How to Build a Weightlifting Routine From Scratch
Okay, so you’ve done your research, you know why you should get into weightlifting, and you’re ready to jump right in. Great! But, now what? You could watch a bunch of YouTube videos, follow some Fitfluencers, or download one of the hottest new fitness apps, but some of us just like to get our hands dirty and do things our own way. If you’re not the type to live by someone else’s book, but still appreciate a gentle spot, we’re here to help. Whatever your goals and no matter your schedule, use this guide to build a workout routine that works for you.
Define Your Goal
Despite what the guy in the way-too-tight tank top might have to say, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all in the gym. Your routine should be a reflection of your fitness ambition. You wouldn’t try to prepare for a marathon by squatting 1,000 lbs. every day, right? So, before you jump into that routine you found while scrolling through your phone, think about where you want to be in 3-6 months. Do you want to gain muscle? Lose fat? Build strength? Or improve your endurance? Though it’d be nice to get a little bit of everything, it’s best to approach your planning with a single objective in mind.
Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can start to balance cardio and weight training.
Make a Commitment
Consider all of your other commitments and decide how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the gym each week. There’s no right or wrong answer – pick something that actually works for you. It’s easy to be a little overzealous when you’re first starting out and motivation is high, but choosing something sustainable will be key to your long-term success. You’re more like to get frustrated and bail completely when you find yourself falling behind on unrealistic expectations you set for yourself.
Make an Outline
Once you know how many days you can dedicate to training, it’s time to make an outline. If you can only make it to the gym a couple of times per week, you’re probably better off creating a full-body routine. If your training schedule allows your muscles enough time to recover between sessions, you’ll see the biggest bang for your training buck when you spread your effort across all of your major muscle groups (chest, back, legs, arms & abs), every time you’re in the gym.
If you’re on a mission and plan to be in the gym 4+ times a week, it’s time to start planning what industry folk refer to as a ‘bro split’. With only a day or two between sessions, you'll need to rotate your training across muscle groups, to allow for proper recovery. Most people go for a push day (think chest, shoulders, and triceps), a pull day (back and biceps), and then a miserable day dedicated entirely legs. If you’ve got specific muscle groups that you think need extra attention, now’s the time to pencil those in.
Inventory Your Gym
Before you start planning your exercises, think about the equipment and facilities you have available to you. If you’ve got a small home gym, or if you're always in hotels, then movements involving Olympic rings and squat racks are probably out of the question. Similarly, if your workout space is crowded and you often find yourself waiting for a machine, extensive supersets, with multiple pieces of equipment, are also not ideal.
Pick Your Exercises
Now that you know what you’re working with, it’s time to pick your exercises. If you need inspiration, Jefit has an interactive database of exercises to help you plan; simply select a muscle group, and browse through their detailed descriptions of over 1,000 exercises. When you’re doing this planning, remember to keep balance in mind. It’s important that your pushing exercises (bench & shoulder press) are counteracted with an equal amount of pulling volume (rows & pull-ups). And I don’t need to tell you about the importance of the lower body – nobody likes chicken legs.
When you’re picking your exercises, it’s a best practice to prioritize your heavy compound movements (like squats) first and leave your lighter and simpler movements (like calf-raises) until the end.
Pick Your Rep Scheme
Now that you’ve got your schedule in place, it’s time for the finishing touches. There’s no perfect recipe when it comes to reps and sets, and anyone who swears by one magic number is severely misguided. But, there is a bit of science behind rep planning, and the structure you choose should tie into your goals.
If you want to build strength, your routine should centre on heavy weights and compound lifts, performed for only a few reps at a time. Look to pencil in multiple sets of 2-5 reps.
If you want to lose fat, you’ll want to focus on performing more repetitions, with less concern for the number of plates piled on the bar. Try to incorporate a few sets of 8+. It’s also a good idea to mix some cardio into your weekly schedule.
However you decide to structure your rep scheme, just make sure you’re picking up weight that’s challenging. And don't forget, nutrition is key.
Track & Tweak
When the planning is over, it’s time for the real work to begin. Take your new routine to the gym and start tracking your progress. When you find that a particular exercise is getting easier, it’s probably time to add some weight. It’s not uncommon for beginners to add 5 lbs. to their major lifts every week. After a while, your body will become accustomed to your new routine, and you’ll need to shake things up to keep your progress moving. Most trainers recommended adjusting your routine every 12 weeks or so.
After each workout, enjoy a recovery moment with a scoop of Suppy whey protein powder – it’ll be the best part of your new routine.