Author: Dean Suazo, Personal Trainer & Functional Movement Specialist

How Should I Plan My Gym Sessions?

Anyone aiming to increase their general health and fitness should do a varied programme of weights and cardio training. When planning your sessions there are a few areas you should consider:

Your Goal

This ultimately determines the exercises that need to be part of your workout routine.

  • If the goal is to become stronger and build muscle, then lift heavy weights for lower reps – i.e. do 5×5 reps as opposed to 3×10 reps.
  • Do you need to increase speed or rapid response for your chosen sport? Practise more explosive exercises – ie. jump squats, KB swing or DB clean.
  • If the goal is weight loss, increase the intensity of your workouts to maximise energy output and calories burned – ie. HIIT or metabolic training

Training Experience 

If you’re a newcomer with little experience in weight training, you may decide to prioritise exercises with weights before your cardio. Getting your weight training in early each session will ensure that you’re attacking the weights in a fresh state, weights after cardio can lead to fatigue or a lack of concentration.

Split Your Days 

Decide how often you can realistically hit the gym. If you can only train 1-2 sessions a week, then it’s most effective to make every workout a full body one. If you can workout 3-5 sessions a week, you’ll need to break things up to prevent overtraining. 

Space & Equipment Available

Many people don’t think about their gym’s layout and overall environment when selecting exercises. If your gym is typically busy, you’ll probably want to stick with one piece of equipment at a time, rather than rotating through circuits and risk irritating other people in the gym. If weights are in short supply, it might be more efficient to perform as many exercises as possible with one set of weights, instead of trying to switch equipment five or ten times during a given workout.

Switch Things Up

You’ve come up with the perfect plan that works for you but to keep benefitting from it, you need to consistently change it. The body adapts in about 12-14 weeks to whatever stress is being applied, so you need to change up your workout routine every 8-12 weeks to prevent plateau. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out your whole routine to keep your body guessing! You can keep the same routine and simply change the kit that you are using, adapting your set and rep scheme or simply changing the exercise variation you use. 

Your Preferences 

Possibly the biggest factor that dictates whether an individual is successful in reaching their health and fitness goals, is adherence. Essentially, most programmes work, as long as you stick to them. If you dread the sessions you’ve planned, you’re more likely to talk yourself out of going. We all know that once we’re actually at the gym, we can usually talk ourselves into doing a little bit of anything. And a little bit of anything will provide greater rewards long term than a lot of nothing!