Updated: Feb 13, 2018
The ins and outs of setting up an effective training program that will get you results and further your progression toward your end goal.
I get asked frequently what the best exercise is to lose weight, or to get a six pack, put on strength, add muscle mass, etc. This is very common in gyms all around the world. People want to know the secret to reaching their goals. The question I ask in return is, “what are you currently doing?” Most of the time their response is a bunch of exercises with no rhyme or reason as to why they choose the amount of sets and reps for each one. This is where the problem lies. There are no secret exercises to make you change overnight. It is how you progress these exercises over time that make the difference.
An effective workout program should follow the progressive overload principle. This means that overtime a workout should progressively become more challenging through increases in weight, sets and reps, or by decreasing rest periods from week to week. The body is very adaptive if put under enough constant stress. If the body is challenged more and more each week it will start to adapt to be able to more efficiently handle the stress placed upon it. On the other hand if you choose to perform the same exercises each week using the same weight and reps, the body will have no need to change because it is used to the current level of stress placed on it.
Keeping a training log is very important to making sure this constant progression is in place. By writing down the exercises performed with the sets, reps, and weight used, will allow for a better idea of how to design the next workout. With all the information you track in your training log, you should be able to ensure that you are never stuck at a plateau. It gives you a goal to reach each workout, such as completing more reps with a given weight than you did the week before, or by completing more sets with a given weight with shorter rest periods. Without tracking this information each week you are pretty much going into a workout blind without knowing where your limits currently are. It is very important to know your limits so you can make sure each workout is being pushed to that level.
Check out this example of a template I use to track my clients workouts. You can see in the example below that each week the overall amount of volume (sets x reps x weight) is being increased.