The perfect workout regimen

What’s the perfect workout for ME?” This is probably the question people ask most often. Whilst this is a commonly asked question the answer isn’t as easy to find so we thought you’d put together a guide to help you find the perfect workout regimen.

As you might expect there isn’t a simple one size fits all plan, everybody is different so it stands to reason that every workout will be different. That said there are some very straightforward rules that if you follow you’ll have the perfect workout plan.

1) What’s your goal?

Okay so this may sound like the dumbest of questions but bare with us on this. All too often people decide they want to loose weight, get in shape or tone up so head to the gym without any idea of what they’re actually going to do when they get there. If your goal is to build muscle then going for endless runs isn’t going to help you a lot. Instead you need to break your goal down into various stages and always keep your end goal in mind.

2) Work out you basal metabolic rate?

Before undertaking any workout regimen you need to know what your calorie intake should be per day. We all know that women need around 2000 calories a day while men need 2500 but that’s for the ‘average’ man/woman and as we all know there’s no such thing as an average person. This is where you basal metabolic rate, or BMR, comes in. Your BMR is the rate at which you ‘spend’ energy per unit of time, conveyed as calories released per kilogram of weight. Basically put it takes into account your height, weight, age, gender and lifestyle to give you the rate at which you burn energy, this can then be used to work out how many calories you need. You can use our BMR calculator to work out you BMR and what your calorie intake should be.

3) Now you’ve got your BMR you need a diet plan.

We’re not saying you have to go on a diet, but you need to know how much you can eat before you start any workout regimen. That said it’s also not a case of as long as you don’t exceed your calorie intake you can eat whatever you want. You need to divide your calorie intake into protein, carbs and fat (your macronutrients). Different diets will give you different requirements for each, for example if you’re on a carb-cycling diet then the amount of carbs you need will depend on which day of the cycle you’re in, whereas if you’re on a Paleo diet then you’re going to need a lot more protein than carbs and fat. Check out our guides on dieting trends and intermittent fasting.

4) What type of exercises should you do?

Muscle building:

If your goal is to build muscle then you’re going to need to do a lot of barbell work with a bar. Whilst bar work can sometimes seem daunting if you’ve never used it before it’s perfect for evenly working different muscle groups. These days most gyms have a coach or trainer on hand to help you so you don’t have to worry if you don’t know how to work with the bar properly.

Weight loss and tone:

The best and most effective way of loosing weight and increasing tone is high intensity interval training (or HIIT). This generally is a 2:1 ratio where you have bursts (up to 30 minutes depending on your fitness level) of high cardiovascular exercise followed by a period (usually half of the time you spend in the high intensity phase) of lower intensity ‘recovery’ exercise. The idea is to continue repeating this until you can’t carry on anymore. With this it’s important to speak to a doctor before hand to make sure you’re able to do this type of training.

Not everybody is able to do HIIT, for those that can’t swimming is a very good exercise, especially when combined with core exercises. Swimming doesn’t put any stress on the body at all, this is because the act of being in the water supports your entire body and doesn’t strain it in any way. At the same time all muscle groups are being worked evenly.

Stamina and core strength:

If you want to increase your stamina and core strength then you’ll need to combine things like HIIT with a lot of core work. Exercises like crunches and burpees are ideal for you improving your core muscles.

Exercises

Before undertaking any exercise it’s important to warm up. Spending a couple of minutes doing some simple stretches and bends is all you need to do. By warming up though you’ll increase your body’s temperature which in term will make life easier for your muscles and be far less likely to damage them.

Compound lifting.

This is where you stress two or more muscle sets at the same time.

Squats, thrusts, swings and deadlifts:

These will concentrate on the hamstring, quads, core, back and shoulders.

