You also need to list what you want to achieve ie: squat 300lbs or perform 15 bodyweight pull ups, you need to have a goal or a specific target in mind. Once you have a goal or goals you can devise a plan to try to achieve them, a simple way to help you devise this plan is to develop your own means test and rate your self in different areas of your training.
Here is an example :
Flexibility – 7/10 – needs some work
Strength levels – 5/10 – def needs work
Conditioning levels – 9/10 – requires minimal work
Explosive power - 5/ 10 – def needs work
Muscle mass – 9/10 – does not require much work at all
So looking at the above it is pretty obvious depending on your goals that there is going to be a need for a plenty of strength and explosive power work and also some extra flexibility/mobility work too, conditioning sessions and hypertrophy work can be low volume as it is currently at a good level.
You can also do the same thing for certain lifts that you may be doing or even split it into movements eg :
Squats – 3/10 – weak as an Ethiopian weightlifter – needs plenty of work
Bench press – 9/10 - currently benching an elephant – needs very little time devoted
Pull ups – 5/10 – can do 5 bodyweight pull ups – still a lot of room for improvement
Lower body strength – 10/10 - making tom platz look weak
Upper body strength – 4/10 – the barbell alone feels heavy !
Core strength – 2 / 10 – how am I squatting such heavy weights !
Just from these simple scores you can pick which areas of your training you need to devote time to and which areas you need to put more energy into. It is virtually impossible to try and improve everything at once and if you do… this generally leaves you excelling at nothing apart from chronic tiredness. I know as I have tried to get stronger whilst hammering intense cardio sessions and I ended up getting very fit but not very strong so be clever and pick your battles. Training is like having different bank accounts if you keep taking large amounts of money ( energy) out of each account (think of the accounts as strength, conditioning, hypertrophy, power work etc…) then you will soon be skint ( overtrained ), where as taking money from one account whilst keeping the others topped up will keep you safe and ensure that you make progress.
REPS AND SETS
Now this will largely depend on your goals but in general if you want to increase :
Strength – work in rep ranges from 1-5 reps
Hypertrophy / muscle building – 6 to 12 reps
Power training – 1-5 reps ( lighter loads moved fast )
The number of sets you perform will also depend upon your goals and strengths / weaknesses. For a guy who is underweight he may do 10 sets of general hypertrophy work in his session and only 3 sets of strength work, for a guy who is built like Arnold he may do 9 sets of strength work and 3 sets of hypertrophy work. So there is no wrong or right answer to this. A guy who is under weight may also do his strength work in a slightly higher rep range than a guy who is already well built. This is something that Joe Defranco touched upon in his Westside for skinny bastards programme, he preferred a rep range of 3-5 for his skinnier athletes as that rep range had more muscle growth potential than doing 1 rep maxes which his larger already developed athletes would use. So you can see you have to be smart when thinking about this.
AVOID CONFLICTING EXERCISES
When designing a programme you also have to think about what exercises you put on what days. Now putting squats on a Monday and then deadlifts on a Tuesday would make about as much sense as doing squats on a stability ball. They are both heavy lower body movements working similar muscles so you would need more rest than this to recover. Performing squats on the Monday and deadlifts on a Thursday would give you plenty of rest in between each workout so that you could progress on each lift. Another thing to think about is… if you do conditioning workouts – how will they affect your weight training workouts. for example if you did 45 minutes of hard boxing training the day before a heavy pressing day then you may well find that you will be weaker as your shoulder’s will be affected from the previous days boxing. Likewise doing lots of sprints the day before a heavy squatting day can leave your legs weaker for the squats so this is something else to think about. The solution to the above problem would be to do the boxing the day before the leg training and the sprinting the day before the upper body session. What i am saying may seem obvious but you would be surprised at how many people fail to progress do to poor programming.
WHEN TO CHANGE PROGRAMME / EXERCISES
Now a lot of people will use the same exercises, same rep schemes, same number of sets all year round and while some people may still progress doing this… personally I prefer to change something every 8 weeks at least. This prevents adaptation taking place and also overuse injuries from using the same exercises over and over again. it also keep it more exciting for the person following the programme and does not allow them to get bored. Now you do not have to change a lot to be honest – you may keep the same exercises but change the rep schemes – so you may spend 4 weeks performing squats with the reps of week 1 – 8, 6, 4, wk 2 – 6,4,2, wk 3 – 5,3,1 then wk 4 deload and repeat again aiming to beat the previous 3 week scores using the same rep scheme …..then you may follow a different rep scheme using the same exercise so the next 4 week block may look like – wk 1 –5,4,3 wk 2 – 4,3,2 wk 3 –3,2,1 , wk 4 deload and then aim to beat the previous 3 weeks scores. Now this is simple but it works. or you could simply keep the rep scheme the same but changed the exercise slightly …eg : fat bench press – wk 1 – 5rep max, wk 2 – 3 rep max, wk 3 - 1 rep max , wk 4 deload …. Repeat cyle for 4 more weeks aiming to beat previous scores. Then you could change the flat bench for a decline bench and use the same reps as above. How often you change will depend upon the person and in general people who have trained for years and who are more advanced need to change more often than beginners. That is why some of the world strongest powerlifters who train at Westside barbell generally change max effort exercises every 1-2 weeks.
THERE IS NO PERFECT PROGRAMME
Very often I have written out a programme and sat their proud of myself like a little sad mofo and then a week into the person’s programme I have had to change something. Uncontrollable factors such as injuries mean that nothing should ever be set in stone and there should always be flexibility built into a programme. If I have a guy come to me who has only had 1 hour sleep, eaten 1 meal in the last 24 hours, his dog died last night and his girlfriend just dumped him then there is a good chance that doing his 1 rep max on the bench press may not be the best thing for him at this current time. Just because I have written something down does not mean that it has to be followed to the letter. Programmes should be followed as they are a guide to your goals but they should also be changed if need be.
DO NOT PROGRAMME HOP
One of the biggest mistakes I see people doing is to change their programme every few weeks …..one day it’s dog crapp training the next its 5 x 5 then it’s onto Westside. These people never make progress as they do not allow one programme to work as they jump ship before they can reap the full rewards. There are lots of good programmes out there such as 5,3,1 by Jim Wendler, Westside for skinny bastards by Joe Defranco, AMD by Jim smith, 5 x 5 By Bill Starr – all of these will deliver great results if a person sticks to it. I once trained with a guy who was unbelievably strong but he did not really know what he was doing ….. luckily for him his method of one day going as heavy as he could on bench press and then another day doing higher reps on dbell presses, push ups etc… was actually a great way to train, he was just lucky enough to come up with it by chance , not many people can wing it like this so do yourself a favour and plan what you do in future.