How many of you in life have ever made a to-do list? I would say probably everyone if not almost everyone reading this has either successfully made or attempted to make a to-do list at one point or another. Now, usually when a to-do list is made the things on the list are prioritized based on how important they are. So, if I know that I have to clean the house before my in- laws come over that will be marked as more important than doing laundry because I have enough to last me for a few more days. And that is also usually the reality of a to-do list; not everything is going to get done. Thats exactly what this post is about. Prioritizing your to-do’s in the gym.
If you’re an average gym goer odds are you are making it to the gym 2-4 times per week for 30 minutes to an hour, some more some less. However, most people that go to the gym fall into this category. So, if you are someone that goes to the gym there is also a good chance that you follow social media pages related to fitness, or watch YouTube videos on how to workout, or maybe even check the internet for cool gym programs. Or, maybe you just go to the gym and “wing it”. No matter what, the things you do in the gym have to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, we live in the information age so when you log on to the computer to read up on some good workouts to do odds are you will be bombarded with contradicting information from the top 10 hits on Google or Youtube. So, I want to provide some clarity for all of you going to the gym without a set plan, or even those of you who have a plan but just need a bit of direction on how to make your workouts more effective.
In the gym there exists a hierarchy of exercises. Some are vastly more important than others. For example if you were to compare a deadlift to an arm curl in terms of overall benefits for the body, the deadlift will win every time. Now, prioritizing exercises based on this hierarchy is very important if someone is seeking body change of any kind. Yes, this applies to fat loss, muscle growth, and everything in between. This prioritization becomes especially important if you are someone that has limited gym time. So here are some rules that I use to create programs for my clients.
1)The most important part of your workout is the warm up.
Just like you wake up and get ready for work, you have to enter the gym and get ready to workout. The warm up is the preparation for what is to come. Many people sit at their desks all day and expect to get to the gym and be able to do a perfect squat. Your hips have been working all day and are tight, you gotta get some blood flow going before you try and descend towards the floor with that bar on your back. Taking even 5 minutes to do a proper warm up will give you a massive advantage during your actual warm up.
2) For the average person squat, bench, and deadlift are king. Or some variation of the 3.
Olympic lifts burn more calories than The Big 3 (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) but most average people don’t have the know how or mobility to perform them correctly so they can be unsafe. That’s why for most of my clients we focus all of our lifts around squats, bench presses, and deadlifts or some variation of the three if someone does not have the strength or mobility to complete the three lifts properly. The Big 3 work every muscle in the body, which also means that they burn the most calories. So, whether your goal is mass or fat loss or “toning up” (To be fair I hate that phrase because most people believe that its different than fat loss and muscle building, but it isn’t) these three exercises are the best. Some of the best lifters and most fit people only do these three exercises or variations of them.
3) Follow up the Big 3 with some other kind of “Big” assistance exercise
The big 3 are great, but sometimes other parts of the body can be weak or “lagging”. For those parts of the body we want to use assistance work to work on them. These assistance exercises can be things like rows, pull ups, pull downs, dumbbell presses, shoulder presses, lunges, glute bridges, etc. Focus on bigger exercises that work multiple muscle groups to give you the most bang for your buck.
4) Prioritize Single Joint Work Last
Things like bicep curls, leg extensions, hamstring curls, etc. might give you a great pump, but they aren’t as important as everything listed previously in this article. These types of exercise should occupy the least amount of time in your training program. Think of these as the “icing on the cake”. Icing is great, but its useless without a cake. And if you don’t like icing, well find another metaphor.
5) If Fat Loss is Your Goal Combine Cardio and Weights
If your goal is fat loss DO NOT spend all your time in the gym running on a treadmill, or climbing stairs. It’s a WASTE OF TIME, unless you really enjoy it then more power to you. The best method I find for those who are pressed for time in the gym is to combine exercises into circuits for a greater calorie burn. Combine big lifts with cardio movements. A typical circuit could be three exercises and could look like this.
Exercise 1: Deadlift
Exercise2: Flat Dumbbell bench press
Exercise 3: Battle Rope Slams
Combining workouts like this keeps the intensity up and heart rate high so your body will burn a ton of calories and build muscle at the same time. Leading to a higher overall calorie burn in the long run.
Moral of the story is: Start with the exercises that work the most amount of muscle first and finish with the exercises that only work one muscle group. If you follow this blueprint for your workouts I can promise you a few things. One, you body will change. The added muscle activation from big exercises will grow new muscle mass and make you more “toned”. Two, you will get stronger. Using big exercises that work many muscle groups force your body to get stronger faster. Three, This blueprint is effective for fat loss and you will see fat loss if a proper diet is also followed. Use this blueprint to get the most out of your workouts. Thanks for reading everyone and as always, STAY STRONG!
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.