Lift for a goal

I’ve had a lot of questions about weight training and programming from people so I thought I’d try to break it down to the basics. These are just the basics, nothing fancy, however you don’t need fancy to be affective!

What is your goal?

You have to know if you want to build muscle, lose weight, lean out etc. YOU CAN’T DO ALL OF THESE AT ONCE! Yes you will have a body changes happening together but you can’t have 100 goals if you are a beginner. Set a goal, stick to it for at least 4 weeks, (6 weeks if you slack!)


5 Sets of 5 Reps

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Goal: Strength
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: At least two reps shy of failure

5×5 is an old-school strength method that works incredibly well for adding pounds to the bar. Low-rep sets of five let you go heavy, but 25 total reps give you enough volume to add some muscle mass, too. For safety’s sake, stop each set shy of failure to maintain proper form. I recommend 2-4 compound exercises, 2-3 times a week with this method. How you feel the following day or two after will determine how many times a week you should train (i.e. your recovery). NEVER (yes it’s all caps for a reason), train the same muscles back-to-back. Meaning two days in a row. If you are performing compound exercises this usually means skip a day or two before you train again. Compound means you are using more than 1 muscle to complete the movement.

1 Set to Failure

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Goal: Muscle gain
  • Equipment: Machines
  • Intensity: Failure

Using a single set to failure can spark quick muscle growth, especially in beginners. Research suggests that experienced lifters need more volume, but rookies can use machines to safely exhaust their muscles. But be careful—this method will leave you sore and tired. Also, I am not a fan of machines. They do not allow your body to work your stabilizer muscles for balance.

4 Sets of 8 Reps

  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Goal: Muscle gain
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: One rep shy of failure

Intermediate lifters with more muscle mass need more volume to keep growing. Four sets of eight reps allows for heavier loads to add mechanical stress, while stopping one rep shy of failure adds a solid amount of metabolic stress to force muscle growth. This method is one of my favorites. You can easily use this method with an upper body, lower body split. Meaning you’ll work your upper body muscles one day, then your lower body the next. You can skip a day in-between (or two depending on how many exercises performed), which easily fits into busy schedules! This method also works well for a triple split. No-I’m not referring to giant scoops of ice cream in a plastic boat split, but 2 upper body and 1 lower body workouts. The upper body is split into pushing or pulling exercises performed on separate days with your lower (leg/back) day in the middle.

10 Sets of 3 Reps

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Goal: Maximal strength
  • Equipment: Free weights
  • Intensity: Two reps shy of failure

Strong athletes can handle more volume with heavy weights. Ten sets of three reps allows for lots of heavy, low-rep sets to build massive strength and keep perfect form. This rep scheme works best with barbell lifts like the Squat, Bench and Deadlift (compound exercises). This method is generally used by body builders and people wanting to gain extreme strength.

Whatever option you choose, keep track of what you’re doing. Write down how much weight you used for each exercise and how many times you completed the exercise (sets and repetitions). Don’t expect to have huge changes in anything either. This can be discouraging to people at first, but you’ll quickly learn 2.5 pounds added to the bench press bar after a few weeks is a great accomplishment. You will never see experienced lifters trying to stack an extra 10 pounds on, because they think they can! This goes for weight loss also. As long as you are losing, you are doing things right. You may have a week go by with no changes. Don’t get discouraged.

So yes there are options, lots, and it can be overwhelming. Just remember these 3 things; pick a goal, keep track of what you do and switch it up every 4-6 weeks.

See you in the gym!

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