For those of us just starting out in the world of weight training (and even for those who have been doing it for a while, if we’re honest), choosing the right workout can be a tough call. There is a huge amount of choice out there, whether you are taking your advice from your friends down at the gym, a personal trainer, or the thousands of blogs and websites out there. Each one has their own take on what works for them, or they have a new fitness product, technique, book or app to push.
So how on earth do you go about deciding what workout is right for you? Is there a straightforward strategy – and a simple set of steps – that you can go through to try and identify a workout that really works? We think there is – so here is our take.
Work out why you want to work out
It sounds obvious, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that it still shouldn’t be the very first thing that anyone who is looking to choose a workout should do: ask yourself, what do you actually want to achieve with your workout? Are you looking to lose weight, get an impressive physique or just to feel stronger?
This is an essential element of getting better at any sport or physical exercise. With clearly defined goals, you give yourself a motivational target. On those days when the workout is getting tough, a longer term goal can give you just that little bit of extra focus and perspective that is often enough to get you though the hard times. Knowing why you are doing something can help you to motivate yourself.
But of course beyond that, having a clear goal also allows you to make a more focused decision about what you need to do to achieve it. When you know where you want to get to, you can work out a step by step way of getting there. So, pick your goal, and then find the best workout plan that will help you to achieve it.
The big thing we’ve learned about fitness goals over the years is that you need to pitch them just right – they need to be realistic and achievable, but they need to push you too.
Taking this approach is actually a really important way of deciding on the right workout for you, because it encourages you to think honestly about what you can commit to every week. If you pick a weight training goal that requires you to be in the gym six times a week, and you have a young family and a full time job, neither the goal nor the weight training plan required to meet it are realistic.
So, as well as your goals, it is really important to think about what you can actually do, both physically and in terms of the time you have available. By not giving yourself time to do what you need to do, you will doom your workout to failure before it even starts.
Make sure you choose a workout that you actually enjoy
Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t take your weight training workout seriously. Or that every moment of it should be enjoyable. Of course, it’s going to be tough, and weight training, by its very nature, needs to push you so that your body will extend its physical limits as you get into shape. Instead, we’re just saying that actually enjoying the workout or weight training you are doing is a fundamentally important part of achieving those workout goals that you have set yourself.
There are a few good reasons for this. The most obvious is that as human beings we generally find that we stick to things that we enjoy and avoid those things that we don’t. Even in a gym culture of ‘no pain, no gain’, at heart we’re still more motivated to do things we like doing. And then, looking at the bigger picture of how we go about choosing a workout programme that actually works for us, motivation and staying the distance are absolutely crucial. All workouts, without exception, work through progressive repetition and if you don’t feel happy about seeing the programme all of the way through then it is unlikely that you will feel the full benefit.
So, the bottom line is this. If you can find a workout that helps you to realise your fitness goals, that is tough but achievable, and that most of all is enjoyable – then that is the right workout for you.