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How to get the best out of your workout

Get the maximum results out of your workouts

One of the most common goals we come across, especially during specific times of the year, is the ‘I want to Burn Fat and Build Muscle’ recomposition goal! And we get clients who obstinately still search for the latest muscle building fads to help gain the ‘fastest’ and most (apparently) productive results. Alongside to this, people also search for products and supplements to help accelerate the whole process.

However, what most people fail to understand, is how simplicity and consistency are the two most valuable and influential keys needed to achieve the results we desire.

What to ask yourself before starting your new fitness or workout plan:

Before embarking on a fitness journey, one must acknowledge their specific goal by asking themselves, “What do I really want to achieve from this program?’. Having a defined plan is the only way to measure your progress.  Whether you’re loooking to bulk up and build muscle to look like an Olympic athlete, lose fat, fortify your cardiovascular endurance, building your new physique will require dedication, time and a solid plan.

Second, is acknowledging their training status and physical capacity which can be done through different health and fitness tests carried out under the guidance of a qualified health professional. Keeping in mind that we are all born and built different from one another allows us to appreciate the different progress and results we see amongst each other.

The guidelines below are intended to assist novice, intermediate and advanced trainees in reaching higher grounds for muscle development. Keeping in mind that among novice or untrained individuals, physiological and neurological adaptations along with hypertrophy are seen in a shorter time (American College of Sports Medicine, 2009). It is important to remember and be contingent on your goals, physical capacity and training status.

Progression vs Maintenance Resistance Training

Progression in resistance training may be defined as the “act of moving forward or advancing toward a specific goal over time until the target goal has been achieved,” whereas, maintenance resistance training refers to programs designed to maintain the current level of muscle fitness (American College of Sports Medicine, 2009).

One of the main reasons leading to boredom, plateau and repetitive strain injuries typically occur after the same program is repetitively carried out over several weeks or months without inducing any change. Choice of weight resistance, exercise selection and order, number of sets and repetitions, training frequency, and rest period length, can limit training plateaus and increase the ability to achieve a higher level of muscular fitness.

The most important principles for progression within resistance training are progressive overload (gradual increase of the weight or load placed upon your muscles), specificity (where the body adapts according to the stimulus being applied) and variation (varying the sets, reps, resting time, load and exercises over a period of time to remain challenging and effective) (Kraemer and Ratamess, 2004).

American author, coach and speaker Tony Robbins once said,

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Training habits you need to incorporate to build your new physique

Therefore, in this context, if you are willing to improve your physical state, then you need to systematically change and improve the demands placed upon your body. Altering one or more of the following training variables can have tremendous effects on your body shape;

  1. Exercise Intensity – Increasing or decreasing the intensity to an exercise by adding more weight load / resistance can significantly improve your strength and gains for a specific exercise / activity.
  2. Total repetitions – Increasing the total number of repetitions at a particular intensity may improve strength, hypertrophy or muscular endurance..
  3. Repetition Speed / Tempo with different loads may be altered according to planned of the individual.
  4. Rest periods – can be varied according to goals. Shorter rest times (<60 seconds) help to improve endurance, while longer rest times are usually given for strength and power exercises (> 2 minutes). For hypertrophy, it’s normally somewhere in between.
  5. Training volume – the total amount of work performed within a session helps to increase muscle mass (hypertrophy). This is normally calculated by multiplying the total number of sets, repetitions and weight carried out throughout the whole session.

Apart from the above, hereunder are a few points to consider while planning your programs for safer and more effective results.

Exercise Selection and Order

It has been proved that both single- and multiple- joint exercises increase muscle hypertrophy (aka muscle gains) (Chilibeck et al., 1993). However, multiple-joint exercises, such as bench presses and squats, require more complex skills to carry out and have generally been regarded more effective for increasing overall muscular strength because they enable a greater amount of weight to be lifted (Stone et al., 1998).

