Your Guide To A Body Transformation Part 4 : Workout Design

Workout Design

Over the past few days we’ve looked at some key elements that go into creating changes in your body, mostly fat loss as thats what people want most. We’ve covered calories, macros and tracking changes in your physique.

Today we cover the big one, the one everybody loves to read about. Workouts. I’ll mostly cover the role of weight training during a fat loss phase, why its important and some recommendations for setting up a routine. Tomorrow’s post however will be a cracker. I will give you a full break down of Bob’s, an example we’ve been using all week, plan. His calories, macros and workout.

Today however, lets begin with discussing the importance of weight training during a fat loss phase. So, why is it important? Great question. Besides wanting to building those guns, shields, abs and wheels, it lets the body know that we want to keep the muscle we have while we shed some weight. Which is why its so important to keep protein intake at the right amount for your body. Think of it like this:

Calorie deficit + weight training + optimal protein = successful body transformation

Now we know the equation you’re probably wondering ‘okay great, but how do I workout? How many reps, bro?’. I don’t blame you for asking either. Theres so many conflicting pieces of advice out there. High rep, low rep, muscle confusion! Before we go on, lets clear a few things up.

First things first, lets set a definition. Volume. Volume is the amount of work you do in a session. In this scenario, and based on The Strength & Muscle Pyramids, volume is defined as the amount of sets per week per muscle. After looking into the research and data available they’ve concluded that 10-20 sets per week per muscle is where the best growth will come from. Anyway, back to the myth-busting!

Lets start with high rep stuff, aka five sets of 12 repetitions or so. Now, theres nothing wrong with this rep range but lets not forget that the ripped bodybuilder you’re taking advice from is on a little more than protein powder… so he’s able to lift all the reps for all the sets, aka volume, recover and do it again the day after. But don’t forget, in a diet our recovery capabilities are hindered. Again. Eric Helms and co, author of the aforementioned book above, suggest that you should keep volume as high as possible until you start to recover, then dropping it. So, if you finished a mass cycle at 14 sets per week, carry on until things start to ache and feel sucky. Then, cut back to 12 or 10. These are just recommendations, we’ll get more into specifics later.

Up next, low reps! Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lean more towards the lower reps occasionally. It’s just a great stimulus however you can’t do it forever. For example, up until a couple weeks ago I was lifting fairly heavy for a prolonged period of time. I was strong, but not for long. Meaning I could lift heavy but not for many sets. This means my overall work capacity sucked. On top of that I developed some painful elbows and back pains along the way…

So whats the best way to go? A mix of rep ranges or hanging out in the 6-12 even 15 rep range. Some call this the ‘moderate’ rep range! Great for both strength and hypertrophy which leads me to my next and crucial point. Progressive overload.

I actually don’t care what rep range you lift in if overtime you’re not overloading your muscle to create new adaptations. Aka, making it harder. This is mostly commonly done by adding a small amount of weight over time. For example if you lift 100kg with a goal set x rep scheme of 3×10 and hit all three sets of 10 with good form, you MUST now make it harder. The best way to do this is by adding two 1.25kg plates per side and going again! Another way of overloading, which is now almost synonymous with Renaissance Periodisation, is adding more sets overtime. Looking like this

Week

Sets x Reps

Week 1

3×10

Week 2

4×10

Week 3

5×10

Week 4

2×10

As you can see, we add a set each week until we reach week 4 where we take a deload. This is just a recovery period when we cut our volume in half.

So what does this all mean exactly? Despite being awfully confusing, it means we must increase the intensity our workouts overtime and my preferred method is having a set x rep range and getting my clients to get stronger within that overtime by adding weight to the bar, which is what I suggest you do too.

But now you’re probably thinking ‘hold up, George. How many sets and reps do we perform anyway?!’. Hold your horses. Recommendations are coming.

Remember earlier, we look at Eric Helms recommendations at 10-20 sets per muscle per week? These aren’t to be taken as gospel. Invariably others will do well with much lower volumes and others much higher! In fact Tim Henrique’s ‘Program Design’ he recommends 8-20 sets per week, not far of Eric’s! In fact, I’ve found so little as 6 sets per week work incredibly well too and given the lifting age of the client I will always fall between 6-12 sets to begin with! So, what would a workout look like?

Well a good example would be a rotating ABA/BAB split. Performing three workouts per week like this:

Monday

Wednesday

Friday

Week 1

Workout A

Workout B

Workout A

Week 2

Workout B

Workout A

Workout B

Week 3

Workout A

Workout B

Workout A

Week 4

Workout B

Workout A

Workout B

There many great ways to split the body up and train but today I’ll give you a full body example starting with 8 sets per muscle in a moderate rep range for a beginner/intermediate lifter!

Number

Movement

Sets x Reps

Rest

1

Squat/Leg Press

4×8

3m

2

Barbell Bench Press

4×8

3m

3

Hammer Row

3×10

2m

4

Tricep Pushdown

3×10

90s

Number

Movement

Sets x Reps

Rest

1

Romanian Deadlift

4×8

3m

2

Overhead Press

4×8

3m

3

Lat Pulldown

3×12

2m

4

Bicep Curls

3×10

90s

So, above we can see two full body workouts that can be rotated throughout the week. We use basic compound exercises, which are movements that train multiple muscle groups! These are the most ‘bang for your buck’ movements, with some complimentary isolation work for the arms. This is something very basic I’d give someone who could make great gains for months!

Again, I want to emphasis the importance of workouts that are tailored to you. For example, if you can’t squat or deadlift then there is absolutely no point in attempting those exercises, period! So when working with me, we go over every injury and preference possible.

Double again, this is just an example of many, many scenarios. Theres nothing I hate more than a PT at the gym who has clearly given his client a cookie cutter, bullshit workout. I despite it actually! But anyway, thats a whole other blog post… 

So, lets wrap this up. Why do we workout while dieting? A) to prevent losing the muscle in the first place and to B) build SOME muscle! Yes, you can build some muscle on a diet, but don’t expect a whole lot. If you’re a beginner however, its gains galore no matter what bullshittery you get up to! Again however, don’t forget protein intake MUST be optimal too.

To counter the equation earlier:

Low calories + no workout + low protein = skinny fat

Nobody wants to be skinny fat. That dreaded stage where you look okay with a shirt on but off…no muscle and some flab. You CAN avoid it however if you stick to the basics!

So, feel free to give this a try for a month. All the information I’ve provided to you in these 4 posts should be enough to help guide you to designing and self-sustaining your own calorie, macro and workout plan. Tomorrow we’ll wrap these 5 part series up with a look at Bob’s full programme! Remember though, the above are guidelines and tomorrow will be an example of a theoretically client with a specific goal.

If you’ve been reading my modest little blog then thank you for sticking me with so far! As a newly qualified coach ready to change people’s lives even if just one person reads and follows my advice I consider it a win. One step and one person at a time.

Until our final farewell tomorrow. Stay healthy.

G

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