Front squat
  • Front/Back Squat is where you rest the bar on the front or back of the shoulders (see fig. 1 above) and transition from a squat to standing (see fig.2 above) and back.
  • Barbell Thrusters is very good for exercising your whole body. You start with the barbell resting on your collarbone then begin a squat with your knees out, your hips back and your torso straight until you’re level with the floor. Then straighten up and as you rest to top of the stand ‘thrust’ the bar above your head and return to your collarbone.
  • Kettlebell Swings are where you hold a kettlebell with both hands and, whilst keeping your torso straight, bend your knees then straighten while swinging the kettlebell upwards until your arms are out stretched and parallel with the ground.
  • Deadlifting is a powerlifting exercise where you lift a barbell or bar from the ground to hip level and back again. There are various method of this such as sumo and conventional but the idea is still the same.
Presses:

Bench presses with a dumbbell or barbell will focus on the core, chest, arms and shoulder while a push press works the hamstring and quads instead of the chest muscles.

  • Flat Bench Press are where you lie flat on a bench holding either a dumbbell are barbell and slowly bend you elbows to a 90 degree angle and then straighten.
  • Incline/Decline Bench Press follows the same process as the flat bench press but instead the bench is either on an incline or decline.
  • Push Press is where you stand with your knees bent and the barbell either on the front or back of your shoulders and then push with your knees to bring yourself upright with the bar above your head.
Cleans:

Concentrate on the hamstrings, core, quads, back, arms and shoulders.

  • Power Cleans are performed by crouching over the barbell as if you were starting a deadlift, then start to lift the weight to just below your knees from there ‘swing’ the barbell up and drop yourself under it as you lift so that the bar is resting on the of shoulder with elbows in front of you then return the barbell to the floor.
  • Hang Cleans (sometimes called Hang Power Cleans) are more or less the same as a power clean except that the start position is different. A hang clean will begin with the barbell between mid shin and hip height, in other words ‘hanging’ off of the floor.
Rows:

There are two main rows, both of which focus solely on the back.

  • One Arm Bent-Over-Row is performed with your knee and hand on the bench and your back straight and parallel with the floor, your free hand is then used to lift a dumbbell from the extended position until it’s level with your back. This can either be done with a dumbbell or barbell held in one hand.
  • Two Arm Bent-Over-Row is where you use both arms to lift a barbell (or a dumbbell in each hand) from the floor to the stomach while keeping the back straight and upper body bent forward.
Pull-ups:

These exercise your back, arms and shoulders as you use them to literally pull your entire body up.

HIIT exercises.

High intensity cardiovascular:

This is a intense anaerobic exercise where you exert yourself as much as possible continuously for a maximum of 30 minutes. On a cross trainer you’d run on a steep incline as fast as you could, if you’re on a bike then you’d peddle as hard as you could. The idea is that you get the heart working as much as possible.

Recovery phase:

As a general rule the recovery phase follows the same sort of exercise as the high intensity phase but not to the same intense level and for approximately half of the time of the intense exercise. This is to allow your body to partially recover before starting again.

Core exercises.

Crunches:

A crunch is an abdominal exercise that mainly works on you rectus abdominis (the muscles at the front of the abdomen, connecting the sternum and the pubis) and obliques abdominal muscles. To perform a crunch lie on your back with your hands behind your head with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Next, keeping your hands behind your head and arms open, tighten your abs, lift your shoulders and upper back so that your shoulders are off the ground completely. Don’t use your arms to lift yourself but instead use your abdominal muscles to lift yourself. Hold this for a second then lower yourself back and repeat.

Plank:

Taking its name from the position you make, a plank is tremendously good for your core strength as your body is using it’s inner strength to maintain your position and balance. There are various types of plank but to perform the basic plank (often called the forearm plank or a power plank) kneel on the floor with your elbows on the floor, about shoulder width apart, with your forearms straight out in front of you. Next lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back whilst extending your full body. Keep a straight line from your feet through your back to you neck (see below). You need to hold this or at least 30 seconds but do keep breathing.

