Exercise Programming Is Overcomplicated: The Simplified Guide To Workout Routines [Science]
We make exercise too complicated.
With all the science that’s been done on how to exercise, what we know about what works for fitness is almost embarrassingly simple — yet we keep inventing ways to cloud, over-complicate, and obscure the basic, common-sense principles of exercise. It’s something I see every single day as a sports chiropractor in Brookfield, WI.
Social media is filled with fitness gurus that all purport to know the one true way to a better body. We run Tough Mudders in record numbers, subject ourselves to violent boot camps and lift-until-you-puke CrossFit classes, and pay $35 for an hour of SoulCycle or Solidcore.
Of course, it’s easy to understand why. When selling courses, fitness programs and new gadgets, it’s hard to market something that’s focused on the basics or fundamentals. People are drawn to the latest and greatest trend in the market.
But what science says works for exercise programming actually isn’t complicated. So if your trainer or coach is telling you it’s a complicated process, then you’re heading in the wrong direction.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein
Stop overcomplicating your workouts!
When it comes to workout programming, we’re going to abide by the 80/20 Rule, also known Pareto’s Principle. The idea is basically that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts. It’s a principle that’s been around forever, but Tim Ferris is the one who’s popularized it in recent years.
A few examples:
- 80% of a business’ profit comes from 20% of its products
- 80% of the Ascent Chiropractic website traffic comes from 20% of our articles
- 80% of your training results come from 20% of your training time (effort)
So let’s cut through the BS – here’s the 20% that science says gets results when it comes to working out.
If you want to get stronger: Push, pull, & lift heavy weights, 3-5 days per week.
➡️ Focus on fundamental movements (squat, bench, etc.)
➡️ 5-7 exercises per workout
➡️ Work up in weight until you can only do 5-8 reps, then perform 3-5 sets
➡️ Rest 3-5 minutes between sets
If you want to improve power: Move your body or weights as fast as you can.
➡️ Use body weight or lighter loads if you want to increase max acceleration & speed
➡️ Use heavier loads if you want to be able to move heavy loads quickly
➡️ Rest 3-5 minutes between sets
If you want to build muscle: Perform high volume (sets x reps) workouts with short rest periods.
➡️ 2-4 exercises per muscle group, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
➡️ Train to relative muscular failure (until it’s difficult to do any more reps)
➡️ Rest 48-72 hours before training the same muscle group again
If you want to improve your cardio endurance: Choose something you enjoy and set specific goals.
➡️ Build volume (distance, time, etc.) slowly over time (+10-20% between workouts, +5-10% from week to week)
➡️ Aim for 150 minutes per week to reduce chronic disease risk
If you want to lose weight with exercise (in combination with dietary changes): Do high-intensity workouts, 5-7 days per week.
➡️ High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
➡️ Full-body workouts, multi-joint exercises
Train your body for what you need it to do
Exercise programming should center around the SAID (specific adaptations to imposed demands) principle. All this really means is that the demands placed on your body while working out will make you better at handling those demands when you need them. This applies to exercise selection, intensity, and rep ranges.
For example, if you’re performing exercises with heavy weights for low repetitions, your body will adapt by developing higher levels of muscular strength. Someone who’s lifting light weights for higher repetition ranges will be better adapted to an endurance activity like running a 5k.
Keep cranking up the difficulty
Progressive overload is necessary if you want to keep seeing improvement. This means that you are slowly cranking up the difficulty and challenging your body to do more and more. There are two ways to do this:
1. Increase Weight
Adding more resistance, stronger bands, or heavier dumbbells. 10-12 reps is the sweet spot to hit with a given weight before moving on to heavier resistance.
2. Increase Reps and/or Sets
For example; week one: 2 sets of 10, week two: 2 sets of 12, week three: 2 sets of 14, week four: 3 sets of 10. Choose a rep range that remains a challenge for you but allows you to still complete the sets with good form.
Don’t get too comfortable with one exercise program
Periodization (changing your exercise program regularly) is critical because your body adapts quickly, and a program that gets great results now won’t be nearly as effective in two months. No matter what workouts you’re doing, no matter how great the program is, if you stick with the same routine, you’ll hit diminishing returns. You need to surprise your muscles and challenge them in new ways.
Need a plan?
When programming your resistance training routine, try to cover all the bases:
➡️ Lower body push
➡️ Lower body pull
➡️ Upper body push (horizontal and vertical)
➡️ Upper body pull (horizontal and vertical)
If you don’t know where to start once you get to the gym, the Ascent Gym Fundamentals are six of the most popular, evidence-based, spine-and-extremity-safe workout programs I give to patients – click here to download them now.
You’re stronger with regular chiropractic care!
A study from The Journal of Chiropractic Research and Clinical Investigation reported that athletes who received chiropractic care exhibited up to a 16% increase in athletic performance after 12 weeks of regular treatments – testing strength, kinesthetic perception, reaction time, agility and balance.
Stronger is better… better stamina, better balance, better coordination, better performance in every area of your life. What will you do with more strength? To make an appointment at Brookfield chiropractor Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.