The Best Training Programs For Your Fitness Goals – Muscle & Fitness

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Both the Internet and social media boast thousands of training programs, each promising the best results for anyone willing to fork over at least $5.99 or more a month. So, how do you choose the best for you?
Information overload and agonizing over the choice may be holding you back from starting. Hopping between programs is worse. Be honest, how many unused training apps are sucking the memory from your cellphone.
Finding several “great” programs aren’t that great if you wind up quitting after a few workouts. However, even the most pedestrian of programs will yield results—if followed consistently. So choosing wisely and efficiently does matter.
So, you’re asking yourself: Where do I begin? Here’s how:
Start by ignoring programs intended for competitive powerlifters, bodybuilders, and pro athletes. They may seem like can’t-miss workouts, but for your goals, it’s best to focus on choosing the plan you’re most likely to enjoy and stick to.
A novice or online trainer might start you out with a complex program filled with novel exercises you’ll struggle to master before changing them out every four weeks. Experienced coaches instead work from a small inventory of basic training program templates and customize to the individual’s goals, preferences, skill level, and injury history.
Let’s evaluate four of the most popular and effective training programs— the pros, cons, and how each would fit your goals and schedule.
Build a strong foundation to your training regimen with these fundamental movements.
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Most people don’t need to break their workouts into a body-part split. Experienced coaches know this. A program is often called a split, referring to how the work is split up across a week. If you’ve ever read a classic bodybuilding magazine you saw individual chest, back, shoulders, legs, and arms day programs punctuated with pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, and other iconic bodybuilders. Before Arnold’s era made body part splits popular, bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves, who portrayed Hercules in the 1958 film of the same name, built his physique with full body workouts. Steve was built like a Greek god.
A full-body program hits most or all major muscle groups in each workout, and multiple times across the week. Full body programs usually plan rest days between workout days. Full body programs are again popular as more coaches and lifters understand how versatile and effective this approach is for many common goals.
Full body programs are ideal for:
Full body programs aren’t optimal for:
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Per Bernal / M+F Magazine
Many people struggle to build leg muscle. Does it make sense to give your legs, which includes some of the largest muscles in your body, the same amount of time and training volume as your shoulders or chest? Making every second workout a leg day means proudly wearing shorts.
The greater frequency of legday training means training with greater volume. This leads to better leg strength and muscle development as long as you don’t train more than you can recover from.
Upper-body, lower-body workout programs are a common basic template of powerlifting programs. If the people who want to maximize strength start here, it should work for everyone else.
Upper/lower split programs are ideal for:
Upper/lower programs aren’t optimal for:
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Edgar Artiga
A push/pull/legs program rotates through three training days. All the upper-body pushing muscles and movements (think chest and shoulders and triceps) are grouped into push day, while the upper-body pulling (back, biceps) is combined into a separate day, while retaining the traditional lower-body workout.
This approach is one of the most versatile ways to setup your program. Rotating through three workouts allows for recovery of each muscle group as the others are being trained. All your bases are covered if you get the minimum three workouts each week, but you have the option of continuing to rotate through the plan and do more total training each week and get better results.
Push/pull/legs functions as a condensed version of a body part split that prioritizes more of the big compound exercises and cuts down on the number of sets and exercises of single joint isolation work. This means more heavy loading on your body and joints, so rest and recovery become even more important.
Push/Pull/Legs programs are ideal for:
Push/Pull/Legs programs aren’t optimal for:
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Per Bernal
Training one body part at a time is popular in the competitive bodybuilding world and among the last few generations of lifters who aspire to gaining as much muscle as possible.
Though body part splits aren’t as superior as once believed, the fitness industry is often guilty of extreme overreactions to trends and fads, leaving the truth somewhere in the middle. Body part splits remain a popular and effective approach to build a lot of muscle while enjoying your training.
A classic body part split breaks down into five major body part training days: chest, back, legs, shoulders, and arms. Upper traps is usually housed within the shoulder workout with abs tossed in anywhere or totally ignored. A common variation of the body part split breaks apart the arms day and pairs biceps with back(at the tail end of the workout), and pairs triceps with chest.
This approach also creates two rest days, which might be valuable for people who struggle to rest and take days off from the gym.
Body part splits are ideal for:
Body part splits aren’t optimal for:
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DaniloAndjus / Getty
If you require cardiovascular endurance for a sport or to pass a law enforcement, military, or firefighting physical, your cardiovascular conditioning takes precedence.
If you’re adding cardio for your cardiovascular health or to lose body fat, the best time to do your cardio is the time when you’ll actually do it. Separating strength and cardio workouts is optimal for results for both goals, but if this leaves you skipping your cardio more often than you complete it, you need a better plan. For many people with normal busy lives, 2 trips to the gym each day isn’t realistic. Whether you do your cardio before or after your weights, getting the cardio done is what matters most. So unless you’re a professional athlete whose job is to train, fit your cardio in where you’re most likely and able to do it.
Maybe you noticed all of the programs are ideal for many common fitness goals. For the vast majority of people hitting the gym, the choice of program often comes down to their preference and what they’re most likely to stick with over the long run. For athletes and other specialized populations, the individual pros and cons should be weighed, but these groups are likely to have experienced coaching and more specialized programs tailored to their sport and lifestyle. If you want some combination of being stronger, leaner, healthier, more muscular, and more athletic, choose an approach that fits your schedule, preferred training frequency, and the way you like to feel during your workout.
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