The gym can be a bit of a minefield, especially if you’re only just beginning your fitness journey.
Intensity, frequency, volume, splits and weight are the main five you’ll need to consider, and actually it’s pretty simple, because it’s all up to you.
There is no ‘right’ way to train, although you’ll get people trying to tell you there is. The only correct way for you to train is one you enjoy. If you hate cardio, don’t do it. If you’re a runner and see no need for weights, stay on the treadmill. It really is that simple.
But, if you are a gym newbie, or want to know more about making your training suit you and your needs, what are your options?
How intense are you going to go? If you’re new, don’t push it: you can’t go balls to the wall every session because your body will not be able to cope and you’ll end up with muscle fatigue and wanting a week or four off the gym. Don’t start with drop sets, super sets or giant sets if you’ve only ever lifted a few weights before. Start with an intensity that suits you and your needs. A good place to start is with full body workouts, doing couple of exercises for each muscle group with 3-4 sets for each, before working your way up to more intense sessions.
Again, it’s all about taking it slowly and being clever about it. As a beginner, three days a week at the gym is fine, and more than enough. As your stamina increases and your recovery improves, up the frequency and even the amount of time you train. I personally never tend to go over an hour/one hour ten, because I’m fatigued by that point. A good starting point would be 45 minutes, and then slowly increasing it as you improve.
For more advanced gym-goers, you’ll want to start thinking more about the volume of each session, and what your long term goals are. At the moment, I am doing strength training a couple of days a week, and volume the other three. At the beginning of the week, I’ll go heavy, concentrating on building up my overall strength with sets of no more than 6 reps. In turn, as my strength goes up, it means my volume training can focus on even heavier sets for reps/reps to failure to failure e.g. I used to dumbbell shoulder press 7.5kg for reps in December, and I’m not up to 10kg for 12+. Both types of training are vital for increasing not only your overall strength but your muscle too: the heavier you can go when working within hypertrophy rep ranges, the more muscle you will build. It’s science.
I like to switch up my splits quite often, but at the moment I’m doing legs (three times per week, with at least one strength session and insuring I include all compound lifts each week), one push session, one pull session, and 10-20 minutes of abs at the end of each of my push and pull days. It’s whatever works for you, and the best part is that when you get bored of your splits, you can easily change them up. I used to do three upper body days to two lower body, but because my main aim now is to build as much muscle on my legs and glutes as possible, it makes sense for me t train lower body more often.
This of course ties in with volume. The stronger you get, the heavier you’ll be able to lift not only on strength days, but on volume days too. It’s good to have numbers in mind you want to hit. This year, I want to hit 100lg deadlift, 200kg leg press for more than one rep (I hit 1 the other day – just about!), 150kg hip thrusts, and a good 50kg squat (my squat is perfect bodyweight, but pretty bad with weight because my hips are super tight). As for weight in general for other exercises, find what suits you: don’t be afraid to go a bit heavier, and if your form isn’t there or you’ve overshot it a little, don’t worry, knock it down and keep doing. Don’t be one of those guys (or dickheads) who are doing half reps because the weight is too heavy for them.
Be confident, but be smart. And, most importantly, enjoy it. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong if you love what you’re doing.