You only slept 4 hours last night. You skipped meals the past few days. You have a knot in your neck.
And now you want to do the planned workout that was written out 3 weeks ago. Something has to give here.
I remember the first time I found an online program where you could insert your current numbers, target numbers, and all your workouts for the next two months would be written out for you.
These are the exact numbers I will be lifting, this is great, I thought.
All I have to do is show up, lift these weights and I'll get to my goal Sure it will require hard work but even if I don't get there that day, it will happen soon enough.
Have you ever gone through this process?
You find a program that looks legit and you fill in your numbers (percentages of your 1 rep max) and get exited to start and reach those new goals.
Maybe you did reach some of the goals with the program. There are great templates (many of which I have outlined on this site) that will give you the structure you need to make some progress. But then what? Move to the next program?
I have a better idea. Here's a 3-step process to design your own workout plan. It will be perfect if you stick to it.
1. Choose Your Number One Goal.
If there was only one area you could improve, what would it be?
Pick a muscle group to improve, or to increase a lift, or to get down to single digit body-fat or to pack on 20 lbs. of mass.
This step is crucial. Make sure you decide on that most important goal before moving on to the next steps.
2. Determine Workout Frequency
Generally 3-5 days a week will work for most people. Don't skip this step either. Just saying you will go to the gym a few times a week without any predetermined schedule is not enough.
Write down the exact days you will train. And what time. It doesn't matter if it's Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday or any other variation. Just commit to a fixed schedule.
Once in awhile something will come up that will force you to change your plan but don't make it a habit. When you just don't feel like going at that time or you didn't eat your lunch or any other lame excuse to derail your efforts.
There is no perfect workout plan but the one you stick with for the long haul.
3. Choose the Right Exercises
First things first.
Every training session will begin with your number one goal. You have the most energy and strength at the beginning of your workout so prioritize the number one goal here.
This is simple if you choose a muscle group to focus on.
If your goals are to burn fat or build mass you will choose a target area you want to improve most and do more circuits/supersets with minimal rest between sets.
Once you have that figured out, you need to add in those exercises you love to do. Include the movements you are strongest with, and those muscle groups you enjoy training the most.
Keep it fun and have some variety in your workouts. Prioritize the number one goal in every session and after that you can go wild with your favorite movements and muscles.
Do this perfect workout plan for a month to six weeks. You will achieve significant results if you are consistent. After this plan, switch out your number one goal for a new one.
This is a great way to attack weak areas without burning out and still enjoying your workout plan.
One final tip as you design your "perfect" workout plan is to change it up after six weeks.
More does not always mean better. If six weeks worked well, maybe you can push it to ten or twelve and get even bigger results! Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
When you prioritize like this you will need to shift your energy away from the goal and choose a new target. Most likely you will be ready for a change anyway, so this shouldn't be a problem.
Have you been searching for the perfect workout plan and still can't find the right one for you? Stop searching!
Instead, start by designing a perfect workout plan for YOU.
Choose your most important goal, decide what days to train, and pick out the movements that will achieve the goal and also keep you engaged and consistent.
There is no perfect workout plan.
You need to allow for some flexibility in your program and to have some awareness of yourself and what's going on in your life.
How much stress are you under at work? Going through a divorce? Eating too much junk? Drinking excess caffeine? Sitting in a truck for long hours..etc..
There are many considerations that will affect your workouts. Be mindful of them. Don't just stick to the numbers on paper. On days you are feeling powerful, go for a PR. When you are fatigued you may need to lay off the volume.