Weight Training Workouts

Weight training can do so much for your body. It can strengthen muscles, bones, and connective tissue. It can improve your balance, stamina, and coordination and it can even help you burn more calories throughout the day.  

One of the best things about weight training is that there are so many ways to set up a program. Anyone can find something that will work for his or her fitness level, goals, budget, and time constraints.

Below are some of the most common ways to set up your complete weight training program.

Total Body Weight Training

Total body training is the way many of us start out when we're beginners. In fact, it's one of the best ways to start because you want to build a strong foundation to support your progress. It's like building a house; you need a foundation first before you add the framing, walls, roof, etc. Otherwise, the whole thing will fall down.

The Pros

  • Great for beginners. You're able to target all your muscle groups with efficient, effective exercises, allowing your entire body to grow stronger and fitter without doing too much too soon.
  • Efficient. Total body workouts usually include about eight to 12 exercises, making it a great way to work everything in a way that isn't overly taxing for any one muscle group. It's the perfect way to get stronger without overdoing it.
  • Balanced. You work everything in one workout, so every muscle group gets the same level of attention, giving you a balanced body that will eventually be ready for more.
  • More flexibility.  You only need to do total body workouts two to three times a week, so if you miss a workout, you can always make up for it later in the week.

The Cons

  • Limited progression. Starting off with total body strength is great, but it's hard to progress once your body has adapted to what you're doing. Adding more exercises means longer workouts with diminishing returns as you run out of energy.
  • May be too intense. Depending on how you set up your routine, working your entire body several times a week could leave you dragging or even cause overtraining or burnout.
  • Can lead to overuse injuries. Because you're working your muscles harder and more frequently, that can lead to overuse injuries if you don't give your body enough rest time or change up your exercises.

Sample Total Body Workouts

Resistance Band Workouts

You don't need weights to get a great workout. Resistance bands offer a different kind of workout, involving more stabilizer muscles to control the tension of the band for each exercise. It's great to incorporate band exercises in with other free weights moves to give your muscles something different to respond to.

The Pros 

  • Lightweight. Bands are so light and small, you can easily pack them in a suitcase for travel or shove them under the bed if you don't have much workout space. 
  • Inexpensive. Bands usually cost between $10 and $30, depending on how many you get and the brand, making it great for exercisers on a budget. https://www.verywell.com/exercise-on-a-budget-1231127
  • Functional and versatile. You can use bands to work your entire body with a wide variety of exercise choices.

The Cons

  • Uncomfortable. If you're not used to using bands, the type of resistance and tension may feel uncomfortable at first. You have to build the endurance and strength to overcome that discomfort and get results. 
  • May be challenging for new exercisers. You really have to have perfect form to keep the bands going in the right direction and avoid cheating, which can be tough for beginners. 
  • Confusion. With bands, you don't really know exactly how much you're lifting, which makes it hard to know if you're progressing.

Sample Resistance Band Workouts

Body Weight Workouts

Using weights is important for progressing in weight training, but body weight workouts have their own advantages.

If you're just getting started, your own body may be all the challenge you need, and there are ways to make body weight workouts more intense. Doing compound, whole body exercises is one way to get the most out of your body weight training.

The Pros

  • Simple. Without any equipment, your workouts become simple and easy to follow. There's no complicated switching to different weights or equipment, so you can do everything in one place.
  • CheapBody weight workouts obviously save you money because you need no equipment.
  • Great for beginners and travelers. If you plan them right, you can get a great workout in your hotel room and beginners may find that no weights help them ease into strength training without overdoing it.

The Cons

  • Hard to progress. The body grows stronger by giving it more resistance than it can handle. At some point, you may find that your body weight workouts aren't working like they used to and it's easy to hit a plateau.
  • Hard to add intensityWeights automatically add intensity to a workout, but if you're only using your body it's hard to increase the intensity of your workouts over time.
  • Limited. Body weight workouts can be limited. You can only do so many exercises with your own body weight before you run out of ideas.

Sample Body Weight Workouts

Core Workouts

Working your core is probably one of the most important activities you can do for your body. Your core is involved in every single movement you make each day. Squatting, standing, walking, sitting all involve your core, so there really are no cons to working your core.

The only downside is that working your core doesn't necessarily lead to flat abs. You get flat abs by losing overall body fat and, even then, only if you work hard enough and have the genetics for them.

Work your core two to three times a week for the best results and feel free to incorporate core moves into your cardio or other strength workouts.

Sample Core Workouts

Circuit Training Workouts

Circuit training workouts are an excellent way to train your body in a fun, fast-paced, efficient way. With circuit training you go from one exercise to the next with no rest in between, giving you an intense workout that keeps the heart rate elevated and the calories burning.

You can do pure strength circuits or, as in some of the workouts below, you can combine cardio and strength in the same workout, so you get more done in less time.

