Creating the Ultimate Workout Recipe
A word to the wise:
Being new to working out can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. For those of us who work out regularly, it can quickly become repetitive and boring if we do not switch things up once in awhile. By using the recipe to switch things up when you get bored, you will reduce the chances of your workout becoming boring and stagnant. For those of you who are new, it will provide you a template for your first workout. Choose your style of working out, identify the movements, pick the exercises, set your rep ranges and create your workout.
The first step of a workout recipe is choosing the style of workout you will be doing.
This is important because it will determine how you will structure your workout.
Different workout styles:
- At home workout – basic weights and bodyweight movements.
- bodyweight work – bodyweight exercises.
- Gym workout – access to free-weights and workout machines.
- CrossFit Style workout – An adaptation of Olympic style lifting mixed with cardio and athletic movements.
Identifying lifting movements and functional movements.
For my workout recipe I prefer to break movements into two categories. The reason I do this is because typically weight lifting movements are split into 4 types of movements. While on the other hand, functional human movements can be expanded to include 8 movements.
Lifting movements are what I like to think of as the “show muscle” movements. These movements will target the major muscle groups that are the most visible and also the most powerful.
A good workout must at least contain the 4 basic weight lifting movements. Personally, I prefer to include all functional movements. Because I work at a desk for most of the day, mobility is a big focus for me.
Lifting movements are the bread and butter of muscle building and are perfect for athletes, desk jockeys, students and anyone else looking to workout. They are also what I would consider the most important movements to master before experimenting with additional exercises.
These movements may appear simple, but keep in mind that although they are simple to do, they are very hard to execute with perfect form. Olympic weight lifters spend years attempting to master the movements.
Functional movements are the movements required for basic human function. It is not until we are old that we notice how hard it is to bend over and tie our shoes, or quickly turn our bodies to change direction or react to something moving quickly.
By properly training our bodies for functional movements, we will walk better, sit straighter, jump higher, have less muscle pain, and just feel better living our lives!
Figuring out which exercises target the correct muscle groups and movement requirements.
There many more exercises than I have listed below, however, I have listed the main exercise for each movement along with a few alternative exercises.
This movement will improve the muscles required for things such as sitting and standing:
- Front squat
- Goblet squat
- Box squat
- Bulgarian split squats
One of the most important movements for improving our ability to lift things up, and put them down:
- Hip thrusts
- Sumo deadlift
- Kettlebell swing
- Back extensions
Think about when you tie your shoes, climb the stairs, walk up-hill or pick something up:
- Side lunge
- Step back lunge
- Jumping lunges
Good for getting out of bed, pushing a friend’s car that’s stuck in the snow, looking good in a t-shirt and lifting things higher than waist level:
- Push up!
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
- Chest flyes
Great for pulling yourself up, standing straighter, saving someone from falling, and provides you a solid base for push movements:
- Pull up!
- Chip up
- Reverse flyes
- Pull overs
Turning your body is an important movement. Think of someone who has a stiff neck or back and can’t turn and look at something without turning their whole body. Great exercise for swinging a baseball bat, tennis racket, golf club, hockey stick, or throw a punch:
- Resistant band rotation!
- Resistant band push and pull
- Playing a sport
This one is pretty obvious. These exercises will improve your ability to walk better, carry heavy things, do your groceries, or run:
- Farmers carry!
- Loaded carry
- Going for a run or walk
- Sled pulls
Great for grabbing the cookie jar on top of the fridge, catching a ball in baseball or dunking a basketball. The reason athletes are required to test their jump is because it is an excellent test of explosive strength.
- Box jumps!
- Jump squats
- Box squats + jump
Picking your rep range.
If you are a fitness nerd or enjoy the science behind exercise, feel free to research deeper into the topic of rep ranges. However, if you just want the basic info, here’s the 3 main rep ranges to consider.
Strength and power! Also known as Myofibril Hypertrophy: 1-6 reps with increased rest between sets. You can take about 2-3 minutes rest to allow your muscles time to recover.
Make sure you have a spotter as this will be a very heavy weight and you will have to maintain good form to make sure you don’t injure yourself.
Building Muscle Size! Also known as Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy: 6-12 reps with regular rest between sets. Roughly 60-90 seconds between sets.
A good way to think about this is to start with higher reps and less weight, and by your final set you should have more weight and less reps.
Reps for Endurance! 12-20 reps with minimal rest. Roughly 30-60 seconds at most.
The idea of this rep range is to train your muscles to perform for a longer time under stress. This is good for endurance athletes like cyclists, runners, climbers or anyone else who needs to perform a specific movement for an extended period of time.
Creating your workout!
Consider Steps 1, 2 and 3 as the ingredient list for your workout. Use these ingredients to fill in the blanks for your style of workout. Below I have created 4 examples workouts:
At home workout:
Goblet squat – 3 sets of 8 reps
Kettlebell swing – 50 reps total
Dumbbell walking lunge – 2 sets of 10 reps (per leg)
Push up – 50 reps total
Pull ups – 25 reps total
Resistance band rotation – 3 sets of 6 reps per side
Farmers carry* – 2 sets of 30 steps
Skipping – 300 skips
*With the farmers carry I like to lift about 70% of my weight if possible. If you don’t have that much weight, add more steps to increase the difficulty.
Jump squats – 5 sets of 10 reps
Hip thrust – 3 sets of 12 reps (3 second hold at the top)
Side to side lunges – 3 sets of 10 reps (per leg)
Incline push up – 4 sets of 8 reps
Chin up – 25 reps total
Plank* – 3 sets
Sprint – 10 sets of 50-meter sprints (walk back to start between sprints)
Box Jumps – 30 total
*Get into the plank position. Once stable, lift one of your arms and reach under and across your body as far as you can without losing your balance. Switch hands and repeat.
Barbell Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps
Alternating jumping lunge – 2 sets of 20 reps (10 per leg)
Bench Press – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Bent over rows – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Side plank with cable tension – 2 sets or 30 seconds (per side)
Loaded carry* – 2 sets of 30 steps
Smith machine Jump Squat – 2 sets of 20 reps
*A loaded carry is when you have the weight, either a kettle bell or dumbbell, lifted to shoulder level. Almost as if you are about to do a shoulder press. Once the weight is at shoulder level, tighten up your core and maintain good posture before starting to walk.
CrossFit style workout:
Keep in mind that due to the nature of a CrossFit style workout, the rest times will be short and the rep range will be high. To reduce the risk of injury, make sure your main focus is proper form and technique. Leave your ego at the door and use an appropriate weight and no more.
Warm up – Walking lunge with twist
Deadlift – 4 sets of 10 reps @ 75% max weight
EMOM for 8 minutes (every minute on the minute)
- Front squat – 5 reps
- Dumbbell lunges – 5 reps per leg
AMRAP in 15 minutes (as many reps as possible)
- 100-meter run
- 3 pulls ups
- 6 push ups
- 20 box jumps
Pro tip: Make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you start working out and exhaust yourself to fast, you will end up skipping a future workout to rest or potentially injure yourself. Take the time to start small and work on consistency. Once the workouts become regular and you feel they are becoming too easy, amp up the intensity to challenge yourself.