When it comes to weight training, the structure of your workout is very important for your success and ability to make good gains. There are many people who go into the gym with no plan on what muscles to workout until they see a machine or exercise that they feel like doing. By going in without a plan, they are at a disadvantage for a few reasons.
For starters, if you plan on weight training on a consistent basis, you probably end up neglecting muscles you think you don’t need to work on. As a result, you will probably end up looking like Mr. Incredible – who has a huge upper body, but shrimpy legs. This is because many people (especially men) neglect working out legs and end up with a disproportionate physique as a result. Another gem is where the person only works out their arms and abs. You don’t want to be “that guy”.
Another failure that many people have when they don’t have a set plan is to quickly lose motivation. How are you supposed to improve on a particular exercise if you are just bouncing from machine to machine? It can be very difficult to track your lifts this way and usually people who do this aren’t fully invested or interested in achieving progress.
If you are looking to improve instead of maintain you have to improve on your lifts from week to week. This is because the only way to entice your muscles to advance is to increase the load in whatever rep range you are working on.
Structuring a Good Program
The key to a good workout program is to really focus in on the main compound lifts and then the more isolated lifts. Compound lifts are exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and bench press. Simply hitting these three will ensure you are not neglecting any major muscle groups.
So a good basic plan would be to focus on deadlifts on Monday, bench press on Wednesday, and squats on Friday. The days inbetween will be rest days where you will rest and give your muscles some time to repair.
However, that would be a very basic workout. I like to include a major compound lift along with a supplementary lift or 2 in each workout. For example, monday I will mainly focus on deadlifts, but my second exercise is chin-ups. On Wednesday my main focus is bench press (chest), but my second exercise would be military press (shoulders).
Avoiding Mistakes in Workout Structure
The reason you would want to keep exercises like deadlifts and squats apart is because they both are heavily compounded exercises which involve the legs. For example, If you did deadlifts, then squats back to back your legs will be to sore or fatigued to achieve any progress. In fact, it may likely lead to the break down of muscle instead of growth.
If you are a beginner or advanced one of the best programs out there is probably Mark Rippetoe’s starting strength. It focuses on basic compound lifts that will give you incredible results. He also is a great teacher of having the proper form which should be your primary focus as a beginner. Once you have the form down, you can focus on increasing the weight load on each lift.