Can You Provide Help and Tips on My Workout Routine?

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question-icon-newI have been training for about 6 months and I think I’ve hit a plateau. I would like to get your feedback regarding my current workout routine. If you see any issues, please let me know what you recommend for improving. Here is my weekly routine:

  • Monday – Chest and Triceps
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Legs and Shoulders
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Back and Biceps
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Cardio and Abs

My main concerns are:

  1. Sometimes I do 10 minutes of cardio before I lift weights. Is it fine to do some cardio before weight lifting or should I be doing all of it after weights?
  2. I read that chest and biceps should be trained together in a workout but I’m doing triceps instead. Is this fine? I do this since my triceps feel tired when I finish my chest exercises.
  3. How many exercises should I do per muscle group? How many sets and reps?
  4. Do I really have to change the type of exercise or routine that I am doing per month or every couple of months in order to keep getting good results?

answer-icon-newFirst off, congratulations on beginning and sticking to a workout program for 6 months so far. It takes a lot of dedication, discipline and hard work to follow a fitness plan and hitting plateaus along the way is a very common issue people run into. Here are my recommendations for each of your concerns and hopefully they will help you blast through any roadblocks so you can continue making progress!

  1. Yes, a little cardio before your weight lifting workout is fine and it’s actually highly recommended. A 10 minute warm up session is needed to get your body warm (increase temperature) and get blood into your muscles so they can be ready for an intense workout. Your goal should be to break a light sweat within 10-12 minutes of doing cardio. Warm up cardio exercises should consist of riding the stationary bike, walking on the treadmill or riding the elliptical at a slow pace before moving into heavy weight lifting.
  2. You can train triceps with chest but make sure all of your triceps exercises are done after your chest workout in order to preserve your strength for your larger muscles (pecs). You don’t want to work your triceps first since they will be fatigued when you start your chest exercises which will limit the amount of weight you can lift and the overall amount of stimulation you can force on the muscle group. It’s also a great idea to train chest with your biceps since its an opposing muscle group and a push-pull style workout (push for chest, pull for biceps) which is a training style that a lot of people like to follow.
  3. The total number of exercises for each muscle depends on the specific muscle group and the overall number of sets being used. Larger muscle groups (legs, back) need more overall sets than smaller muscles (biceps, triceps). A good rule of thumb is to do each exercise for 2-3 sets and then switch to a new one to mix it up and get some variety with your routine. It’s also good to hit the muscle from different angles so you can shock it into growth. The overall sets and reps per muscle group totally depends on your physique and level of training along with the size of the muscle group being trained. Everyone is different so it might take a few weeks to figure out what works best for your physique but you should focus on around 6-8 sets for smaller muscles (arms, calves) and 10-12 sets for larger muscles (legs, chest, back). Avoid training longer than 60 minutes per workout to maximize your muscle building hormones (testosterone and growth hormone) and to avoid experiencing any overtraining issues.
  4. Yes, it’s always important to change up your workout routine in terms of the exercises used, the repetition schemes (high reps, low reps) and the type of training. Not only should you change the exercises, but don’t be afraid to mix up the training styles such as using bodyweight training, kettlebells, TRX training, machines, free weights. Always try to think of new and different ways to stimulate your muscles so they never get used to the same routine day in and day out.

Some additional items I noticed in your current workout routine that should be adjusted include your Wednesday workout. You should be training legs by themselves on one specific day. Since they are such a large muscle group, try to focus on blasting your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves in this workout and give them the attention they need to grow. When you train legs the right way, the workout will take a lot out of you so you should always have a full day of rest and recovery after an intense muscle building leg workout. Since legs will take up an entire day on Wednesday, you should move your shoulder workout to Sunday so you can combine your deltoids with your abs.

Do not stretch pre-workout since you only want to stretch a warm muscle. Do some light cardio to warm-up before your weight training workout and then spend 10-15 minutes stretching after you get finished lifting weights. Stretching should be the last thing you do before heading to the showers. It’s also a great way to cool down and relax after a tough session at the gym.

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