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How To Design The Perfect Weekly Exercise Program

October 9th, 2009

how-to-plan-a-weekly-exercise-program

I just realized I’ve been doing something quite quite silly. And I really must apologize. You see, over the past 6 months or so, pretty much every exercise-related post I’ve written has been lacking some crucial information. This could be because I’m so passionate about uncovering the truth about cardio for fat loss. I simply can’t stand hearing the same tired old lies again and again, particularly when it means that so many people are throwing away hours of their time on a useless regime.

So – I definitely didn’t do it on purpose, and I do intend to make up for it right away. I’m talking about designing the perfect weekly exercise program. It seems I’ve been so focused on sharing with you the right sort of cardio technqiues for leaning up, that I’ve completely forgotten to emphasize the importance of combining this with the appropriate weight training. Or even really mentioning how it all should go together for maximum success.

So here goes –

Weight Training

Weight training is the bread and butter of a perfect exercise program. Well, the meat and fat if you follow the nutritional advice on this blog, but you get the idea. If your goal is to live in a lean, strong, healthy, and well-toned body, then weight training is an absolute must. When performed regularly and at the appropriate intensity, it increases your lean muscle mass, which in turn raises your metabolism and helps you to burn fat all day long – even while you’re asleep! Weight training even increases your bone density, so it’s a great way of protecting and supporting your body for the long-term. Here are 8 basic rules for weight training:

  1. The ideal program includes a minimum of 3 days weights, and up to 5 or even 6.
  2. These sessions should be 40-60 minutes. No less, and certainly not more. At the end of that time, you should be well and truly shattered.
  3. There are many approaches to weight training, and I’m not going to get into them all here. What I will tell you is that if ‘getting lean’ is your goal, then one of the best approaches is to ‘superset’ (alternate with no rest) between upper and lower body exercises. This stimulates the release of muscle building and fat burning hormones.
  4. Rest time after each superset should be 60-90 seconds.
  5. If you’re pushing yourself hard enough, a good weights session should have your heart racing, and leave you fairly sweaty.
  6. Circuit sessions are also excellent for fitness and for fat loss. This requires 3-6 exercises, ideally targeting different body parts, and all performed back to back. Rest for around 2 minutes (less if your recovery is good), and repeat 3-4 times.
  7. Always remember to warm-up (by performing the first set of each exercise with no or low weight), and cool down (stretching) before and after each weights session.
  8. It goes without saying that you should only choose exercises you are comfortable with, and confident that you can perform correctly. You may like to check out my post How To Design Your Own Fail-Safe Exercise Program for more ideas on this.

Cardio

Check out these previous posts of mine for the full low-down on ideal cardio training.

How To Avoid Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor Syndrome

How To Makeover Your Cardio Routine (And Finally Get Lean)

Stretching

Stretching is easily forgotten, particularly if you’re someone who loves intense training. Personally, I used to think of stretching as a waste of time. talk about your big mistakes! In my early twenties I ran competitively, and I’d train for it day in and day out. Mile after mile, uphill, downhill, indoors, outdoors – there wasn’t a challenge I’d turn down. Unfortunately, my approach to stretching and recovery was extremely cursory, and I paid the price with some fairly serious knee injuries – one of which left me completely unable to run or even walk in the pool for around 6 months. Now you may not be running every day, but if you’re a regular gym rat or outdoor enthusiast then the chances are fairly excellent that you’re putting unnecessary strain on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. And while some people are more limber than others by nature, and can ‘get away with it’, all of us definitely need some flexibility work. I’d recommend at least 10 minutes for every 45 minutes of tough training. If you can’t motivate yourself to stretch, or aren’t sure where to start, then do what I did and commit to a stretching class of some type. With a yoga studio on nearly every street corner you really don’t have an excuse!

Putting It All Together

It’s up to you to decide which days best suit you for training, and how many days each week you can commit to working out – always remembering you need at least 1 or 2 days off from the tough training (sometimes I stretch on my days off, other times I make it a total nothing day). To give you an idea though, a typical week might look like this:

Monday – 45 minutes weights, 15 minutes interval cardio, 10 minutes stretch

Tuesday – stretch class

Wednesday – 45-60 minutes weights, 10 minutes stretch

Thursday – 20 minutes interval cardio, 10 minutes stretch

Friday – off, or stretching at home

Saturday – 45 minutes weights, 10 minutes stretch

Sunday – off

Keep in mind that I don’t know your particular goals and exercise history, so the above is really just a starting point. You may find it completely unrealistic to put aside that much time for exercise, in which case I’d recommend you start with whatever you can fit in. Your progress may be slower, but trust me – you most definitely will be progressing as long as you’re doing even 10 minutes of quality exercise each day. While I do believe that the above outline is ideal, I also know that it’s better to start with something and build up, rather than wait for the time when life gives you the freedom to do whatever you’d like. As long as you’re being honest and not just making excuses of course!

