Arrrghh! My new method of planning and tracking my workouts is so insanely helpful, I feel stupid for not starting this sooner. Now, it’s nothing groundbreaking – by “new” I mean it’s ‘new to me’. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I had this problem. I would mentally psyche myself into going to the gym. I’d drink my protein shake, I’d get dressed, I’d put on my little nifty Under Armour headband that keeps my wild hair in check, and I’d prance off to the gym. Then I’d arrive and think, “Uhhh, Ok. Now what?!” I mean, I know my way around the gym – I was taught how to use kettle bells, free weights, battle ropes, bosu balls, etc. But something about just showing up the gym without a plan of action scrambled my brain. I’d feel lost and I’d lose my motivation.
I had another issue. I was skipping certain muscles in my workouts. I was getting comfortable with certain exercises and I unconsciously favored training certain body parts over others. Hence the difference between my rockin’ biceps and my feeble little shoulders. Lats? Didn’t even think about those since I was so worried about squatting myself to death. After all – what would you rather have? An awesome bubble butt or a well developed latissimus dorsi? Uh, huh. That’s what I thought.
Here’s my problem with focusing on a few muscle groups and ignoring others – or showing up to the gym without a plan and getting in a routine with the same old exercises time and time again:
1) Certain parts of my body are super strong, and others are noticeably weak. It affects how I move and how I lift. I’ve noticed that my push ups and pull ups are improving drastically now that I’ve implemented a shoulder & lat day. I was stuck in a rut with doing a ton of chest exercises and bicep curls – but now that all three ‘heads’ of my shoulder (anterior, lateral, posterior deltoid) are getting stronger, I’m improving in other areas, too!
2) I get burnt out! If every trip to the gym consists of the same old shit – I’m gonna quit. It quickly gets monotonous and too easy and the challenge disappears.
3) Sometimes if I was still sore from a workout the day before, I’d use that to justify a “rest day”. However, since implementing a specific schedule for my workouts, I’m able to work out more frequently! I focus on isolating certain muscle groups on certain days and I never workout a muscle that’s still sore from a previous workout. This has prevented over-training and injuries. Here’s an example of my split:
Sunday: Usually my rest day
Monday: Glutes & hamstrings
Tuesday: Shoulders & Abs
Wednesday: Chest & Triceps
Thursday: Back/Lats & Biceps
Friday: Glutes & hamstrings
Saturday: Shoulders & Abs
I sit down on Sunday and I plan out every single workout for the rest of the week. Similar to how people create meal plans. My dad used to tell me two horrible cliches over & over, just because he knew they would make me cringe: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me” and “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I don’t know why those infuriated me so much when I was little, but as with most of my life lessons, I’ve learned the hard way that everything he told me when I was little is so true. It’s all about planning in advance. Dammit.
So, before I hit the gym each day, I’ve just been checking my handy dandy Google calendar on my phone – that tells me when I’m going to the gym, and what I’m going to be doing there. Then, I grab a piece of paper, draw a grid, and actually write out the exercises I’m going to do – leaving room to track the amount of reps & weight I use. These are my guidelines:
-Always include a few tried & true moves that I can do very well. They’re not “easy” – because I keep gradually increasing the weight each week – but my form is great on these.
-I research on Bodybuilding.com to find 1 or 2 new exercises I haven’t tried & I incorporate them into my workout for the day just to keep things interesting.
-I list each exercise in order. Depending on what I’m training, I’ll either work the largest muscle first (i.e., chest over tricep) or, if I’m training a certain muscle that’s particularly weak, I’ll start with that one first so I can give it my all in the beginning when I’m fresh & rested.
I throw in a few circuts or supersets or giant sets to keep it intense. Read here about supersets.
I’ll be sure to include some mountain climbers or squat jumps or burpees in between sets of weight lifting to keep my heart rate up
So, by the time I walk into the gym – I know exactly where I’m going. I know which exercises I’m going to perform and in which order. It’s such a relief!! No more guesswork. I have a clear, outlined plan that keeps me on track & makes sure that my entire body is worked throughout the week.
Sure – stupid people get in the way in the gym & I can’t always insist upon my special little schedule. Sometimes I have to be flexible (ugh). But it’s better to start with a plan than to go in empty handed.
As I work go through my workout, I list the amount of reps & sets I do, along with the weight. I keep these workouts in a binder and use them for reference. When I plan a workout for glutes today, I’m going to refer to my last couple of glute workouts and see what weights I used last time. Can I add weight today? Or can I add an extra set? If I did a warm up with 65 lbs, can I start my warm up today with 70 lbs? That way each week I’m moving forward and I know what my body is capable of – I have a written record of it! No more guessing about which weights to throw on.
Phew. This was a long post. My fingers and brain are tired now. Adios.