How often should I train each muscle group? How many days should I be lifting weights? Should I do cardiovascular exercise before or after weight training?

These are just a few of the questions I get on a daily basis. So, in this blog I am going to try to clear a few things up and hopefully help some of you (or most!) understand how to structure your weight training workouts to maximize your time in the gym and ensure adequate recovery time so that you can build muscle, lose body fat, get stronger and see the results you want from your hard training.

First, there are a few things you have to ask yourself before you create your program:

1. What are your goals?
• Maintain muscle mass, continue to shape and define
• Gain lean muscle and increase strength

2. How long have you been training?
• 6 months or less
• 6 months to 1 year
• Over a year

3. How many days per week can you realistically commit to weight lifting?

 

GOAL: Maintain Muscle Mass, Continue To Shape & Define

Maybe you are happy with where you are at, or maybe you just don’t have more time to devote to the gym right now, and that’s perfectly ok. Remember, you train to be your best self based on your individual lifestyle needs and priorities. Doing something, and doing that something consistently, is much much better than being unrealistic, biting off more than you can chew and ending up doing nothing at all.

When setting up your workout split for these goals, total body workouts, upper/lower splits (as listed below) or 2 push/pull days with one lower-body only day are all great programs for maintaining muscle mass and continuing to shape and define.

A sample push/pull workout split would look something like this:

Monday Pull Day (Back/Biceps/Rear Delts)
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday Lower Body (Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves)
Thursday Rest
Friday Push Day (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps)

PUSH DAY VIDEO

PULL DAY VIDEO

GOAL: Gain Lean Muscle, Increase Strength

If you are looking to build more muscle mass, I recommend splitting your workouts into split body parts – i.e. one or two muscle groups each day. This allows you to hit each muscle with higher volume since you will have more time to focus on that one area rather than only one or two exercises per muscle group when added as part of a total body workout.

LEVEL: BEGINNER

If you have been weight training for less than 6 months
I would consider you a rookie to the weights. At this point, your focus needs to be on:
– The FEEL of the movement and developing the mind-muscle connection. Do you know what muscle each exercise is supposed to be working and do you actually feel it? Or
– The RESISTANCE – are you lifting heavy enough or are you just going through the motions to get 15 reps?
– The FORM of the movement, which to me is most crucial. Make sure you are completing the exercise all the way up and all the way down in a slow, controlled fashion and are isolating the muscle you are training.

To begin creating your workout split at this level, I recommend starting with total body workouts 3x per week with at least one day in between each session. In each workout, be sure to hit one exercise for each muscle group. So your split would look like this:

Monday Total Body
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday Total Body
Thursday Rest
Friday Total Body
Saturday/Sunday Rest

TOTAL BODY WORKOUT VIDEO

AT HOME FAT BURNING CIRCUIT VIDEO

LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE

If you have been weight training for 6 months to 1 year:
You are now ready to take it to the next level. By this, I mean training each muscle group with higher volume (more exercises, more sets and more repetitions) during each workout. At this phase, you now have a better understanding of how to adjust machines, what exercises work each muscle group, whether or not your form is good and if you can feel the muscles working when performing the exercises. You are also ready to kick up the intensity of your workouts so you can keep getting stronger.

To begin creating your workout split at this level, I recommend committing to at least 4 days a week, breaking down the days by upper and lower body. In each workout, you can perform two exercises for each muscle group. So your split would look like this:

Monday Upper body
Tuesday Lower body
Wednesday Off
Thursday Upper body
Friday Lower body
Saturday/Sunday Off

 

LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE TO ADVANCED

If you have been training for over 1 year
You are now ready to advance to hard core training mode 😉

At this phase, you are now strong enough to withstand an even higher amount of volume per muscle group since you have good base strength and a better understanding of weight training. By higher volume, I mean doing 4-6 different exercises for one muscle group instead of just one or two each workout. Through your year(s) of experience you have built up a good database of exercises and can think of at least 5-6 different ones for each muscle group. You are also ready to kick up the intensity and build more muscle.

At this level, I recommend committing to AT LEAST 4 days, but preferably 5 per week. In each workout, you will perform 4-6 exercises for that one particular muscle group. This allows you to hit that area of your body from many different angles. I also recommend starting your week off with the area of your body you want to improve the most or the one that is the hardest to complete. Here are some examples of how to set up your split:

LOWER BODY FOCUS

Monday Quads/Glutes/Calves
Tuesday Shoulders
Wednesday Off
Thursday Back/Triceps
Friday Hamstrings/Glutes
Saturday Chest/Biceps
Sunday Off

BACK FOCUS

Monday Back (focus on pulldowns for width)
Tuesday Legs/Calves
Wednesday Shoulders/Abs
Thursday Off
Friday Back (focus on rows for thickness and detail)
Saturday Chest/Arms
Sunday Off

SHOULDER FOCUS

Monday Shoulders heavy
Tuesday Legs and calves
Wednesday Off
Thursday Back and triceps
Friday Shoulders light
Saturday Chest and biceps
Sunday Off
As you can see, when focusing on a specific body part that you feel needs to be brought up, hitting it on more than one day a week can help you build muscle as long as you allow adequate recovery between workouts. Hopefully this helps some of you develop a plan of attack as far as how to structure your workouts based on your your training level and your individual goals.

Keep working hard!