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Think Movements Not Muscles

As a recreational gym user, when trying to put a gym programme together it can be quite overwhelming when you consider the sheer number of variables you have to choose from. 

Today we are going to focus on one major variable and that is Exercise Selection.

It can be really easy to just do the exercises you like over and over, which can work well for a while but after somewhere between 4 and 8 exposures to the exact same stimulus your results are likely to plateau.

It is worth an honourable mention to the guys here, please give just training your ‘mirror’ muscles – i.e your chest and biceps! 

So where to start? 

You may want to begin with 3 full-body sessions per week.

From an exercise selection perspective, a basic programme would include 4 – 6 movements, and they are… 

1 – Lower Body Push

Examples include:

  • Squats / Lunges / Leg Press 

2 – Lower Body Pull 

Examples include:

  • Deadlift / Leg Curl / Kettlebell Swings 

3 – Upper Body Vertical Push

Examples include:

  • Military Press / Dumbbell Shoulder Press / Tricep Dips 

4 – Upper Body Vertical Pull

Examples include:

  • Chin Ups / Lat Pull Down / Upright Row 

5 – Upper Body Horizontal Push

Examples include:

  • Bench Press / Press Up / Chest Press Machine

6 – Upper Body Horizontal Pull

Examples include:

  • Seated Row / Inverted Row / Dumbbell Row

With all exercise examples above they can be adapted to suit your experience level and there are almost endless variations of each exercise. 

But for now, keep it simple.

No programme has all the answers for all the people but some are definitely better than others for the vast majority.

I was once told when it comes to effective gym programming that if you have any doubts, if nothing else get stronger. 

Strength is the mother of all training qualities so if you only focus on one thing to begin with let it be this. 

It’s worth noting at this point, that technique precedes weight. 

Getting stronger with bad technique is going to lead to nothing worthwhile and probably some type of injury.

Don’t rush things.

If it takes you a while to build up to more advanced exercise, then so be it.

You are better doing a technically easier exercise very well than a technically complex exercise poorly.

On final point… 

Although it’s ‘ideal’ to repeat the same programme in the exact same way for 4 – 8 workouts, don’t stress about perfection. 

If you workout in a busy commercial gym and for some reason a piece of equipment is out of use, it’s always good to have an alternative. 

For example, if you planned to do the Seated Row machine but it’s not available, swap it out for the nearest possible exercise to it, such as an Inverted Row. 

Although not exactly the same, it’s close enough and for a recreational gym user that will be absolutely fine. 

Thanks for reading, have a great day.


Do you need confidential help with your health, fitness or nutrition? I have a range of services available, with Personal Training in my Private Gym in Manchester, also at your home or workplace in the surrounding areas. For clients further afield, I provide Online Personal TrainingNutritional Consultancy & Private Fitness Holidays.

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