How Your Training Program Could be More Awesome

By on October 8, 2014

I’m sure your workout routine is great and all, but there’s a good chance you could make it a lot better. Even if it’s technically working; if you’re like the vast majority of people, then you’re missing the mark in a few major ways.

Most workout routines miss out entire muscle groups, they mimic the techniques of athletes who have entirely different goals and resources and they don’t focus on the things that most of us actually want to get from a training routine.

To me, the ideal training routine shouldn’t just focus on cutting fat or on building big muscles. Rather, it should also be aimed at making you feel great and full of energy, at improving your flexibility and reducing pain and at improving your physical performance.

If that’s what you’re after too, then a ‘bro split’ just won’t cut it I’m afraid. Here’s how to make your training program more awesome…

most interesting man in the world gym

Stop Missing Out Muscle Groups

One of the biggest crimes that you’ll see often across workout routines, is the absence of exercises targeting specific muscle groups. Often things like the serratus muscles and the scapular retractors don’t get a mention, and this is fine in all honesty seeing as they get targeted by chest and lat exercises anyway. The tibialis anterior doesn’t get much a look in and that’s fine too seeing as it’s pretty much useless (it’s the muscle on the front of your shins).

But more worryingly, many workout routines entirely leave out the lower back muscles, the forearms, the rear or lateral deltoids, the obliques, the traps, the transverse abdominis and even the legs. Everyone knows they should be training their legs, even if they don’t actually do it. But just think how much more explosive, anabolic and powerful you would be if your workout routine did include legs…

I’ve talked before about how important it is for us to train our forearms and grip, but just to reiterate, this is what will make all the difference in your power lifts. Train your grip and you’ll find every other lift benefits, that you become better at climbing, better at grappling and even better at opening jam jars.

I’ve also talked about the importance of training the posterior chain. Those are the muscles running down your backside, including your erector spinae (lower back muscles), glutes, hamstrings, calves etc. These are again the muscles used in the big lifts and are also the ones that we use all throughout the day when walking. Training the posterior chain will not only make you much more powerful but it will also help to prevent injury and reduce a lot of lower back pain.

The obliques sometimes get a look in when it comes to things like twisting sit ups, but it’s one-handed presses that really benefit from powerful obliques and this is something that even many professional bodybuilders neglect (just compare the obliques of old-time strongmen with today’s bodybuilders).

If it is only looks you’re worried about, then consider that building your lateral deltoids will make your arms look hugely more defined and widen your shoulders considerably. Just adding a few shrugs to target your traps directly meanwhile will grow your traps and make your whole body seem bigger.

Train Muscles Proportionately to Their Size

Not everyone is going to leave out the important muscles of course. But even when we get it right and include all the muscle groups we should, we’ll often get the ratios entirely wrong when dividing them up into splits.

If you have a whole day dedicated to your deltoids and a whole day dedicated to your legs for example, then you need to really reconsider the way you’ve divided up your routine. The muscles in our legs are actually the largest in our bodies. That, and there’s lots of them. Meanwhile, your deltoids are made up of three small ‘muscle heads’ and sit at the top of your arms. You should not be dedicating the same amount of time to shoulders as you are to legs… it’s just madness! Bigger muscles should get more time spent on them than smaller muscles.

The most common culprit of all when it comes to this skewing though is the bicep to tricep ratio. Most of us spend much longer on our biceps than we do on our triceps because they’re more fun to train and because they’re forward facing. Actually though, the ratio should be 3:1 in favor of our triceps and if you train like that then your arm will be much larger and your functional strength will benefit greatly.

Perhaps the most dangerous example of this meanwhile, is when we create muscle imbalances that lead to poor posture or joint pains. Your muscles are the size they are for a reason. Making them bigger is awesome, but if you do that then they all have to get bigger proportionately.

Focus More on the Muscles You Don’t Like

Until lately, I’ve been really guilty of this one. I love my pecs you see, so I have always spent much longer on them than anything else. They’re massive and they’re super strong. Compared to the rest of my physique, they are definitely Daddy’s favorites (my hobby: making working out sound incredibly creepy…).

In fact though, a lot of the time I’ve spent on my pecs has been time wasted. My pecs are already massive looking and powerful and the ‘law of diminishing returns’ definitely replies here. Ultimately, my love for pecs has – as my Mum puts it – made me look like a turkey.

Meanwhile, my shoulders have floundered because I hate them and they’re not genetically inclined towards growth in the same way. Thus I’ve ignored them. If I had spent half of the time I spent on pecs on deltoids instead, then I would have a much more balanced physique and my pecs would probably still be the same anyway.

