blog » June 3, 2019 by Renee

#30Seconds In-Depth: How to Create a Workout Program With Personal Fitness Trainer Megan Abbott by Renee

Blog Fitness
4 years ago
#30Seconds In-Depth: How to Create a Workout Program With Personal Fitness Trainer Megan Abbott

Do you want to start a workout routine but don’t know where to start? Are you confused on how to incorporate both cardio and strength training? Don’t worry! Fitness expert Megan Abbott shared how to create your own workout program to help you meet your goals! Megan is a general manager of a mobile personal training company called Gymguyz and is a certified personal trainer with specialties in MMA conditioning and senior fitness. She has been involved in the fitness industry since 2015 and has a passion for helping people feel strong and confident.

Q: How many days a week should you workout and for how long?

The key to success with any workout program is consistency. When I start working with a new client, I sit down with them and really look at a specific goal that is feasible (but challenging) in the next 12 weeks, six months and one year. Then, we go over realistically how many days and how much time can they dedicate to working out. I recommend at least three days a week for 30 minutes. I would say ideally four days for 45 to 60 minutes, but whatever you can realistically commit to is the best option.

I have my clients schedule each session two weeks at a time in their calendar, and they hold themselves accountable to workout during those schedule’s days/times each week. No matter what, I always recommend one full day of rest. As much as working out is important, rest is just as (if not more sometimes) important. Up to six days is fine, but always give whatever muscle group you worked that day at least 24 hours to rest before you work it again!

I do not advise more than one to one and a half hours for a workout. If you have previous injuries, a longer warm up/cool down can be needed which can increase the amount of time for your workout.

Q: How should you break up a strength training workout?

The key is determining how many days a week you are working out.With strength training, you have to remember giving your muscles 24 hours to rest is a must. For three days a week, three full body days (with a day in between) or upper/lower/full body are common.

For four days a week, two upper and two lower body days; back/biceps, chest/triceps/shoulders, two leg days (one usually quad and other hamstring/glute focused); or three days of strength training and a day of just cardio are common splits.

I do not typically recommend more than five days a week of strength training. If you are doing six, a day of just cardio or active recovery (little exercise such as a hike, longer bike ride, etc.) is usually best to make sure your muscles are working hard to grow, but also have enough recovery time.

Q: What kind of cardio is best and how much should I do?

There’s steady state and intervals for cardio. With steady state, your heart rate should be 70 to 75 percent of your MAX (220-age). With interval training, your heart rate will get higher but in short bursts. I usually recommend no more than 30 to 40 minutes of steady state at a time to keep maximum fat burning efficiency and protect muscle mass.

You can really use any type of equipment or running. The key is your heart rate. If you do cardio and strength on the same day, do your strength portion first.

With intervals, there’s a lot more flexibility. You can use them into your strength program, do it after a strength workout, or by itself.

HIIT should be 30 minutes or less if done alone. Examples of exercises that will get your heart rate up are plank jacks, squat jumps, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc.

Examples of intervals: 

  • 30/30/30: 30 seconds exercise one, 30 seconds exercise two, 30 seconds rest.
  • Tabata: 20 seconds work, 10 seconds of rest for four minutes.
  • Pyramid Sets: two exercises starting at 10 reps each and work down to one and back up to 10. 

You can use intervals in your strength program as well to keep your workouts shorter and more efficient.

Q: Are machines or free weights better to incorporate into your workout?

For beginners, machines are typically easier to use. Machines work one specific muscle group at a time in a manner which it dictates. Not everyone is mechanically designed the same, so certain machines can be uncomfortable or not work the exact way if you are built in not that specific manner.

Overall, free weights are much better. Free weights require you to use more muscles (esp. core), and people typically burn more calories (higher heart rate throughout). Proper form and safety are a must.

If you have never done any work with free weights, doing a few sessions with a qualified person is crucial to learn the basics. A few good basics strength training moves to have someone teach you are:

  • squat
  • deadlift (either kind)
  • row
  • chest press
  • bicep curl
  • tricep extensions 
  • plank

Really learn to think about which muscle group you are working and how to proper activate that muscle group.

Q: How many reps and sets should you do?

There’s threes types of strength goals:

  • Muscular Endurance: Muscle repeatedly exerts a force over a period of time. This is slower muscle growth, long/lean muscle, but able to perform for longer periods of time. Reps for this are 12 to 20 plus.
  • Hypertrophy: Increases muscle size influences body shape and composition. This is going to give you some muscle definition and change the shape of your body. I would say most of my clients fall into this range. Reps are between eight to 12 (or 15).
  • Strength: Recruitment of motor units and coordination of muscles for muscle output. This is going to really increase the size of your muscles and the ability to lift much heavier weight – think powerlifter. Reps range between one to six (up to eight). For sets, three to six is usually good for any goal.

Pick which category your goals align with. When you pick your weight for strength training, you should be able to complete the number of reps set with proper form (the most important!), but it should be difficult enough that you shouldn’t be able to do too many more reps.

Q: What is a sample full body workout look like with strength and cardio?

  • Warm up (dynamic stretches) about five minutes.
  • Set 1: Goblet squats, dumbbell bent over rows, curl with a press, mountain climbers. Anywhere three to five sets (usually depending on time – rest about 30 seconds in between the sets, but do the exercises back to back for all below sets).
  • Set 2: Single leg deadlifts (dumbbells), incline chest press, lateral raises, plank shoulder taps, squat jumps.
  • Set 3: Sumo dumbbell squats, single leg glute bridges, overhead tricep extension, reverse flies, plank jacks.

This is a very basic workout, but it hits every major muscle group (including core) and will get your heart rate up. For an added bonus, finish with a pyramid set of jumping jacks and alternating planks (start with 10 reps of each down to one, and back up).

Q: Any other advice for reaching your workout goals?

  • The biggest thing: you cannot out train a bad diet! You have to eat for your goals. If you want to lose weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit (3500 calories = 1 pound). If you want to gain weight or add a lot of muscle, you have to eat.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself! One bad meal (or even day), one missed workout (try not to do this in your first month), one night of bad sleep won’t kill you or derail your entire progress. If it happens (it will for sure), get back on your normal schedule the next day, and you will be fine.
  • Lastly, listen to your body. Your body is smart and knows what it needs. If you need a day to stretch, if you need a day to rest, or extra carbs one day, listen! There is also a difference between not wanting to work out and needing rest. 

Good luck!

Be sure to follow @gymguyzrva and read Megan Abbott's 30Seconds tips!

Elisa Schmitz
How wonderful! Can't wait to chat with you, Megan Abbott !
Dawn Taylor
Some good tips here. I’m a personal trainer also and the only thing I completely and respectfully disagree with is if you’re doing strength and cardio on the same day, I say cardio first as it serves as a warm up and also sore muscles can lead to injuries during cardio if it follows strength training. That’s a debate that could go on and on. I’m a runner and strength train often and I always recommend this order for clients. Unless of course you’ve run your long run then I would skip strength training that day.

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