What should I do when I go to the gym?
Thoughts from a trainer and former physique competitor
“What should I do when I go to the gym?” . It’s a question
that I hear on a daily basis, and for good reason to. No matter who you are, what your fitness level is, the correct answer is going to be very different. As a trainer my daily tasks include working within a set of parameters to give people personalized workout programs. Here’s how you can construct a personalized program for yourself just like a pro.
Now when first starting a workout program you have to be honest with yourself. What type of gym person are you? By that I mean, are you the type of person who can show up to the gym 2,3,4 or 5 times a week by yourself and do a one hour workout? Or does that sound like a great plan, but you know that after 5 weeks the gym will be a distant memory for you. Do you enjoy showing up to group fitness classes and let the instructor take the guess work out for you? Does the group atmosphere give you incentive to keep pushing when you feel like quitting? Or are you going to need sessions booked with a trainer so that you have set days and times every week, and if you don’t show up someone will be holding you accountable.
Now for the purpose of this article, we will be excluding the group classes and personal training options. So, you’re going to the gym by yourself and want to put together the best workout plan you can. After all, every single person in the gym wants to get the most efficient workout they can while they’re there. Make sure you already have your goal picked (loose fat, gain muscle bench press 225lbs, drop down 3 dress sizes etc.).
Here’s the first question who you have truthfully answer, and I mean be honest because this is going to shape your entire program. How many days a week are you going to be in the gym? Whenever putting together a program, frequency is the foundation on which a program is built. In my personal opinion 5 days a week with 2 rest days (not in a row) is the maximal benefit option. But maybe you can only do 2-3- or 4 days. That’s ok, because no matter what number of days you pick, it always changes the program.
Ok so you’ve checked your schedule and have committed to a certain amount of days. The next part you have to choose is how much work is going to get done in how much time. Do you have one hour to workout ? half hour? 45 minutes? All that factors in to the workouts. If you have one hour, your going to have time to do more exercises, but also more time for rest periods in between sets, more time for warming up, and more time for stretching (if you stretch at all). If you only have half hour that’s still a tremendous amount of time. The difference will be made up in shortening rest periods, combining exercises back to back without rest, and not letting your heart rate drop below a certain rate.
So now, its finally time for the actual exercises. This part believe it or not is actually the easiest, and there’s a reason for that. No matter if you’ve chose a full body workout for that day, or just an upper body workout, or even a specific body part (quads, chest, hamstrings, back) there is always a basic fundamental exercise that everyone does. That’s right, working out is all about the basics, and building off of them. Whether you’re a
professional body builder, or an obese person starting up with a trainer, there’s a core set of exercise that have to be included. Chest press, squats, lunges, rows, overhead press, and dead lifts. Every program has these exercises in them because they work.
Now based on your fitness level, you can experiment with the variations of each one. Dumb bells or Barbell? Free weights or machines? High
reps and low weights, or low reps and high weights? Slow and controlled reps or explosive speedy reps? Stable platform or reduced stability? Are you going to do a full upper body day, or just work shoulders? Is today going to be full body, or just pulling movements? Do you have lots of times to do 5 sets of squats, or only half hour so its better to do a circuit of squat variations? All these questions are best answered by what has been previously mentioned. What’s your goal, amount of days to workout, and how long are those workouts going to be.
Once you’ve got all this figured out its time to put it in to practice. Just remember that the best workout plan in the world wont help if you don’t put in the effort every single workout. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your plan every month. Rarely in fitness does everything go according to plan and therefore needs to be adjusted. Make sure to always have the basics in your plan, build off of them, put in the effort, and always look back to plan for the future.