If, like most people who are interested in fitness and working out, you are self-motivated and enjoy setting your own goals and challenges then this post may be helpful for you. Whether you are new to weight training or are a seasoned gym-goer, choosing a training program that fits with your schedule and gives you the results you want can be a daunting task—assuming you don’t want to pay a personal trainer to create a program for you.
The internet is filled with thousands of weight training programs, workouts and all manner of other fitness-related information (and misinformation) which can easily be accessed at the touch of a button. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, as there are lots of websites out there that provide accurate, helpful and good quality information (like this one) but there are also many that do the exact opposite. So, if you want to shake up your training or give yourself a different goal to strive for, how do you go about navigating this wealth of information to choose a weight training program?
Below are some helpful steps that you can follow to assist you in making a decision.
1. Think about what works best for you
How many days a week do you want to train? How long will you be able to spend doing each workout? Determining the time that you have available for training each week will be one of the key factors in narrowing down which program will work for you. For example, if you want to train three days a week you may want to look at a program which trains your full body in each workout; if you want to train four times a week, an upper body/lower body split might be appropriate; and if you want to train five plus times a week you may want to split your training days to focus on a particular muscle group for each training session.
2. Set some goals
Setting goals is important to ensure that you aren’t just wasting your time in the gym. Do you want to build muscle and/or lose fat? Do you want to increase your strength so you can lift a certain weight in a particular lift? The answers to these questions will determine whether you opt for a hypertrophy (muscle building) focussed program with lower weights and higher reps, or a strength focussed program with higher weights and lower reps, or you may decide that you want a program that is a mix of both (so you get the best of both worlds and keep things interesting).
Once you have the answers to steps one and two, you should be able to narrow down the type of program to the number of weight training sessions per week, the length of each workout, and the style of the program. Having a structured schedule for training and setting training goals will also guide you in deciding how much cardio you incorporate into your training, and it will dictate whether you do it on the same days as you weight-train or on alternate days. Essentially, your schedule and goals will guide your workouts. Now, to choose a weight training program...
3. Search the internet
Use search terms that are relevant to the weight training program you are after. You will find that there are common programs which will come up again and again (StrongLifts 5x5, Strong Curves, 5/3/1, and many more). Look at what each of these programs entails and pick one or two that you like the look of and that are compatible with your answers to steps one and two above.
4. Read reviews
Search the internet for reviews of your chosen training program. What do reputable health and fitness websites say? You will also find there are a myriad of public forums, such as Reddit, on which lots of people have extensively reviewed these programs and detailed their experiences, their results, and the pros and cons of each one. Another good source of information is your fellow gym-goers and friends; talk to them about what training programs they have tried and what they are doing now. Use this information to assist you in making your decision.
5. Pick a program
Pick a weight training program and get stuck in! Follow it religiously for at least two weeks and if after that you are finding it just isn’t for you, make some adjustments to see if that improves it. If that doesn’t work, repeat the steps above and pick a new one.
At the end of the day, the key to a weight training program being right for you is that it is one you enjoy, are able to do consistently and which enables you to achieve your training goals. Remember, though, that a good program is only one of several tools in your training arsenal and it is the effort that you consistently put in—combined with proper nutrition and, where necessary, supplementation— that will ultimately determine your results.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
||Kathryn Guise is a health, fitness and food enthusiast with a passion for living life to the full. She is a professional who has an an intellectually stimulating, but often high-pressured, job, so regular training and proper nutrition are important for keeping her stress levels in check and her mind sharp. Kathryn is also the creator and author of health and wellness blog www.prayerbaby.co.nz.