It’s spring 2017. now, and it’s time for a new workout that will help me lose fat, improve performance and still gain me some size – the usual demands at the time when you start realizing you’ll be wearing a lot less clothes but also be under much more physical demand than you usually are at the dead of winter.
I’ve been working out for about 10 years now and I have been programming most of my own work outs, but I have also done many work outs that are available online in order to study them and improve my programming abilities. I have also tried many different work out principles, experimenting with how they affect my body and what results I can get out of them, so by now I’m rather experienced in both work out programming and am confident I can create successful work outs for myself, but also for others.
This is going to be one wordy blog because I’d like to present the whole thinking process I go though when I program a workout. I often actually write most of this down each time I plan a work out so to keep my mind focused.
The impatient can skip right down to #The Workout.
The Starting Point
When reading most work out articles, the first thing they will teach you is to “set clear and realistic goals”. Which is absolutely the proper approach. But in order to set realistic goals one first has to – truthfully and honestly – assess one’s current level of fitness.
If you just stumbled upon this article and are a beginner in all this, know this: not every work out is meant for people at every level of fitness. This is a single most important bit of information you need to put in your memory and always keep in mind. Taking up a program that’s meant for a level of fitness you’re not currently at will yield poor results and most likely end in disappointment, injury, or both.
If you’re just starting out, have no previous work out experience, haven’t done any sports or outdoor activities lately and are pretty low in fitness, please check out the best workout program I found that exists online: Lee Labrada’s Lean Body Trainer. It has everything a beginner needs, including a free video for every day of the 12 weeks which will teach you everything you need to set you off on your fitness journey. My favorite thing about Lee Labrada’s approach in general is that he gives you not just the Hows, but also the Whys, and that makes him my personal #1.
If you’re a thin young boy who wants to gain muscle and are thinking “but it’s a fat loss program” – no, dude, it’s perfect; just eat more than the program recommends. Go for it!
As far as this program goes, my current level of fitness is “pretty good”. I have worked out regularly through the winter, 3-5 x a week, depending of the program. I have some extra fat, but nothing spectacular. I am a bit slow, low on energy and my legs seem burned out: hikes over 4 hours seem to be a problem, and work outs result in prolonged DOMs. I run 6 km field run (my sample run) in cca 36 minutes.
Since I’m the vain fitness gal, yes, the looks matter for me, so let me assess that department too. For the past 10 years I focused on lifting hard&heavy and working out mainly through big, basic compound lifts and that built me a solid foundation of mass, strength and power. To be honest, I’m now at a point where I don’t really want bigger wheels, a bigger spread in the back or a broader chest. I.. finally think they’re just fine! However, since I mostly trained my arms indirectly with maybe 1 muscle specific isolation movement per workout, they kinda lagged behind, and that needs to be picked up. Now why did this happen? Maybe because I’m a woman, and maybe because it’s my genetics that my arms need more work. I literally never did any leg specific work aside of squats and dead lifts for the past 5 years and I have enormous calves and huge thighs, but arms didn’t follow up with the same level of development.
Another thing that is to be taken into account, is that I am a 36 year old woman with 10 years of history in fitness – meaning an advanced lifter who just breached the Masters level. Now, while the age should be just a number, and sex shouldn’t be a limiting factor, one does have to understand that at this point, training at a pace and regime fit for a 17 year old boy would likely yield joint pains, tissue damage, over training, food binging and no gains at all. I’m that person who REALLY likes to go hard and go home, and when planning my training, what I really need to focus on is reining it in.
Now that I know where I’m standing, I can get down to “setting clear, measurable and realistic goals”, and also create a time frame in which I wish to achieve them.
In order to get “clear” and “measurable”, however, first I need to be general. Considering I am feeling sluggish and slow and the spring and summer hiking season is just around the corner, I need to up my performance, which is going to be the #1 priority here. Since I also have some winter jiggle which I wouldn’t be very proud to show off at the beach or when I actually hike with my shirt off, fat loss is the #2 priority. And I also have a previously established long-term goal: #3 adding mass to my arms.
