I’m 19 years old and in the past 4 months I have gone from doing absolutely no exercise at all to a fitness routine of going to the gym 5 days a week for strength training and 1 day for cardio. I have split my weight training workouts into different days and focusing on these muscle groups during the week:
- Monday: Chest and biceps
- Tuesday: Shoulders and triceps
- Wednesday: Back (lats, traps, lower back)
- Thursday: Legs
I alternate between different workouts and always make sure to have at least 48 hours of rest in between each muscle group in order to recover completely. I do an average of 10 sets for biceps, chest, triceps, shoulders and legs and I like to do 12 total sets for my back. I limit my workouts to roughly 75-90 minutes per session.
Having noted all of this, I have a few questions for you. Is there anything I can do to improve my current routine, as far as what I’m training on the same day and with regards to whether I’m overtraining or undertraining each muscle?
Doing this weight training routine leaves me with little time to do cardio. My gym is only open 6 days a week so I’m left with only 1 day a week for cardio. I have read different things such as doing cardio on weight training days and doing cardio only on days I’m not lifting weights. Is only 1 day of cardio per week enough or should I also do more cardio after my weight training workouts?
The reason why I bring up the cardio question is because I’m currently trying to improve my lower abs. I have a 4-pack right now but just can’t seem to get those last 2 lower abs to pop out. I have read a lot of articles that recommend doing cardio 3 times a week, but I’m hoping that since I’m weight lifting 5 days a week, hopefully that will cut my total cardio time down due to the amount of energy I’m expending while lifting weights. Is this true?
Your overall workout routine looks pretty good. I recommend giving your body a full day of rest on Wednesday and move your last two workouts of the week to Thursday and Friday. I would also move your back workout to your Tuesday slot and then do legs on Thursday and move your shoulders and triceps workout to the last day of the week (Friday). The reason I would structure it in this way is to allow you to train your big muscle groups earlier in the week (back workout on Tuesday) while allowing a full day of rest on Wednesday before attacking your legs which should be the most intense workout of the week. Your shoulders and triceps are great to train on Friday because this allows them to fully rest and recover from your chest workout on Monday and since these two muscle groups work as the secondary “helper” movers on chest day, they will be totally fresh and ready to go on Friday.
In terms of the overall length of your weight lifting workout, you really want to limit this to a maximum of 60 minutes, and ideally, 45 minutes would be the optimal amount of time. Since you are breaking up your muscle groups into separate days, you should not run into any issues with getting all of your sets in within this time period.
For your overall sets on different muscle groups, remember that size dictates the amount of stimulus. So, bigger muscles will be trained with more sets than smaller ones. In my opinion, your biceps and triceps do not need 10 sets. This is too much, especially if you train super heavy and intense. Focus on choosing 2 core exercises for your biceps and do 3-4 sets on each one for an overall total of 6-8 sets for your biceps. Do the same for your triceps. Your chest and shoulders can be trained with 8-10 total sets and your back and legs will consist of around 10-12 sets since they are the two largest muscle groups on your body.
Your concerns about the ideal cardio routine really depends on your current body fat percentage and your overall goals. Since you noted earlier that your upper abs are actually visible, this tells me that you are already pretty lean. If your overall goal is to pack on a lot of muscle mass then you can decrease the overall amount of cardio in your fitness routine. For someone who is carrying more body fat on their physique, this recommendation would obviously change. Since you are lean, you probably don’t need to do too much cardio in order to sharpen up your lower abs.
If I’m correct in assuming you want to pack on maximum muscle size and strength, then focus the majority of your attention on your weight lifting workouts and really try to train at a super high intensity and then get out of the gym to fully recover and grow. Adding too much cardio and other physical activities (yardwork, etc.) will only take away from your potential to pack on the greatest amount of lean muscle tissue.
To tighten up your lower abs, I recommend adding 8-10 sets of lower abdominal work a few days per week in order to really hit the area. Focus on:
If this doesn’t help tighten up your lower abdominal area, then you can try adding 1-2 days of light cardio into your routine but do them on days when you do not weight train. The perfect days to do cardio will be on the weekend. Get outside and walk for 45-60 minutes or ride your bike around your neighborhood. With the right ab exercises and a little cardio mixed into your overall weight training routine, your lower abs should start to pop out while maintaining a high level of muscle mass on your physique!