I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
It’s time to give away the “whenever I feel like it” scheduling of your training. Long-term, it just doesn’t cut it. There’s way too much variability, too much inconsistency and too little progress in such a method.
The BIGGEST point of scheduling your workouts is so that you stick to them. Failing to plan is planning to fail (see point 5).
Here are a couple of factors to consider when you’re organising your diary and planning your training days:
1. Your hardest workout follows your longest rest period.
Prioritise your hardest/most important workout to a time when you’re most fresh. If you struggle with upper body work, you might plan to do that workout on Monday after you’ve had the weekend to rest. You might train your upper body on Monday and Thursday, and have rest days on Wednesday and Sunday.
2. Recovery is more important than training.
For 3 days a week of training, Monday – Wednesday – Friday, or Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday is best. Space your workouts with rest.
For 4 days a week, Monday – Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday is ideal for CrossFit style training.
For strength/muscle building, Monday – Tuesday – Thursday – Friday works well. When the workouts between upper and lower body are split.
3. More than 4 sessions per week warrants a personal discussion
Training 5+ sessions a week means you’re a serious athlete with serious goals. Moving into 5 sessions means you’re squatting at least your own bodyweight for 5 reps, deadlifting well above that, and have many strict pull-ups and dips. Scheduling strength and metabolic workouts becomes important and warrants a more in-depth discussion with your coach.
If you don’t have any of those strength numbers, you don’t need to train that much. You need to focus your efforts elsewhere (diet, training intensity, recovery, sleep).
4. Sometimes you just have to let a session go
There are times when work trips, overtime and family get in the way of a good schedule. Plan for upcoming events and schedule around them. It’s better to accept three high quality workouts in a week instead of trying to do four sessions in a row.
5. Use a monthly calendar to plan your workouts
I like monthly calendars for a couple of reasons. They’re more long term than just planning a week in advance and it gives you more flexibility. Monthly gives you a more accurate representation of your training. For example, if you aim to hit four sessions per week over four weeks, that’s 16 opportunities to stick to your plan. It promotes long-term consistency.
At the end of each completed week, put a tick on the calendar. If you can’t tick off all your sessions, then you failed the MONTH and need to repeat the process until you complete them all.