But let us move on: once I’ve established my general goals, I first need to review them and make sure they’re not in any kind of contradiction.
The first two fit together nicely: the fat loss will lighten my body and will make performance improvement easier. This will require a calorie restrictive diet, but as long as I plan my pre-workout meals properly, I should be fine. Now, adding any mass in what looks like a fat loss phase seems unrealistic; but in truth, adding muscle and losing fat at the same time IS achievable. You just can’t add maximum muscle or lose maximum fat, so make sure you’re still eating enough and not expecting to lose a lot of fat per week. Plus, it’s just arms: relatively small muscles that are going to require some beating, but not nearly as much as, say, the lats would. What I’d recommend when trying to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously is to maybe not try and build the big muscles. Arms or traps or something as specific as lower chest will work fine, but if you want to really bring up the legs or the back; perhaps best leave that for when you’re not trying to burn the fat.
So, now that I’m confident my goals are in sync, let’s lay out my specific and measurable goals:
- lose 4 kg (reach 66 kg)
- improve my 6 km field run to 32 minutes
- bring up my baggie boxing to 4x4minutes with 1.5 minute break between rounds
- add mass to overall arms
Now, these are very specific and measurable – but where’s “realistic”? Well, “realistic” is pretty much contained in the time frame you set for yourself to achieve the set goals (unless you set absolutely crazy goals, like “add 100 lbs to my arms” or “run 6 km in 5 minutes”).
The time frame I give myself is 8 weeks.
This is fairly gentle, but remember how I wrote my current fitness level included “a bit slow, low on energy and my legs seem burned out”? So let’s take it slowly, otherwise I’ll cause over training and burn out.
One more thing you might notice is that my final goal, “add mass to overall arms” isn’t really measurable. This is due to the fact I am a 36 year old woman, and unless I were willing to take something with, shall we say, more potency than protein powder and a multi, I have to come down with the fact I won’t be adding any “inches” to anything within any 8 week period. Actually, it’s not realistic I’d add any measurable size at all, especially while losing fat, as the tape difference measure would likely fall within the error margin.
Now, before we get down to planning the actual workout, we need to choose the basic principles we’ll employ in our workout. The choice here is endless – from elaborate 5 day splits employing various low or high rep schemes, push-pulls, german volume training or gironda 8×8 trainings, to crossfit type workouts, full body workouts, circuits… the possibilities are endless.
So how do we choose?
Key: look back at the goals and use your previous experiences. Just right off the bat you can see that the goals listed here are at odds with, say, an elaborate workout that covers separate body parts on separate days with 4+ exercises per body part on low heavy reps won’t do the trick here.
I need something fast paced, intense, in medium weight rep ranges (8-12) if possible, with no or very little breaks between sets and exercises. There has to be a lot of sweat and intensity, but not waay too much pressure that would cause a burn out. Meaning, it will require training particular muscles more frequently, but with less exercises per workout. It will also require some cardio; but not too much on the joints, meaning intensity will have to replace the duration.
So now we’re a bit closer to the mark, but still – a LOT of different work outs fit in this principle. Here’s where I’ll lean on my experience: quick paced, turbulence training workouts always did great for me in this phase. Now Turbulence training is usually 3xFBW/week, and it’s the same FBW, and I like to spice things up a bit. I so I will do two different FBWs, and 1 arms workout per week. This is Only 3 workouts per week, but it’s really working most of my muscles 3x/week. Add to that 3 cardio sessions a week, and it’s really a full schedule with a single full rest day.
I will also do hiking on weekends and work in my orchard on work days, so even if this may not seem much at a first glance, it’s a lot of work.
So I am going to do the following:
- Monday: Workout #1 – FBW
- Tuesday: cardio – steady state
- Wednesday: Workout #2 – ARMS, cardio HIIT
- Thursday: cardio: HIIT
- Friday: Workout #3 – FBW
Workout #1 – FBW
Workout #2 – ARMS
Workout #3 – FBW