Deconstructing the “Best” Workout Plan

I like to criticize places like Planet Fitness for having a “lunk alarm.” But I’ll make a confession: sometimes I wish I could sound the alarm based on conversations I hear at my gym.

Far too much time is spent arguing about the best exercise, the best workout, or even the perfect time to rest. Whether you’re a bro, a brainiac, or both, the worst thing you do in the gym is overthink the process and ultimately overcomplicate the search for the best workout plan.

I see far too many people trying a little too hard to figure out exactly how many reps of bicep curls need to be performed to add another inch, or if resting 23 seconds instead of 30 seconds will jumpstart the metabolic process.

The science of transformation is a timeless formula of less complication and more focus on just a few factors that work.

Your body doesn’t major in the minor, so it’s time to stop focusing all your energy on the insignificant details.

To reach your goals, many rep ranges are needed, rest periods will be varied, and some form of periodization should be incorporated. There really is no such thing as the ideal workout plan. There are elements that we know work. Styles of periodization, supplements with supportive research, and exercises that trigger more muscle activation. But that doesn’t mean there’s one magic bullet.

The proof of training diversity is everywhere. Research as far back as the 1970s showed that many types of workouts “work.” And new scientific findings continue to show the same thing. Need proof? A recent study tested rugby players who performed two completely different types of periodized programs. The results? Both ended up with great results, and participants in each group added a similar amount of strength.

Think Less, Gain More

The science of transformation is a timeless formula of less complication and more focus on just a few factors that work.

It means less time stressing the small details, and more time just trying applying the principles that work, and then seeing what triggers the biggest response for your body. In terms of muscle building, here’s what you need to know. 

The Rep Rules

I love heavy weights. Higher reps? The pump feels great, but they’re not how I love to train. But I know that both play a vital role, so they’re all incorporated into my training. If you really want to gain size, you need to push on all methods of growth, and that includes some of what you don’t enjoy.

Using low (1-5), medium (6-12) and high (15+) rep ranges to ensure that you’re triggering all of the processes of muscle growth. Because some exercises are best for gaining strength, while others are ideal for tension or creating the pump, you’ll want to include diversity in your training plans.

This doesn’t mean altering up your workouts every day, but it does mean going through cycles (anywhere from 4-8 weeks, or sometimes even longer) where you rotate your reps and the movements you perform.

Equipment isn’t a Limitation

Everyone knows that squats, deadlifts, presses and rows are staples of building a better body. Doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, beginner or advanced. However, too often the focus shifts too narrowly to the back squat, the barbell bench press, and the bent over barbell row.

Don’t get me wrong; these exercises are timeliness and the foundation of movement. But variations of these lifts from different angles (such as an incline press) or in ways that create different stressors (like doing sumo deadlifts or Bulgarians split squats) will challenge your muscles in ways that force change and adaptation. These are both good things.

And if you think doing incline press with dumbbells won’t help you build a bigger bench, then you’re falling into the same pattern of faulty thinking as the guy only doing 8 reps on every exercise.

Movements are transferable and even beneficial because the different angles—or doing single-leg or single-arm variations—are more likely to strengthen a weakness you didn’t even realize was holding you back.

Even “isolation” exercises, such as curls, shoulder raises, leg curls and cable exercises, will help create more tension at lighter weights that will allow for the pump and growth.

The Best Workout Plan Formula

Everyone makes too big of a deal about how long a workout should last. Is it OK to lift for 45 minutes? 60 minutes? A 2-hour soul crusher?

Ultimately, the right workout is the one you’ll complete every day. While growth is not dependent on how much time you spend in the gym (especially if too much of it is spent chatting or texting), total volume (sets x rep x weight) is vital to your gains.

That is not an excuse to start doing 10 x 10 of every exercise and expect your body to instantly grow.

You have to train your body to make the most of the increased volume. Add weights, reps, sets, over time, so that the end game is greater volume through a variety of changes, rather than arbitrarily thinking that completing a certain number of reps per exercise is the golden ticket to a more impressive body.

When you push on all the buttons, you’ll quickly learn two things:

  1. The types of exercises and design that work best for you.
  2. That focusing less on one aspect and more on the bigger picture results in a lot more gains and a lot less complaining.

Some days, my workouts are as simple as this:

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Bulgarians split squats
  3. Sled work

It might seem ridiculously basic, but for some of my goals, it’s incredibly difficult and effective.

At the end of the day, narrowing your focus and being able to maximize intensity and consistency will matter more than anything in terms of transforming your body and seeing the results you want.

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