What is more, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fitness, just general parameters such as the ones presented here from which, as individuals, we are free to stray. Some people do not need rest days; others will need more than one. Some people will see better hypertrophy results from doing sets of 15-20 than sets of 8-12...
The art of a trainer lies in adapting these well-established protocols to fit the uniqueness of their clients.
On this page, I will discuss a few principles allowing for routine customization. You can also find a couple of sample programs HERE.
Sets and repetition ranges:
- Typically, pure strength training programs feature 5 sets of 5 repetitions. This range can be used as part of a split routine to maximize strength gains or break through a plateau. An example of such a routine is provided below.
- Strength-hypertrophy programs normally consist of 3 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions, with rest periods ranging from 2 to 3 minutes between sets. The is firmly rooted in this training zone, though the reps range has been slightly expanded to 4-8 to allow for smoother transitions between exercise variations. Rest periods have also been slightly shortened to keep a standard workout within an hour.
- 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions is the range of muscular hypertrophy. It is ideal for those wishing to optimise their muscle gains.
- 3 to 5 sets of 15+ repetitions takes you into the domain of strength-endurance: it is suited for more specific purposes such as HIIT programs which concern themselves with the number of calories burned in a workout. This range can also generate good results for hypertrophy by targeting slow-twitch muscular fibres. Finally, it is also suited to certain sports such as rock climbing, where strength-endurance becomes an asset on long climbs.
- Rest periods of 3 to 5 min are typical of the pure strength realm
- 2-3 min: strength-hypertrophy
- 60-90s: hypertrophy
- Less than 60s: strength-endurance. Some protocols such as Tabata intervals have shown to maximize VO2max gains by using extremely short rest periods (10s) and working sets of 20s.
Split routines are not generally thought to be for the beginner. They can however prove to be very useful for the intermediate who wants to maximize his/her strength gains or break through a plateau.
Split routines also offer the advantage that greater volume can be achieved for a given exercise (5 sets of 5 reps) within a reasonable time, and that workouts can take place on successive days whilst giving muscle groups that have been targeted the previous day a chance to recover.
Commonly, split routines consist of either a 2 day split, or a 3 day split.
Examples of a two day split could be:
DAY 1 (PUSH): squats, handstand push ups, push ups/dips, leg raises
DAY 2 (PULL): deadlifts, pull ups, horizontal pulls, planks.
Or a full body routine:
DAY 1: squats, handstand push ups, pull ups, leg raises
DAY2: deadlifts, push ups, horizontal pulls, planks.
Example of a 3 day split:
DAY 1 (PUSH): handstand push ups, push ups, dips
DAY 2 (PULL + CORE): pull ups, horizontal pulls, leg raises
DAY 3 (LEGS + CORE): deadlifts, squats, planks
Supersets involve performing two or more exercises in quick succession, with no rest period(s) in between. Typically supersets take two forms: combining exercises that target the same muscle groups in order to exhaust them quicker (i.e. push ups and dips); or exercises targeting opposite muscle groups (i.e. push ups and horizontal pulls). This last method is useful to shorten rest periods and keep a workout at a reasonable length.
NEXT: Some sample custom programs
NEXT: Some sample custom programs