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LET’S WRITE A GYM PROGRAM!

THE BASIC STEPS

By Andy Haycroft

Picture this: 

You are sitting at home on the couch two weeks into a quarantine. After the third round of binging the entire series of Brooklyn 99, you are starting to find it just isn’t making you giggle anymore.
“Something is wrong” you think to yourself.
“What ever will I do?” you say, letting out a quiet sigh of dismay, gently touching your (sanitised) hand to your forehead.

Fear not. This scene that is riddled with tragedy can be avoided, and instead replaced with only watching an entire series through just once, and feeling kind of ok about it because you can be fit-ish and healthy!

Read on to learn how to write yourself an exercise program so that your time at home works for you and your health. 

First off, I have been loving the online classes that have been going on at the moment and really do recommend joining in on anything you can find that you like. It means the instructor does the work of planning for you, you get the social connection of being live with other people (especially on platforms like ZOOM) and you can schedule it in your day so that you at least keep some structure. I do really recommend checking out who’s doing what you might like. 

To check out our virtual fitness classes, click here!

In the meantime here are my 4 steps for writing an exercise program at home.

Keep it simple!

We all want to be experts at everything, but don’t let not being an expert at exercise stop you from writing yourself a place to start.
Think about your major muscle groups – I’m talking Legs, Arms, Back, Chest, Shoulders, Abs and Booty. Yes you’ll work your glutes in almost every leg exercise but they are so important to ensure correct activation that I always like to give them a little extra love. No one has ever complained about getting a stronger butt.

I’m going to teach you a very important phrase:

Compound exercises – A compound exercise is one that uses multiple muscle groups at the same time to perform a movement. Basically, it’s the big easy moves that we all know and love. Squats, Lunges, Push-ups, Pull-ups, Glute bridges, Bicycle abs, Rows etc. They all move more than one joint.

When you google “body weight exercises (insert body part here)” make sure that A) the exercise is simple enough that a picture could show you how to do it in 2 slides and B) ensure that the majority of the exercises you are adding to a program are compound exercises (which, as you know from above, move more than one joint).

Unless you have a specific imbalance that you have had assessed by a physio, or you are a bodybuilder/ powerlifter, you probably don’t need to worry about isolating muscle groups. Eventually when you learn more about your body and training, those exercises will come up and you will be taught by the relevant people how to integrate them into your exercise regime, but for now, let’s just keep you moving.

So, what does a program actually look like?

As for building the actual programs, feel free to follow this simple formula:

  • 1. List out the areas of the body I mentioned above
  • 2. Find 2-3 exercises per body part, remember: keep it simple
  • 3. Plan for 10 reps, 3 sets per exercise or if you’ve got a timed exercise (like a plank or a hold in a squat), start at 20 second reps for 3 sets and increase or decrease time from there depending on difficulty
  • 4. Choose 2-3 body parts and make them a single program.
  • GLOSSARY: A “rep” or repetition is how many times you do the exercise consecutively without taking a break. You know, the part we always lie about when we say “just 3 more”! A “set” is how many times you repeat that your total reps

Remember – KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Day 1 – Back and Arms 

Day 2 – Legs, Booty and Abs

Day 3 – Shoulders and Chest

This last part is called “split programming” and everyone has different opinions on it. I personally like it because it means that if I’m sore in just one or two areas, I can do tomorrow’s program without stressing those sore spots that are still recovering. Of course if you want to, you can just do full body programs by simply doing one exercise for each body part to make 1 program and that will work just as well and is just a good place to start.

IMPORTANT TIPS!

1. Always plan in your warm up

I mean it. Don’t skimp out on your warm up! It doesn’t have to be hard core cardio, but it should always include the following:

  • Literally warm your body up with some gentle cardio such as light on-the-spot jogging or prancing, or fast paced squats
  • Light core exercises, so that you know your spine is always safe
  • Some light glute exercises (yes even if it’s not leg day)
  • And some slow controlled movements for the joints you’re going to be working on. Got leg day? Make sure you can move your knees, hips, ankles and feet in all the right directions. That could just mean doing really light, slow and easy versions of your first couple of exercises to get the right feeling, but you need to do them. Not only is it injury prevention, but you’ll know your body better and be able to work harder throughout your workout if you wanted to.

2. Rest matters

DO NOT SKIP REST DAY(S)!

‘WHAAAAT???” you ask me? That’s right! Your rest and recovery is the most important thing! 

When you are exercising, you are causing controlled stress on your muscles that they need to acclimatise to, grow, or become more efficient to cope with the stressors being placed on them. We all know that if we are under constant stress, we don’t do well. Your muscles are the same! A huge part of making strides toward your fitness goals is using rest to allow for recovery! To get stronger and get most of your benefits is when the body is using energy and nutrients to recover from that workout you just nailed.
However, rest doesn’t equal complete stillness and immobility. If you have completed a really good workout and you think a Netflix day the next day is what you need, I say treat yourself. Just make sure you eat well and pepper your couch session with regular intervals of movement (maybe that’s a gentle stroll up and down your hallway) so your body has the right stuff to heal your muscles with.

3. Make your program personal

You are probably the only person doing this program, so you need to make it work for you.
I personally hate working out for too long, so I always super-set my exercises so I can get it over and done with. A super-set is when you do more than one exercise in one set.

For Example

For me, my leg and chest day will look like this:

Squat x10 – Push ups x10 – Burpees x5. That sequence will count as 1 super-set. so I’d then take a 30 second break and repeat that sequence twice more. I’d then do one or two more super sets with different exercises and my workout could be done in 30-40 mins, though I’ve potentially lost the ability to stand. 

If you enjoy doing circuit training, you can set a timer and run through your exercises like that (40 seconds on with 20 seconds rest to change exercises is a good start if you want to try – just remember to still do a few rounds.) Or if you really enjoy taking your time, do your exercises individually.

It’s your program, do it however you like!

YOU’VE GOT THIS!

Don’t stress if you haven’t got all the concepts of exercise perfectly imprinted into your brain, or if you have questions, we all feel that way.

The most important thing to remember is you actually never have to do this alone, even during isolation & quarantine! Your physios and the whole team at Performance Medicine are here to help.

Taking care of your body is so important, especially with the expected decline in mental health during these ever-changing times. So take care of yourself, keep moving, and keep video chatting because together we are better. We may be spatially distant, but we’re never far from your screens.

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