Forearm or power plank
  • High Plank is very similar to a forearm/power plank but instead of resting your forearms on the floor you place your hands on the floor and fully extend your arms.
  • Plank Tuck starts a high plank but with your feet on a bench around 2 feet of the ground. Next bring one knee to your chest then return it and follow with the other knee.
  • Side Plank is pretty much as is sounds, instead of facing the floor start with either your left or right hand on the floor and your feet stacked. Then raise your hips until your body is rigid, repeat on the other side.
  • Side Slimmer is a variation on the side plank, once you’ve raised your body you then need to bring your free arm up to a 90 degree angle (with your hand roughly level with your ear) and then your knee to your elbow. Next repeat on the other side.
  • Rainbow Side Plank is another variation on the side plank, this time though instead of keep your body straight you create an arch (or rainbow) with your hips and free arm stretched over your head and angled towards the ground.
  • Whittling Walk starts out as a forearm plank then bring your right hand to your left elbow (keeping your forearm on the floor) and your left to your right elbow. Then move your right forearm over your left forearm and take one ‘step’ forward with your toes before repeating with your left arm over your right. Finally reverse what’ve your’ve just done.
  • Pumped-Up Plank is similar to a high plank but with your feet pressing against a wall.
Burpees:

Named after American psychologist, Royal H. Burpee, who created the ‘burpee test’ – a rapid repetition of exercise designed to measure agility and coordination. There are a number of different types of burpees but essentially a burpee is a thrust squat. A single burpee is performed by bending over or squatting with your hands on the floor just in front of your feet (see fig. 1 below) then jump both feet backwards to the plank position (see fig. 2 below) and continue to drop to a push up with your knees dropped and chest touching the floor. Then push up back to the plank before jumping your feet back to the starting position and then forcefully jump into the air and stretching your arms above your head (see fig. 3 below). 

Single burpee
  • Box-jump is where you jump onto a box rather than jump up and down.
  • Broad jump (or Long-jump) is a standard burpee followed by a distance jump with both feet.
  • Push up (or bastardo) is preformed from an extended plank
  • CrossFit is a four count burpee where a tricep push-up (where the thighs and chest come into contact with the ground) is preformed at the start or bottom of the burpee and at the top/standing position the hands are raised as high above the head as possible
  • CrossFit speed is the same as the CrossFit burpee but performed as quickly as possible and in very quick succession.
  • Dumbbell burpee is carried out whilst holding a pair of dumbbells.
  • Double burpee (or Eight-count push-up) is a regular burpee where two push-ups are performed after a plank. Doing it this way takes the momentum out of the burpee and makes each jump harder.
  • Hindu push-up starts from the downward dog yoga pose (where you form a triangle with you hands and feet on the floor and your bottom at the top of the triangle) and transforms into the cobra pose (your legs are flat on the floor with your back arched as much as possible to form a cobra) before continuing the rest of the burpee.
  • Jump-over similar to the box-jump this time you jump over a block between burpees.
  • Jump-up, whilst doing this you’ll jump up as high as possible at the end of each burpee.
  • Knee push-up allows you to bring your knees up, keeping your lower legs level with the floor before continuing with the burpee.
  • One-armed or One leg burpee uses either one arm for the push-up stage or alternating legs for the standing stage.
  • Parkour is a continuation of one burpee performed from the ground onto a block then another one on the block before jumping back to the ground and starting again.
  • Tuck-jump is where, at the height of the jump you bring your knees up to your chest.
  • Side burpee is where you bend at the waist with your hand on the floor by your foot, jump both feet to the side before jumping back and repeating for the other side.

Rest

Rest is extremely important and an often overlooked aspect of any workout regimen. With any powerlifting your muscles will tear, this will then lead to them growing as they repair. This is why rest is so important, without rest your muscles won’t be able to repair and regenerate. This will actually have the opposite result to the one you’re after and over time you’ll also notice a reduction in strength and performance. Ideally you should give each muscle set around 48 hours to recover before working them again. For example if you work on your arms one day make sure the next day you’re not doing that again but are instead focusing on your legs.

Supplements

While it’s important to get as much of your nutrition as possible from your diet it’s not always possible to get everything. Protein shakes and supplements can be very beneficial when used to aid the recovery process. This is because they’re high in things such as branch chain amino acids (or BCAAs) which are used by the body to help repair muscle tissue and reduce the soreness you’ll often feel. At the same time the nutrients in proteins can help to give you extra energy while you work out, but also reduce muscle breakdown after working out.

If you want to read more about the key supplements needed in strength training check out our article here.