Creating a Balanced Workout Routine
These days I’m not big into ranting, but today I feel a little bubbling annoyance about something I keep seeing again and again. Fear not, I have learned from my past and will take a more mellow approach this time…
If there is one thing that irks me more and more, it is seeing fitness “professionals” prescribing “Full Body” Workouts that, to me, appear to have had very little thought put into its design! Yes, you want to create an intense, fun workout, but you also want it to be benefiting the person and helping them to move in ways that won’t compound existing imbalances from modern day life –> typically these are: weak glutes, low back and/or knee aches, weak cores, instability, hip immobility and poor scapular retraction to name a few.
Let me give you a couple of examples of the types of things I see in these other workouts: All upper body exercises are pushing exercises, zero hip dominant exercises, no actual glute, hamstring or proper core work, no pulling exercises at all, far too much attention paid to isolation exercises, and WAY too many crunches! … the list is quite long, but you hopefully get the picture. In a world where everything is dominated by the Anterior Chain (the front of the body), I am on a mission to get people aware of their posterior And I’m not just talking about Get Glutes!
I’m not saying that my workouts are perfect, but I always set out to help improve people’s movement patterns by promoting balance between certain elements of training and it’s not my sole purpose just to get you to sweat … I want you to get good at the best movements along with getting fitter. I’m not sure why some other trainers fail to do this – perhaps they themselves have not learned the importance of including them. Regardless of the reasons, I want to outline what a balanced workout should look like, or show you what to at least aim for your weekly plan to include, so you can then make an informed decision about whether someone else is offering quality workouts or not.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on the Full Body Workout, but remember to always apply the same principles to any workout –> you are looking for balance between muscle groups and/movement patterns.
Full body workouts are the bee’s knees if you ask me; you can get more calories burned and you can move your body as a whole. I often apply the same “rules” to both my strength and conditioning workout designs because I see them complimenting each other. There may be some people who have different conditioning/strength goals than just general fitness, so I will leave it up to them to seek a tailored program to follow. For the purposes of the general population (and even me), this is the template I recommend.
When I am putting together my home workouts, I have a system that I go through. Before I even decide on the style of the workout, I already have an idea of the exercises that I’ll include. Each exercise falls under a certain category and in most of your workouts, you should try to pick one from each category.
The categories and example exercises are:
Knee Dominant Exercises: Squats, Lunges, Stand-Kneel-Stand, Pistol, Dynamic Squat etc
Hip Dominant Exercises: Single-Leg Deadlift, Swings, Good-Mornings, Vertical Pull
Upper Body Pulling Exercises: Inverted Row, Single Arm Row, Renegade Row, Pull Ups etc
Upper Body Pushing Exercises: Push Up, Military Press, Push Press, Plank Climber (combo), Burpee (can be used here too)
Core Exercises: Plank, Side Plank, Reverse Crunch, Diagonal Knee Tuck, Plank Jacks, Mountain Climbers etc
Bridging Exercises: Glute Bridges, Hip Thrusts, Stability Ball Leg Curl etc
Accessory Exercises (these are great to add in once or twice a week to strengthen other planes of movement): Rotational Band Exercises, Band Abductions, Lateral Lunges, Skater Hops, Rotational or Jefferson Deadlifts etc
Many times I will see other workouts made entirely out of Plyometric (explosive) or “Cardio” type exercises. This won’t get you the most bang for your buck, no matter what your training goals are … and you will likely acquire a joint injury along the way with all that jumping around, especially if you are a beginner or intermediate trainee (which most people are). What I have learned is, when designing a Conditioning Workout, you only need 2 or maybe 3 exercises tops that are classed as “explosive” or Cardio (and I often include the KB Swinging movements as one of them). Utilizing interval training or minimal rest periods, regardless of the exercises you choose, will allow you to build enough intensity through the entire workout while also getting a balanced training session for all the major movement patterns.
Another great advantage of doing this is that while you may not be using heavy weights during your conditioning workouts, simply because you are practicing the same movement patterns that are important in your strength sessions, you improve your form, your mobility, your speed and ultimately you stay strong at the movement, which is half the battle – and your joints stay healthy.
People often ask me why the exercises I choose are mostly the same. Well, I have seen the great results that these types of exercises brought to my own life and my clients’ (you see, I actually train clients and I happen to know the more complex and fast-paced the exercise is, the more likely someone will screw it up and get injured … why do you think I rarely include Snatches in my workouts … okay, other than the fact that they are MY Nemesis ).
Keep things simple and become a master of the basics!
- If you are someone who has been stuck doing workouts that focus way too much on the Knee Dominant, Upper Body Pushing Exercises and hundreds of Crunches, then I would advise you to perform more exercises from the other categories (maybe a ratio of 2 pulling exercises : 1 pushing exercise and 2 hip and/or Bridging exercises for every knee dominant exercise) for the next 6-8 weeks to try to redress the balance. Still do the other exercises, but add more of the Posterior Chain exercises and see how much better your over all performance becomes.