The most successful bodybuilders and strength athletes are masterful planners. They have a strategy for everything they do, knowing exactly what they will get out of it. Developing your own one year workout plan can make sure that you never have to guess about your workouts, or your results.
Training in Cycles
A one year workout plan is easiest if you divide the year up into four training cycles of three months each. Each three month block is dedicated to a specific style of training, tailored to a specific goal. Starting with autumn, here is a sample year of training with an explanation for each block.
Autumn – Hypertrophy and Mass Training
In autumn, it’s still warm enough to wear short sleeves at times, but everyone is starting to cover their bodies. This is the perfect time to start building mass while ramping up into the winter block of the one year workout plan. By training for mass with higher reps and moderately heavy weights – generally, weights that have you failing somewhere between 8-12 reps – you will put on some muscle and solidify your musculature for what’s coming next.
Winter – Strength Training
In the second block of your one year workout plan, you’ll be focusing on strength. A 2010 study in the Journal of Pure Power determined that one’s muscle mass greatly influences the performance of strength training. The muscle you added during your hypertrophy phase will serve you well here. Increased body weight makes lifts like the bench press and squat shoot up due to the way the increased weight is distributed.
Handling heavier weights will mean using lower reps. A program like 5×5 could be ideal. In a 5×5 workout you lift the same weight, for whichever exercise you’re focusing on, for 5 sets of 5 reps. Once you can complete every set and rep, you add weight (5-10 pounds) at the next workout. Then you train until you can get every set and rep with that weight. Rinse and repeat. But 5×5 is only one option.
The key is that you challenge yourself with weights heavy enough so that lifting them for more than 5 reps is unrealistic. This emphasis on strength will increase your potential to build mass, and will send your appetite through the roof. That’s another reason to perform this cycle during the winter: you’ll need to eat more to grow stronger and you’ll pick up some extra calories. Don’t worry, the next block will give you a chance to put the new mass to work.
Spring – Circuit Training
In the spring block of your one year workout plan, you will be doing circuits. Circuit training is when you perform a series of exercises back to back. Essentially, this means you’re working out with very long sets. For instance, you might do 12 squats, followed by 12 hamstring curls, and then finish with 12 lunges. This increases your work capacity and time under tension, which will both accelerate your fat loss.
That’s the point of the spring block: fat loss and improving your cardiovascular fitness after the strength and weight gain of the winter. Circuits will have you preparing for beach season with every workout. When summer comes, you will have nine months of planned training behind you, and that’s when it starts to get a little easier.
Summer – Maintenance
Summer is the time to show off your body. Tank tops, trips to the beach, whatever you like. Your training emphasis during this block should be the maintenance of the strength and physique that you have built. If you enjoyed circuits, keep circuits in the mix. If you loved the feeling of the hypertrophy phase with high reps, feel free to throw them into your workouts.
Summer is a great time to mix it up and improvise in your training, as long as you don’t backslide in your goals. Keep in mind that the one year workout plan doesn’t end – a new training year begins at the end of the summer. You want to be able to jump right back into the autumn phase when it’s time without losing ground.
Physical fitness doesn’t have to be rocket science, but you have to be willing to strategize. If you have a plan, you have a better chance of achieving your fitness goals. With all of the stages of your progression laid out before you and the destination firmly in mind, it will be much harder to lose focus. Best of all, the one year workout plan produces results, and seeing results is what gets people hooked on working out to begin with.