Must-Haves For Building Your Own Program
If you're a DIY kind of girl, you might want to build your own program. If that's the case, here's what every weightlifting regimen needs:
If you choose to build your own program, it should include compound lifts, accessory lifts, and a cardio regimen that match your goals.
Example Compound lifts
- Bench press
- Push press
Compound lifts are lifts that take more than one muscle group to perform. If you want to add some strength-building aspects to your program, be sure to include one or two of these compound lifts in every workout you do.
Along with helping you build lean muscle, these movements are important for increasing your athleticism, strength, mobility, and cardiovascular fitness. Because you use more than one muscle group to do these lifts, you need more energy (calories) to perform them.
Squats, for example, will give you more bang for your workout buck than leg press because you have to use more of your muscles and, therefore more energy, to do them.
- Biceps curl
- Triceps extension
- Triceps push-down
- Calf raise
- Leg curl
- Leg extension
- Front raise
Accessory or isolation lifts are used as partners to compound lifts. Depending on the volume of your compound lift, you can add 2-4 accessory lifts per day.
Bodybuilding programs are often built on isolation movements. Isolation movements are single-joint exercises. These are used to increase the shape and size of a body part—if you want to improve your aesthetics, isolation lifts are perfect.
For example, if you'd like to isolate your biceps, then you'd do biceps curls. To isolate your calves, you'd do exercises like calf raises which exclusively target your calf muscles.
Choosing sets and reps
The bodybuilder standby for sets and reps is usually 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. That's usually the right rep range for muscle growth (hypertrophy). If you're a beginner, make sure your first rep looks just like your last rep. If you fail on the 8th rep, use lighter weight. If you're unfamiliar with many of the movements, stick with lighter weight until you have a great foundation and feel comfortable challenging yourself; this will help you avoid injury.
Shape is great for your muscles, but strength is also important. To work on your strength, do heavier compound movements in the 4-6 rep range. Traditionally, compound lifts are done with fewer reps and isolation/accessory movements are done with lighter weight for more reps.
The less time you rest between sets, the more difficult and intense your workout will be. Short rest periods (30-45 seconds) will tax your muscles and your cardiovascular system. Longer rest periods (1-2 minutes) will give you more time to recover before you hit your next set.
Progression is the secret ingredient for every successful training program. It's the reason your body changes over time. You can't do the exact same movements using the exact same weight for weeks and weeks and weeks and expect new results. You have to constantly push yourself. Once you develop a solid base, increase the weights, increase the reps, or decrease the rest periods.
Your cardio regimen should depend entirely on your goals, likes, and dislikes. Here are some options:
High intensity interval training (HIIT)
HIIT cardio is the most effective for fat-burning, and it's actually really easy to do. Choose a cardio machine, a piece of equipment like a Kettlebell, or just use your bodyweight. The point is to do intervals of movement as intensely as you can. At first, go for something like 30 seconds of work followed by one minute of rest. Do these intervals for 20 minutes. As you get better, you can increase the work time and decrease the rest time.
If you loathe cardio and don't want to go anywhere near a treadmill, you can still burn fat effectively. Decrease your rest periods during weight training. If you generally rest 90 seconds between sets, start resting just 60 seconds. The minimal rest will keep your heart rate up and help your body use more energy.
Low intensity steady state (LISS)
This is probably the most popular form of cardio for most women. Who hasn't spent 30 minutes on the elliptical? However, LISS may not be the most effective way to burn fat. LISS is often utilized by bodybuilders or other competitors on extremely low-carb diets who just don't have the energy to do 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio.
If you want and like to run, then you'll definitely want some long-duration rides or runs in your program. If you're training for a marathon, half marathon, or even a 5k, do your long runs on days that you're not lifting. That way, you'll have maximum energy to put into your training.
Most people dread the word "diet" because it dredges up images of celery stick buffets and long lists of no-no foods. While it's hard to shake this negative association, it's important to learn that "diet" isn't a bad word. Before the media beat its true definition to a bloody pulp, a diet was simply any and all foods consumed by a person. Your diet, or the food you eat, is a crucial aspect to supporting your fitness goals.
The nutrition section of most weight training guides will try to shove a boilerplate nutrition plan in your face, but that's not how we roll. We want to instill the idea that—metabolically and physiologically—your body is unique. What works for someone else may not work for you. Understanding how your own body works and discovering your dietary needs are important concepts to remember as you form your own nutritional strategy.
All About Calories
Calories are essentially food energy that your body uses to power its daily functions like breathing, regulating your heartbeat, digestion, and so on. The number of calories a food provides depends on its makeup. Every food is made of a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Collectively, these are called "macronutrients."