All good trainers know the best answer to 90% of all fitness related questions can be answered with one word depends. It’s no different with this question. To answer it you have to ask yourself a few questions first.
How many days a week can I workout?
How long can my workouts last?
What’s my level of fitness?
And most important.
What are my fitness goals?
Answer these questions and then read on to find out which one is most applicable to you and your goals. You might be surprised at what you learn.
Total body routines
The ideal method for beginners and those short on time. If you only want to do two or three workouts a week then this is the routine for you. You can really build a good solid foundation for moving on to harder more advanced lifts. Not to mention see incredible results whether you are trying to burn fat or gain strength. In fact I believe these routines are the fastest way for anyone to see results no matter what their fitness goals are.
Want to gain strength? Just watch a Strongman competition or an Olympic athlete perform a clean and jerk. That is the perfect example of muscles working in unison. The majority of these athletes don’t waste much time on bicep curls or calf raises. They primarily focus on exercises that involve two or more joints. These exercises are more efficient and if performed as a circuit can spike your metabolism and incinerate fat. Which leads me to my next point…
Want to burn fat? You are working more muscles with these routines therefore burning more calories during and after your workouts. This means your metabolism stays sky high during the 48 hour recovery period.
Another great thing about performing total body routines is it’s easy to work in total body movements. They don’t leave you scratching your head trying to figure out where to fit them in split routines.
Upper/Lower body split routines
For those of you with a little more time to spare you may want to consider upper/lower body splits. These are ideally performed four days a week and can really pack on muscle and strength. They are especially beneficial to those who have stopped seeing results with total body routines and/or want to improve sports performance. These routines work by allowing you to work your upper or lower body harder, in turn the muscle groups will require a longer recovery time. An example of how to perform these routines is Monday and Thursday perform an upper body routine. Tuesday and Friday perform a lower body routine.
Target muscle group routines
These are exercise routines geared towards a specific muscle group. A popular week’s worth of workouts would involve chest day, back day, arms day, shoulders, and the dreaded legs day. Each group getting a week’s worth of exercises in one painful hour.
These routines are popular among bodybuilders and, unfortunately, many average Joes. Functionally speaking you are better off sticking to one of the two routines listed above. Now, just hear me out. I say this because they are not ideal for beginners or, well, just about anyone. Spending an entire workout on just your chest will bring on severe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and will be too much overload. You will quickly reach a point of diminishing returns.
Not to mention most of the functional exercises take a back seat to the more vanity driven movements. It drives me crazy to hear people say “It’s arms day… my favorite!” I can’t stress enough you are better off doing total body routines and advancing to the upper/lower split. Even if you want to look like that big shiny guy in those magazines. You need to realize what it takes to get there. Not only do their lives revolve around exercise and diet but they also ingest so many different supplements (legal and illegal) the average person will be homeless by the end of the month. Luckily you can shower at the gym. Not to mention the one thing you can’t change… your genetics. Thanks, mom and dad.
But fret not! I promise if you follow the guidelines laid out on this site you will see results. And if you’re doing it right people may begin to question what you’re taking or say something like “you must live in the gym!” Just remember two things that go hand in hand with fitness. Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S. principle) and work smarter not harder.
Now that you understand a little more about the different types of routines it’s time to take a look at How Many Exercises Per Muscle Group.
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