And if you’re completely in the opposite boat (thinking that the above looks pretty basic), then well-done you! If you’re going to add more training in, start with 1 or 2 additional weights sessions, and a maximum of 1 more cardio session of around 15-20 minutes. You might also like to try setting a day aside for a sport or outdoor activity. Exercise doesn’t have to be 100% structured, and many people find the greatest enjoyment comes from challenging themselves with something new outside the gym.

Life is Now. Press Play.

Kat

If you have any questions about further fine-tuning your exercise program, or would like to suggest some tips for how best to incorporate regular exercise into a busy life, then please comment below. In fact –

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12 people have commented
  1. Corey A says:

    Great post Kat – this definitely helps to put it all together.

  2. Carla says:

    Thank you for posting a program for us!

    I work out exclusively at home at this point and use hand weights for my “weight training”. I also have a spinning bike for my interval training, and a yoga mat. Since I don’t have the convenience of gym weight machines, what do you suggest for those of us who work out from home?

    • Kat says:

      Thanks Corey!

      Hi Carla. Good point! You can definitely use the tips in this post for either an at-home workout or a gym workout. In some ways, an at-home session is easier, as you don’t have to move from one side of the gym to another when combining different exercises and you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your equipment. Besides which, I would encourage all exercisers to use mainly free weights as a staple regardless of location. When training at home, you’ll ideally need a good set of adaptable dumbells, and an exercise ball suited for your height. You can buy an entire set of dumbells or barbells, but that gets pricey. You may also need a bench. Having one or even two pairs of dumbells won’t usually cut it, as lower body exercises (for example), demand so much more weight than upper body. In most cases, anyway. For more ideas on putting an at-home program together visit my post on Dumb Little Man – How To Design Your Own Fail-Safe Exercise Program. The link is above.

  3. Carla says:

    @Kat – Thank you for pointing out that link! I dont have the space for dumbbells and benches, so if worst comes to worst, joining a gym would be easier for me.

  4. Elyse says:

    Thank you. =)

  5. Katelyn says:

    I am so glad i found this site. I have been working out all my life and i love it but get so frustrated when I see my husband or my friend lose weight and tone and nothing happens to me…even after 2-3 months of hitting the gym pretty hard. I have been focusing on cardio because I thought that I needed that more than anything. I was also under the impression to get rid of my fat I have to run or do more aerobic classes. Well, i even started to do 5ks and still have not lost any weight. I am 5’6.5″ and weigh 166. I know that sounds alot but I have a funny shape. I am small in the waist and have a very round booty and hips on me, thanks to my mother. I am told I am very lucky to have this figure…however, I just want to be happy and stay consistant. I am up and down and up and down its not even funny. I was deployed twice and was in great shape, mainly because I walked EVERYWHERE and worked out more often when there was nothing to do. So this week i got back into my p90x cds and my billy blanks cds. I did the cardio x on monday and yesterday was basically 45 min of kickboxing that worked alot of lower body and some upper. My question for you is, now that i know I need to focus more on weight training, is it okay to do the p90x strength training with the bands and mix it up with some plyometrics and other cardio moves from the dvds as a way to get toned and lose some of this jiggle?

    Thanks for your help

    K

    • Kat says:

      Hi Katelyn,
      My pleasure, I’m glad you like the site! I haven’t heard of p90x before, and when I Googled it all I could find were sales pages. It didn’t explain the concept. In theory any sort of strength training is good, keeping in mind that strength training is pretty much defined as lifting heavy reps for about 8-12 reps, with a tempo that allows a total work time for each set of 70 seconds. Circuit style training and training that incorporates plyo and cardio work is also great, but it’s not the same as strength training. A combination would be ideal. Sorry, but it’s hard for me to say more when I’m not familiar with the system. Make sure you also review the nutrition posts on this blog and good luck with your journey – you definitely have the right attitude!
      Kat

  6. Katelyn says:

    you can find the p90x info on beachbody.com I enjoy it but you really have to pace yourself or you will want to quit come week 2.

  7. Kat Eden says:

    That site still doesn’t explain the science behind the system, I’d need to know details of tempo, load, intensity, sets, reps, volume, rest etc before I could comment. But if you enjoy it and you feel you’re getting results then stick with it! It certainly looks good at face value.

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