If you hate a body part or an exercise, that shouldn’t mean you avoid it: it should mean you do more of it. My new routine now has a higher ratio of deltoids to everything else and the effort is already showing. Do the same thing – find your weakness and hit it until it catches up with the rest of you.

Stop Isolating So Much

Both our exercises and our workouts will too often focus on a single muscle group. Whether we’re talking about isolation curls, or the fact that we have a whole ‘biceps’ or ‘arms’ day. This makes sense for a competing bodybuilder, who needs to build size and definition by focusing all their attention on a specific area. For anyone else though, it doesn’t really make much sense. Rarely do we use muscles in isolation and so it makes much more sense to train with compound exercises that involve multiple muscles in unison.

Not focusing on a single muscle for an entire session also ensures that you don’t end up with such fatigued muscles the next day that you can hardly lift a glass of water. Again, that makes sense if you’re competing, but if you’re not… what’s the point of having super strong arms if they’re always too battered to actually use them? And how are you supposed to play sports or engage in any other physical activities if you can’t move your legs?

I’m not saying there’s no place for split routines, I’m just saying you should seriously consider whether they’re right for you. If you’re a beginner, then the answer is probably not. And this is particularly true seeing as using more muscles in a single session will elicit a greater hormonal and metabolic response.

A lot of beginners would do better to stick with a full body routine (as long as it’s intense enough in each area), or to use a ‘push-pull’ split. These are also a lot easier to stick to because they aren’t half as complicated.

Make it Sustainable

I’m all for training hard, in fact I love it. But at the same time I do recognize my limits. There is no point creating a routine that’s incredibly complex and intense, or making a diet that requires you to eat 200 grams of protein, if there’s no way you can possibly stick to it.

A lame workout that you stick to is 100% better than an awesome workout that you only do once. So think carefully before you write that new program. Are you actually likely to stick to it?

This might mean you need to address other areas of your life too. If you currently come home in the evenings and don’t have much time or energy, then don’t expect to be able to add 4 hours of training to your regime and stick to it. Something has to give, so consider giving up one of your children for adoption… (Or maybe just being more efficient with your training schedule)

new training regime

Use More Than One Type of Training

My training regimes do not only consist of lifting weights. I have always run, done martial arts, climbed and used hand balancing. Today I have decided I’m going to try and incorporate some yoga into my regime too, because I’ve heard good things about it (I’m hoping it will increase my energy levels and reduce some stiffness I’ve been getting in my back). In the past I’ve incorporated Pilates, Tai Chi and all kinds of other things to find what works and what brings benefits. I do brain training too and I try all sorts of nootropics.

There’s no need for us to stick to just ‘one’ type of training because we want to label ourselves as ‘bodybuilders’, ‘powerlifters’, ‘yogis’, ‘CrossFitters’, ‘runners’… in short, you should be taking the very best elements of every type of training. If you’re too wedded to one type of training, then ultimately you’ll end up putting limitations on yourself. If you’ve ignored kettlebells because you associate them with CrossFit… what are you doing??

The same goes for your diet. Don’t just eat what you think is going to make you really slim, or really strong – think as well about how you can improve your sleep, your energy levels, your brain function… Be a bit more ambitious with your training and eating. Think: how could my body be better? The answer to that question is what your training is for.

And think as well about the rest of your lifestyle and how that works synergistically with your diet and regime in order to promote health and wellbeing. And when you do this, you’ll find that the aesthetic improvements come too because you have more energy and vigor to commit to a training routine, and because you have more power and strength to break through your plateaus. Because you’re not missing out any element of your health or fitness you won’t be as prone to injury either. And at the same time you’ll wake up with a spring in your step, you’ll feel energetic and vigorous throughout the day, you’ll be unstoppable in sports and competitions and you’ll be ready for anything.

That’s what a training program should be.

train rear deltoids

Note: Yes, this article uses Americanized spelling and I’m English. This is because I had to change my computer’s dictionary for a client and I get really stressed out by wobbly red lines…

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3 Comments

  1. This is why I don’t have a routine as such and just run around the gym doing as many things as possible while i’m there, going straight to the highest setting I can manage, doing 12 reps and then moving on.

    • thebioneer says:

      Haha! Not sure that is exactly what I meant… but if it works it works I guess! Sounds quite tiring though lol. Have you seen any progress with this strategy?

      • Dave says:

        I find it is good for boosting my metabolism and giving me more energy which is my main focus so in some ways yes

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