How to build a training program on your own
Have you ever tried to find a workout plan for free on the net? Is just...impossible!!
A few years ago bodybuilding.com was offering a vast selection of well-built program, but unfortunately, it all changed when they decided to make those available only to paying subscribers...
If you are not willing to spend a dime on a paid program, an online coach or a personal trainer at your local gym...you are in the right place.
In the next paragraphs, I'll give you all the necessary information to design your very own, science-based, results guaranteed* plan.
To maximize progress, we have to come up with a plan that focuses on the different aspects of weight lifting at given times. To do this, training programs should be divided into three phases;
- MACROCYCLE: the entire duration of the program. When it comes to bodybuilding is usually either 3, 6 or 12 months.
- MESOCYCLE: the periodical breakdown in a macrocycle. Usually 1/3 of the macrocycle duration.
- MICROCYCLE: one cycle in intensity. Usually 3 weeks loading phase and 1-week de-load.
As an example
Keep in mind that, in general, the cycles are not completed separated from each other. You will perform elements of hypertrophy and volume while training for strength and vice-versa. The mesocycle simply indicates your primary goal and define your priority when setting up the workout flow.
In my first blog, I talk about the importance of training the same muscle group 2 or more times a week (if you haven't read that article yet you should check it out "The Top 5 Reasons Why You Are Not Making Gains" ).
With that in mind, depending on how many days a week you want to train, the best splits are:
- 3 DAYS A WEEK: Full body
- 4 DAYS A WEEK: Push/Pull
- 5 DAYS A WEEK: Push (Only upper body)/Pull (Only upper body)/Legs/Push/Pull
- 6 DAYS A WEEK: Push/Pull/Legs (if you can get through 2 legs day a week you are an absolute beast and I respect you deeply for that!!)
My favourite is the 5 days split and I usually take my rest days before and after leg day to ensure I have enough energy to push as hard as I can. It also gives me more flexibility when work commitments or travel plans stop me from training.
Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time. The most well known and frequently used are the bench press, the squat and the deadlift.
Compound movements should be done at the beginning of your session as they require a higher amount of energy expenditure.
Depending on the split you are doing the targets of the compound exercise could be:
- 3 Days: Day 1 Chest - Day 2 Back - Day 3 Legs
- 4 Days: Day 1 Quads - Day 2 Back - Day 3 Chest - Day 4 Hamstrings
- 5 Days: Day 1 Chest - Day 2 Back - Day 3 Legs - Day 4 Chest - Day 5 Back
- 6 Days: Day 1 Chest - Day 2 Back - Day 3 Legs - Day 4 Chest - Day 5 Back - Day 6 Legs
Accessory movements (also called isolation movements) allow you to continue exercise after having completed your compound movement as the intensity required is less.
These exercises will also, over time, allow to move more weight on the compound movements.
There are only a few compounds movements to choose from but when it comes to accessory exercises the options are endless!!
To name a few:
And the list goes on and on...
Although there is some minor disagreement over which rep range is the most effective for muscle building, the overall distinction is agreed upon by all school of taught and is used by trainers of any sorts to build workout programs. Here is a very useful chart for you to use:
As a hardgainer, you should focus more on the strength area of the chart at the beginning of your journey. Endurance and aerobic can be integrated once you have built a thick foundation of solid muscle!
Putting it all together
Let's make a sample workout, Day 1 of Week 1 - Strength mesocycle - 4 days split.
As you can see, we start with a compound exercise and keep the number of reps in a strength-focused range. The same principle will apply for all compound movements in this mesocycle.
Accessories exercise will be performed with more emphasis on hypertrophy while remaining on the lower side of the rep range to maximise strength effects.
Designing your own workout program can be challenging and you will have to be very accurate with your tracking to ensure that you are moving in the right direction.
Keep in mind that this article will be extremely helpful if you are a novice, but if you have been training for some time there are more advance techniques you should be aware of that are not being discussed here.
If you are at the beginning of your fitness journey and want to go by it by yourself you should consider having friendly chats with the gym staff, especially if you are having doubts about your form. They will be happy to help you even if you are not interested in purchasing a coaching package.
Once again, thank you very much for reading through my post. Let me know if you have enjoyed it and please leave a comment if you are going to use these tips to build your own workout.
Talk to you soon!
*Just a little disclaimer: this article is very general and therefore your very own circumstances (such as lagging body parts, weak core, etc) are not taken into account. Having a coach following you and monitoring your progress closely will give faster and better results.