The Simple Workout Plan You’ve Been Waiting For: A Minimalist’s Guide
Open up the interwebz and search for training or workout programs and you’ll get a few million results, maybe more. You will find all sorts of beliefs, theologies and principles. You could read about several per day and never reach an end – you would die before that happened.
On top of the endless supply of info about training you’ll also run into countless complicated programs, techniques and systems that promise the best results backed up with science and allegedly lab tested. So, you sit back, take all this new and exciting information in and become completely paralyzed (figuratively of course) and motionless without action.
What’s your next move? Shut off everything and just throw your hands in the air giving up or maybe you set out to try the dozen or so programs you found hoping one will stick – one will be the big secret you’ve been looking for all this time.
It’s time to cut the crap and get back to basics. It’s time you knew the truth about training once and for all. Turn off all of your distractions, notifications and extra opened tabs and listen to some timeless advice about how you can finally cut through the weeds and find the answers you’re looking for.
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Why become minimalist?
The first step is to adopt a minimalist mindset. What is that exactly? Thinking like a minimalist is focusing and valuing the essential things in life and your training should be no different.
Think about a certain room of your house or your garage. Is it cluttered? Is it functional? Are you happy with the piles of junk, clothes or whatever else you have lying around, stacked up or just thrown in there?
When it comes to training you only have so much time to spend in the gym – if you have all day then consider yourself an outlier. You also have a limited amount of energy and focus to give your workouts. Why waste your precious time and energy on filler, wasted effort and useless exercises?
It’s time you did a little house cleaning and rid your training program of the unwanted junk. Let’s take a minimalist perspective toward your workouts and breathe some new life into your training and progress at a much more effective and efficient pace.
The minimalist don’t list
The first step is to identify what needs thrown out. Here’s a quick “don’t” list of things to avoid.
Don’t just haphazardly throw in additional exercises without knowing their worth. If you add an exercise for a specific purpose then by all means go for it. But if you’re simply adding for the sake of adding you may be taking energy and focus away from a following exercise which is a staple of your routine. Choose what is most effective, spend your time wisely and throw out the rest.
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Don’t neglect the basics. The big, multi-joint exercises are still the best for increasing size and strength. There’s no way around that. Filling up on countless isolation exercises without giving those big compound moves your undivided attention is a big mistake. Do you really need to waste your time on that high pulley biceps pose cable curl exercise?
Don’t jump on bandwagons. If the latest trend piques your interest go ahead and try a few new things you’ve never tried. But if you find your routine filling up with exercises that have you standing on a bosu ball curling with one arm and performing TRX rows with the other while your ultimate goal is to get stronger in the three big lifts (bench press, squat and deadlift) then you need to jump off that wagon and get back to basics.
Don’t succumb to the urge to add more and more volume. Adding sets for the sake of adding sets is another no-no. More volume taps your energy and recovery ability. Done over a significant period of time it will ultimately lead you down the path to over training. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it so resist the urge to do excessively more volume each workout.
The minimalist do list
Now that you know what not to do it’s time you learn about what to do.
Apply enough intensity. Showing up to the gym isn’t enough; you have to train and with enough intensity to make a difference. Going through the motions is like taking one step forward and one step back. On the other end of the spectrum you don’t need to smack yourself in the face and scream Viking battle cries before every set. Train with the objective to progress, add weight, perform more reps and then move on.
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Choose your exercises wisely. As stated before pick the big multi-joint exercises that give you the most bang for your buck. Bench presses, rows, pull-ups, deadlifts, shoulder presses, squats, leg presses, Romanian deadlifts and even some Olympic lifts all work a lot of muscle at once. Use them to your advantage.
Pay attention to rest periods. A big time-waster is the practice of resting too much between sets by giving your distractions your attention. How long do you rest between sets? A minute? Two? Maybe 10? Gaining muscle size takes relatively little time between sets – one minute normally. For strength gains a rest period of three to five minutes is best. Any more and you’re not being very efficient.
Practice consistency and patience. Most people fail to possess these two valuable assets. Changes in your physique don’t happen overnight. You need to consistently show up to the gym, train with progression in mind and be patient with the results. Keep pounding away each day and you’ll eventually possess a physique to be proud of. And you can say you did it the right way.
How to structure your program
Okay, so now that you have all the dos and don’ts out of the way how do you structure such a program? What does all of this look like in the real world? Let’s break down this process into some easy steps that will form the foundation of your program – simple and to the point minus the fluff.
The following will be an example for someone who wants to build muscle mass. Determine how many days per week you will train. For this article’s purpose I will choose four days per week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off as rest days.
How many days per week will you train each body part? Here, I will choose twice per week. That gives you just the right frequency while regulating volume.
Speaking of volume, determine the exercises and volume of each for each training day. When gaining muscle mass two to three exercises for larger body parts and about one or two for smaller body parts is plenty. Three to four sets per exercise.
Rest periods are next. For gaining muscle you will want to stay in the one to two minute rest range in order to properly fatigue the muscle in order to stimulate growth.
Have alternates on deck. Changing exercises is fine as long as you keep volume and rest periods consistent. Have a few back up moves in case a particular piece of equipment is occupied or you need a shift.
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The Simple Workout Plan
Perform the following program twice per week. Be sure to adhere to proper warm-up sets, rest periods and rep ranges. Feel free to replace certain exercises where you see fit.
|Monday and Thursday|
|Flat bench barbell press – Warm-up||2||12|
|Flat bench barbell press – 2 minutes rest between sets||4||6-8|
|Incline bench dumbbell press – 1 minute rest between sets||4||8-12|
|Bent-over barbell row or barbell deadlift – warm-up||2||12|
|Bent-over barbell row or barbell deadlift – 2 minutes rest between sets||4||6-8|
|Wide-grip pull-up or wide grip pull-down – 1 minute rest between sets||4||8-12|
|Standing barbell shoulder press – Warm-up||1||12|
|Standing barbell shoulder press – 1 minute rest between sets||3||6-8|
|Dumbbell upright row – 1 minute rest between sets||3||8-12|
|Hanging leg lift – 30 seconds rest between sets||4||15|
|Tuesday and Friday|
|Barbell or dumbbell curl – Warm-up||2||12|
|Barbell or dumbbell curl – 1 minute rest between sets||4||8-12|
|Parallel bar dip or close-grip bench press – Warm-up||2||12|
|Parallel bar dip or close-grip bench press – 1 minute rest between sets||4||8-12|
|Barbell back squat – Warm-up||2||12|
|Barbell back squat – 2 minutes rest between sets||4||6-8|
|Single leg squat or dumbbell lunge – 1 minute rest between sets||3||8-12|
|Barbell or dumbbell Romanian deadlift – Warm-up||1||12|
|Barbell or dumbbell Romanian deadlift – 1 minute rest between sets||3||8-12|
|Standing calf raise – Warm-up||1||12|
|Standing calf raise||3||8-12|
|Floor crunch – 30 seconds rest between sets||4||15|