The Pros

  • Efficient. These workouts move fast, so you're working harder in a shorter period of time. This is great for those with a busy schedule.
  • Fun. Because you're doing a variety of different exercises, these workouts tend to be more fun than regular, steady-state training.
  • Effective. Because you're working at a high intensity, you burn more calories and you get a greater afterburn, which means you burn more calories after your workout.

The Cons

  • May be hard for beginners. Circuit training workouts can be intense, so beginners may find them a little too uncomfortable at first.
  • Can lead to overtraining. Too much circuit training, especially high-intensity circuit training, can lead to overuse injuries and even overtraining.

Sample Circuit Training Workouts

Split Weight Training Workouts

Split routines are popular in strength training because they offer a little more bang for your buck. Instead of having to stick with just one or two exercises per muscle group, you can do more exercises and, thus, add more intensity to your training and work your muscles in a variety of ways.

The main difference between this type of training and total body programs is, first, the amount of overload you place on your muscles and, second, the amount of time you have to train. 

The Pros

  • Time-efficient. Splitting your workouts means you're working fewer muscle groups at the same time, which may lead to shorter workouts. These shorter workouts mean you may be able to combine them with cardio workouts, so you save time while fitting in all your workouts.
  • Effective. Because you're splitting your workouts, you can spend more time on the muscles you're working. That means you can add new exercises and increase the intensity of your workouts, which is what leads to great results.
  • More variation. There are so many ways to split your workouts, you have endless ways to change your workouts and keep both your mind and body interested in what you're doing.
  • You can lift heavier weights. It's much easier to lift heavy when you know you only have a few exercises you have to do, something that's harder to do when you're working your entire body. Using heavy weights allows you to build more lean muscle tissue and, as a result, raise your metabolism.

The Cons

  • More workout days. When you split workouts, that means you're working more days—that is, if you want to target all your muscle groups at least two to three times a week, which is recommended. That may be a problem for someone on a busy schedule.
  • Not much room for error. With split days, missing a workout means missing at least one or more muscle groups, which doesn't leave you much room for schedule changes.

How to Split Your Workouts

Upper Body/Lower Body

In this kind of split, you would do upper body one day and lower body the next day. With this kind of split, you could train four days a week and hit all your muscles twice. 

Sample Upper/Lower Body Workout Schedule

Day 1: Upper Body
Day 2: Lower Body
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Upper Body
Day 5: Lower Body

With this kind of schedule, you have plenty of wiggle room to add in cardio either with your strength workouts or on the same day, but at a different time. 

More Upper and Lower Body Workouts

Upper Body Workouts

Lower Body Workouts

3-Day Split Workouts

With this type of split, you can get into some serious work on each muscle group because now you're drilling down and giving each muscle group that much more time and energy. One way to create a three-day split is to break down each day with complimenting muscle groups like this:

Chest/Shoulders/Triceps, Back/Biceps, Legs/Core

In this case, all of the exercises involved in the chestshoulders, and triceps are pushing movements, so working these muscle groups together allows you to work complimentary muscles all at the same time.

Similarly, exercises for the back and biceps are usually pulling motions, which means the biceps are heavily involved in most back exercises. Again, you're able to work complimentary muscle groups at the same time.

Then you have your lower body and core training, which pair nicely together because your core is fully engaged in just about every lower body exercise. You don't have to work the core with the legs, but putting these together means you can really focus on the lower body, which is one of the most challenging muscle groups to train.

The thing about this kind of training is that you only train each muscle group once, so you really need to go for it to make sure you're overloading your muscles. Here's a sample schedule: 

Sample 3-Day Split Workout

Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Lower Body and Core
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Back and Biceps
If you're working hard enough, meaning you're lifting between eight to 12 reps and going to complete fatigue, working your muscles just once a week is fine. How often you train your muscles depends on how hard you're working and, of course, your schedule. 

Opposing Muscle Groups

Another way to split your workouts is to split them into opposing muscle groups. This type of training is perfect for someone on a busy schedule who wants to save time because you can eliminate the rest periods in between sets.

While you work one muscle group, the opposite muscle gets to rest, so these can be very fast, efficient workouts.

Sample Opposing Muscle Groups Workout

Day 1Chest and Back
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Legs and Shoulders
Day 4: Rest
Day 5Biceps and Triceps

There are more ways to split your workouts, such as training one muscle group per day, but that often starts to go into bodybuilding territory with much more intense training and specific goals of getting bigger muscles and, perhaps, training for bodybuilding contests. And keep in mind that you can change how you train every few weeks or even every week.

Try mixing it up so that you try a variety of training methods and you hit your muscles in a different way on a regular basis. That's how you make progress, get stronger, and work on a lean, healthy body.

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Article Sources
  • Bryant CX, Green DJ. ACE Personal Trainer Manual: the Ultimate Resource for Fitness Professionals. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise; 2003.