With regard to exercise order, studies show that multiple-joint exercises (shoulder presses, squats, leg presses, and bench presses) performance declines significantly when these exercises are performed later (after several exercises stressing similar muscle groups) rather than earlier in a workout (SIMÃO et al., 2007). If your plan is to build muscle in the safest and most effective manner, place multiple joint exercises earlier in the workout for optimal gains (Sforzo and Touey, 1996).

Rest Periods

For novice, intermediate, and advanced training, it is recommended that rest periods of at least 2–3 min be used for exercises involving multiple joints and complex movements using heavier weights (such as the deadlifts and bench presses). For single joint and assistance exercises, a shorter rest period length of 1–2 minutes may suffice.

Frequency (the number of workouts per week)

Optimal resistance training frequency depends upon several factors such as volume, intensity, exercise selection, training status, recovery ability, and number of muscle groups trained per workout session. For those willing to increase their muscle mass, it is recommended that beginners should carry out a full body workout 2–3 days per week, training the same muscle group 2-3 times per week leaving a 48-hour rest in between. For intermediate participants, it is recommended that for training progressions, a frequency of 3–4 days per week be used (3 days if using a total-body workout, 4 days if using a split routine thereby training each major muscle group twice per week) (Candow and Burke, 2007). For advanced lifters, it is recommended that advanced lifters train 4–6 days per week.  Elite weightlifters and bodybuilders may benefit from using a higher frequency, for example, two workouts in 1 d for 4–5 days per week (‌Peterson, Rhea and Alvar, 2004).

Resistance training progression is based on the creation of appropriate and specified training goals, and it should be an individualized process involving the use of proper equipment, program design, and exercise techniques for the safe and effective implementation of a program.

Daniel Zammit

As the founder and director of PLATINUM, Daniel began his fitness career at the age of 16, acquiring his first diploma in ‘Instructing Exercise and Fitness’. Daniel enrolled at the University of Malta in 2008, to achieve his first degree in Physical Education and Sport, and in 2010 earned his Master Trainer certification at the European Institute of Fitness in Spain.

In 2014, Daniel acquired his diploma in GP Exercise Referral, which helped him branch out and attain experience while working with other health and medical professionals, including physiotherapists, psychiatrists. orthopaedic surgeons and general practitioners. Daniel has also trained athletes to compete in the Olympics as well as clients suffering from an array of conditions and/or injuries.

Today, Daniel is reading his master’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a particular interest in assessing and evaluating body composition and fitness components in clients. He also, works alongside with athletes who would like to improve their performance within their particular sport and to help them prevent any injuries which are likely to occur.

Favourite Quote: “The Only True Wisdom Is In Knowing You Know Nothing” (Socrates)


American College of Sports Medicine, 2009. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(3), pp.687-708.

Candow, D.G. and Burke, D.G., 2007. Effect of short-term equal-volume resistance training with different workout frequency on muscle mass and strength in untrained men and women. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(1), pp.204-207.

Chilibeck, P.D., Calder, A.W., Sale, D.G. and Webber, C.E., 1997. A comparison of strength and muscle mass increases during resistance training in young women. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 77(1), pp.170-175.

Kraemer, W.J. and Ratamess, N.A., 2004. Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Medicine & science in sports & exercise, 36(4), pp.674-688.

Peterson, M.D., Rhea, M.R. and Alvar, B.A., 2004. Maximizing strength development in athletes: a meta-analysis to determine the dose-response relationship. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(2), pp.377-382.

Sforzo, G.A. and Touey, P.R., 1996. Manipulating exercise order affects muscular performance during a resistance exercise training session. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 10(1), pp.20-24.

Simão, R., Spineti, J., de Salles, B.F., Matta, T., Fernandes, L., Fleck, S.J., Rhea, M.R. and Strom-Olsen, H.E., 2012. Comparison between nonlinear and linear periodized resistance training: hypertrophic and strength effects. The Journal of strength & conditioning research, 26(5), pp.1389-1395.

Stone, M.H., Plisk, S.S., Stone, M.E., Schilling, B.K., O’Bryant, H.S. and Pierce, K.C., 1998. Athletic performance development: volume load—1 set vs. Multiple sets, training velocity and training variation. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 20(6), pp.22-31.

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