It goes without saying that people with different goals should be training with different methods. Someone who only wants to gain muscle should not be doing strictly cardio 5-6 days per week, and someone who’s main goal is to lose fat shouldn’t be only lifting heavy weight 5-6 days per week! In this article I will outline some of the most effective methods to train for your specific goals. The three most common goals are…
To gain muscle size and strength
To lose fat/weight
To lose fat AND gain muscle simultaneously (general toning)
Before we even get started, please understand that diet and nutrition will play an absolutely MASSIVE role in whatever your goal is, and dietary sacrifices will have to be made in order to achieve your goals.
First we’ll discuss the best training techniques for those of you who are looking to strictly build muscle size and strength. If you fall under this category you’re likely an ectomorph (naturally skinny and hard to gain weight/put on muscle) and you just can’t seem to put on any size no matter how hard you try.
Frequency - If you struggle to put on weight and muscle, your best bet will be to lift heavy and hit each body part 2x per week. A common split is the Push/Pull/Legs+Core in which you’ll do chest/shoulders/tri’s, back/bi’s, and legs/core each 2x per week. There are many other efficient splits as well, and it comes down to what works best for you and your schedule.
Type - Compound lifts will be your best friend if you’re trying to gain size and strength. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, lunges, rows, etc… are all great compound lifts that really tax the central nervous system and shock the body into new muscle growth. You’ll have to continually make progress, so tracking your weights/reps/sets/rest periods are highly advisable.
Duration- Your strength routines should last about an hour if not longer.
Rest- Rest between sets should be fairly long, as long as you need for muscle fatigue to subside. This way you’ll be able to give another all out effort for your next set. You should also be resting completely from lifting 1 or 2 days per week.
Sets/Reps ranges- It is widely accepted that lifting strictly for muscle size (hypertrophy) requires reps in the range of 10-15, and sets in the range of 3-4. If you only care about getting stronger and not the size of your muscle, you should be working in the range of 6-12 reps for 3-4 sets. If you want both, work in both rep ranges!
Eating - This one is easier said than done… EAT MORE! Your body needs an excess of calories to experience weight gain and muscle growth. Without this step you will not be successful. If you aren’t going up in body weight, eat more again. Still not going up? Eat more. Buy weight gainer if you have to, eat pasta every day if you have to. Whatever it takes to get your body to start growing.
2) Secondly we’ll discuss the best training techniques for those of you who are looking to strictly lose fat. Generally speaking, this would be for the moderately overweight and deconditioned population. In this category, most individuals are endomorphs (naturally thick heavy body type and hard to lose weight but easy to gain muscle) and probably find it next to impossible to lose weight and/or body fat.
Frequency - If you are overweight and deconditioned it will be very hard for you to exercise more than 3-4 days per week. It is recommended that you exercise one day, then rest the next, then rinse and repeat. Working out your total body 3 times per week is a common split here.
Type - Cardio will be your best friend. And don’t think of cardio as strictly sticking to a treadmill, elliptical, bike, etc… Cardio can also mean lifting weights at a fast face with little to no rest in between, therefore keeping the heart rate up and burning a lot of calories. A good mix of machine and free weight cardio routines is best here, whatever keeps you moving and keeps your joints happy!
Duration - Aim to get at least 30-60 minutes of exercise 3-4x per week, depending on your current ability level.
Rest - Your rest between sets and exercises should be kept at a minimum (<1min), and you should be resting 2-3 days per week especially at first (again, depending on your current ability level).
Sets/Rep Ranges - When doing exercises with weights for cardio it is best to keep the reps high and fast (anywhere from 12-20 reps) and roughly 3 sets. The higher reps will increase your time under tension and therefore burn more calories. The short rest will keep your heart rate up throughout your workout.
Eating - Once again, the largest part of the equation for overweight and deconditioned individuals! The focus here will be on quality, whole foods (which coincidentally have fewer calories than processed foods!). High protein and fiber will help you feel full longer, and therefore eat less throughout the day. You’ll also have to find healthy foods that you enjoy, and won’t get sick of in the long run.
3) Lastly we’ll discuss the training techniques for people who are happy with their current weight, but would like to lose a little more fat and build a little more muscle. Most people in this category are mesomorphs (naturally lean and muscular, find it easy to put on muscle, but can also gain fat more easily than an ectomorph), and while already usually fairly fit, would like to still gain more muscle and lose more fat simultaneously. That is no easy feat, especially if you are not a beginner (because beginners have less muscle and more fat starting out, so seeing an increase in muscle and a decrease in fat is much easier).
Frequency - 4-5 days per week will do the trick for most mesomorphs. A common split is 2 days on then 1 day off, rinse and repeat. A common workout split is the upper-lower split, where you will train upper body twice and lower body twice per week.
Type - A mix of cardio and strength training is what commonly works best for mesomorphs. The large compound lifts should come first, with some isolation lifts (one joint movement) mixed in (curls, triceps, calves, etc…). High intensity interval training (HIIT) on cardio machines or in classes is a great way to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
Duration - Roughly an hour per workout should be sufficient, if you do HIIT cardio on the same day as your workout, then maybe 1.25-1.5hrs max.
Rest - At least 1-2 minutes rest on your big compound lifts, then minimal rest (<30sec) on your isolation lifts.
Sets/Rep Ranges - 8-15 reps here, working on both muscle size and muscle strength at the same time. 3-4 sets will do the trick!
Eating - If you’re already naturally muscular, but want to lose a little bit more fat, try to get slightly more protein and less carbs (especially processed carbs). If you’re already naturally lean but want to build more muscle, try to get less fat and more good carbs and good protein (at least .8-1g per pound of body weight!). A lot of dieting is finding out what works best for you, and your body.
So there you have it, a basic outline on how to exercise for your body type. If you have any questions on the article please feel free to ask! Also, if you would like to look into training properly for your body type or having custom workouts designed for you, contact me asap!
Thanks for reading, and keep it healthy!
Fitness Fusion ACSM CPT