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How to Design a Weight Training Program

Design a Workout to Suit Your Needs

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Updated October 30, 2008

The best workout is one that suits your circumstances and helps you achieve your goals. You might be training for sports, weight loss, body shape, muscle building, weightlifting, or general well-being.

Whatever your aims, here are some factors to consider when you're putting together that workout -- either by yourself or with the help of a qualified trainer. Before you even get to the point of choosing exercises, weights and sets and repetitions, you need to consider these top-level factors.

Consider These Points When Designing Your Workout Program

Your age and gender. While not necessarily so, age and gender can impose some limits on weight attempted and range of motion in joints like elbows, hips and knees. Golden rule number 1: Start light, build up, and don't overextend.

Pregnancy. Being pregnant imposes certain restrictions, especially in the third trimester.

Existing health conditions. Weight training is being prescribed for an increasing variety of health conditions. You need to consult a doctor or appropriate exercise physiologist if you're recovering from a heart condition. Equally, you need to take advice from a specialist in physical activity for diabetes, orthopedic injury or abnormality, arthritis, or any other health condition that may need prescription of cautionary limits.

Time and place allocation. Don't bite off more than you can handle and then get disappointed and give it up. Figure out how much time you can allocate and include traveling.

Set goals and time lines. Same as above. Be modest with your goals and set achievable goals in the first instance, then reset the next goal a little further out and strive for that.

Choose a measurable goal. Be clear what you want. Ensure a goal can be measured so that you know when you achieve it. Don't just say "fat loss" or "muscle building." Estimate how much and adjust down if you realize you went for too much.

Sports. Be aware of the periodization principle. Break down your program into four phases: pre-season, early season, in-season and off-season. Various intensities and frequencies of training apply as appropriate. For example, you may need to cut back weight training in-season and rest completely for a few weeks during the off-season. Compound exercises aimed at developing strength and power should comprise the bulk of your training.

Bodybuilding. Muscle development is what you're after here. Compound and isolation exercises and a range of free weights and machines with sets and repetitions in the range 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions is what you should focus on.

Strength and weightlifting. Build general fitness with an all-round weight training program then ramp up the heavy lifting with sets in the range of 2 to 5, repetitions up to 5 or 6, and loads in the range of 75 to 90 percent. Concentrate on your particular goal -- general strength for sports and fitness, or get into powerlifting or Olympic lifting.

Super fitness. To be "superfit," you need to be strong, flexible, powerful, and have a high measure of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Incorporate variety in your weight training. Include movement as well as static exercises. Weight training circuits are a good example. Add sprint or middle distance intervals for superior heart and lung function.

Fat Loss and body shaping. This requires a nutrition and exercise program for best results. You need to do cardio and weight training and follow a sensible and healthy eating plan. Set enumerated goals for fat loss.

Summing Up

Consider all these factors before you get down to deciding on exercises, sets and repetitions. Once you have a clear view of what you want to achieve, build a workout schedule in conjunction with a personal trainer or put together something from the resources on this site. Then go for it flat out with your goals in clear sight.

Related Video
Weight Lifting Exercises for the Chest
Exercises for Biceps and Triceps

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