and minimal gear (just look at the physiques of gymnasts!). It may not feel like there’s a variety of body weight exercises you would be sorely mistaken. Just take a look HERE (beginner strength) and HERE (advanced strength) and HERE (cardio options). Add in a suspension system, such as a TRX ®, and you have just amplified the number of bodyweight exercises you can execute in your training!
You can design your own bodyweight training using a split routine or a full-body routine as mentioned in Option 1 and Option 2. Looking for something even more challenging? Subscribe to GYMNASTIC BODIES and begin their Foundation 1 program, and see if you can master all 7 movements through Foundation 4 (this should take you roughly 5 years depending on your current physical state). Enjoy!
Option 4: Weight Training (ex. barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells)
Want to get strong? I mean really strong? You have to lift weights, end of story. There’s a reason the strongest and most powerful people in the world are the strongest and most powerful, they move heavy a** weight (most of the time on a barbell). The only negative caveat to training with weights is the increased risk of injury. Sure, you can hurt yourself doing bodyweight exercises but the moving of external forces (i.e. weights) only enhances risk. This is where it pays (figuratively and literally) to have a personal trainer who knows their way around weight training, can teach you the correct mechanics of lifting, and make adjustments based on your movement patterns. For example, not everyone squats the same, so a personal trainer could help you figure out which style of squatting is best for you.
If you can’t or won’t pay for a personal trainer then I recommend the following organizations to help with your weight lifting journey:
- Juggernaut Training Systems à powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman events
- StrongFirst or Dragon Door à kettlebell training, powerlifts, bodyweight
Option 5: Superset Routine
This was one of my personal favorites back in college. It’s time efficient and stimulates muscle growth. Superset routines are simple: take one exercise and once you’ve completed 1 set of that exercise perform another set with an exercise that works the antagonistic (opposing) muscle groups. Below is a sample of a superset routine:
- Bench Press (chest/tris) & Bent Over Row (back/bis)
- Deep Squats (quads) & Deadlifts (hamstrings)
- Pull-Ups (back/bis) & Military Press (shoulders/tris)
The key is to take breaks between the sets but not the exercises. For example, after you perform 1 set of bench press, rest less than 30 seconds and perform a set of bent over rows. Once you’ve completed the bench press/bent over row set you can now rest for 2-3 minutes. I find it helpful to do the “weaker” exercise first and the “stronger” exercise second. If pull-ups are harder for you than military pressing then perform pull-ups first and military presses second.
Option 6: Compound Sets
If you’re familiar with compounding interest rates then this won’t be very complicated. Compound sets are when you perform an exercise and immediately follow up with a lighter or “easier” version of that exercise to help breakdown your muscle fibers for new growth. Here are several examples of a compound set for most muscle groups:
- Dips + Tricep Press Down (triceps)
- Barbell Curl + Concentration Curls (biceps)
- Bench Press + Cable Flies (chest)
- Pull-Up + Dumbbell Rows (back)
- Deep Squat + Leg Extensions (quads)
- Deadlift + Leg Curls (hamstrings)
- Military Press + Dumbbell Lateral Raise (shoulders)
Compound workouts are not as efficient on time as superset workouts unless you are doing them in a split routine (one muscle group each day). However, compound workouts will give you a deep muscle “burn” you might be looking for in your routines. Be prepared for some serious DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the first few weeks with compound set workouts.
Option 7: LISS (aka Cardio)
LISS is easily the most utilized method of cardiovascular and fat loss training. LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State cardio. Examples of LISS are: powerwalking, jogging, swimming, casual bike riding, and so on. It’s a method that is most comfortable for the general population and can be quite effective in helping reduce body fat. However, you must do A LOT of it in order for it to work. Why? LISS helps burn excess calories but most individuals do not burn nearly enough to account for the overconsumption of calories day in, day out. Another reason it’s difficult to lose weight using LISS, unless you spend a large of your time dedicated to it, is due to its lack of muscle development. Sure, you can gain some muscle from LISS cardio training in your lower body but the amount is minimal with regards to your RMR (resting metabolic rate) and insulin response. LISS training has a minimal impact on both RMR and insulin, whereas strength training greatly enhances both.
All that being said, LISS is very beneficial for long-term health. Some studies have concluded individuals who perform LISS workouts tend to live longer and with fewer injuries than those who strength train. You just won’t look as fit as you hoped. If that doesn’t bother you then LISS all day long.
Option 8: HIIT (aka Conditioning)
Just to be clear HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This is sometimes confused with HIT, High Intensity Training (think Crossfit®, bootcamps, etc.). HIIT style workouts are designed for you to complete an exercise with maximum effort while using as much rest as needed to replenish your energy levels. The correct way to use HIIT style workouts is to follow 1:3 to 1:5 ratios. This means for every ‘X’ number of seconds you perform an exercise you will multiply ‘X’ seconds by 3, 4, or 5 (sometimes higher depending on the level of exertion) for your rest time. Here’s an example:
- Sprint for 20 seconds, REST for 60-100 seconds.
Despite all the studies that have supported HIIT style training to enhance fat loss and increase lean muscle it is still not as widely used at it should be, with the exception being sports specific training. Why? To the average person, taking long breaks during a training session is boring. We want to feel “busy” during our workout and we want to feel like we can’t breathe by the end of our workouts. Unfortunately, this is not a guaranteed sign of progress. Yes, you’ll burn more calories with a HIT routine compared to a HIIT routine but the overall body composition change will be far better with HIIT. Keep your HIIT workout simple with 1-2 exercises such as sprints and battle ropes. Incorporate this into your training schedule 1-2x a week for best results.
This may seem like an overwhelming bit of information to create your own workout routine but not to worry! I’ve given a few examples of how you can mix and match the options above and give you a starting point.
- Split Routine + Compound Sets + Weights (LISS on rest days)
- Full-Body Routine + Super Sets + Body Weight (LISS on rest days)
- Split Routine + Super Sets + Body Weight (HIIT on rest days)
- Full-Body Routine + Compound Sets + Weights (HIIT on rest days)
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!