Magazines like to churn out magic, one-size-fits-all type workouts, but the fact is many trainers could benefit from a customized workout schedule. The reason is simple: we're all different, with different goals and different starting points. Here is a breakdown of key considerations that will help you make the right decisions for your very own customized workout schedule.
Who Are You?
The first question is obvious: what's your current status?
Beginner or experienced trainer?
As a beginner, you should focus on learning the exercises properly and getting your body used to exercise. Jumping in too fast could lead to injury. Adjust all weight training so the emphasis is on many reps (12 or so minimum) for a while before upping the poundages. Experienced trainers on the other hand can benefit from low-rep cycles, ie. 4-6 reps, although it is advisable to consult with a qualified trainer to make sure you got the technique down pat.
Teenager or recent grandparent?
Teens can get away with almost everything, while mature people have to watch themselves for cardiovascular problems, shortened muscles, more brittle joints and ligaments and so on. The good news is that exercise brings about significant improvements, but use the same cautious approach as the beginners -- start easy and work your way up. For example, interval training is great for strength, speed and endurance, but phase into the real sprints over a couple months even if you're used to regular jogging.
Tall or short?
Short people have an advantage when it comes to weightlifting. As you may recall from physics class, leverage can work for or against you. Longer limbs make it heavier and more unsteady to push barbells and dumbbells, making exercises like classic squats and standing military presses rather unwieldy for tall people. You can overcome this by using protective gear such as lifting belts and adherence to strict form, but that's takes time plus there's no guarantee the mind doesn't wonder as tiredness sets in. Simply put, use this type of exercise sparingly if you're tall.
What Are Your Goals?
Secondly, what are you trying to achieve?
The emphasis here is burning excess calories while preventing muscle cannibalization. Muscles burn fat 24/7, so do at least two weight training workouts per week. Beyond that, it's all cardio -- the more, the better.
This is the exact opposite of the previous goal -- do perhaps two cardio workouts per week to keep the heart and lungs in shape, but beyond that it's all about pushing weights. Note that quantity counts less than quality, however. If you learn to target one or two major muscle groups with laser-like precision, one thorough workout for each muscle group per week is all you need. This is why many advanced bodybuilders split the body into five or six separate workouts.
Your Customized Workout Schedule
Here are two sample weekly schedules. The first is for a beginner teen looking to lose weight, while the second is a mature, advanced trainer looking to boost strength.
Teen weight loss
- Monday: Weight circuit training followed by 20 mins on Stairmaster
- Tuesday: 60 minutes swimming
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Weight circuit training followed by 20 mins on Stairmaster
- Friday: 60 minutes swimming
- Saturday: 1-2 hours basketball, tennis or other outdoor sport of choice
- Sunday: Rest
Mature strength building
- Monday: Weight training - Abs, neck and calves
- Tuesday: 45 minutes treadmill or outdoor jogging
- Wednesday: Weight training - Biceps, forearms and back
- Thursday: 45 minutes interval training
- Friday: Weight training - Chest, shoulders and triceps
- Saturday: Weight training - Quads and hamstrings
- Sunday: Rest