When it comes to finding the right weight training program and nutrition program for your goals it can be very confusing. It seems like everyone has a different opinion on the type of weight training program you should be following and what you should be eating to reach your goals.
For some of you, maybe you’re just getting started and need some guidance on how to get started. For those of you who’ve been training for a while perhaps you need guidance on taking your development to a higher level or maybe you’ve plateaued with your routine.
Step 1: What are your goals?
This is the first thing you need to establish. This is a MUST because you’re going to base your entire program around this goal. Start with a broad goal and then narrow the focus until you have a specific goal in mind. For example, a broad goal might be to lose fat and build muscle. A more narrow and focused goal will be to lose 30 pounds of fat. Using a more specific goal you can determine the following variables:
Without a more specific goal it will be very hard to determine the realistic expectations of your objectives. Take a few moments and write down a broad goal and then narrow it down to a more specific goal.
The next step is to align your goals with the type of weight training program and diet you need. Let’s break this down into two sections, your weight training program and your nutrition programs. Let’s start with your weight training program.
There are a few variables that you need to address and build into your weight training program decision. These include:
1) Your age
2) Your gender
3) Your current fitness level
4) Your daily schedule
5) Equipment type (what do you have available)
Once you’ve answered the above variables you can start to get a rough outline of the type of program you need to reach your goals. Using the variables above you can start tying those into your goals and objectives.
Age: You will need to follow an age appropriate program. For someone over the age of 55 it can be hard to follow a program made for people in their 20’s. There is a world of physical differences between the two age groups in terms of recovery, strength, endurance and connective tissue concerns. Trying to follow a program made for a 20 year old when you’re 50 can mean potential injuries. If you’re an older individual you will need to take into account the following considerations:
Weight usage: Always practice safety! Start with the lightest weight and monitor how you feel. Use this weight for at least 2 or 3 weeks until you can comfortably perform the sets and repetitions with relative ease. Once you’re comfortable, add 5% increase to ONLY your last set of the exercise. Keep everything the same but the last set. Programs that call for you to use 70% to 90% of your one repetition maximum can be disastrous for older beginners and intermediates (even for more advanced trainers). I recommend staying away from those types of programs. test
Repetitions: Look for age appropriate set and repetition ranges. For older trainers (over the age of 40) start with a repetition range between 12 and 15. This is plenty. Of course this will depend on your goals but generally you can keep these guidelines in mind:
Pure strength: 3 to 6 repetitions
I don’t recommend this repetition range for those people older than 45 years of age. Of course this is dependent on your current fitness levels but to get the most of out of this repetition range one needs to be using heavier weight. In fact, I don’t recommend this repetition range for all beginners. This repetition range requires more advanced inner body awareness and exercise technique. For those younger trainers who want to get strong and big this repetition range is fine but only after you’ve mastered the exercise technique and have a good understanding of your bodies limits.
Building muscle and strength: 6 to 12 repetitions
Again, this is good repetition range to build strength and muscle but I don’t recommend this range for older trainers over 45 years of age who are beginners and intermediates. I suggest building up to these repetition ranges for older trainers.
Building muscle and definition: 12 to 20 repetitions
This is a good repetition range to start with (even for younger trainers). I’d recommend between 12 and 15 repetitions for beginners and intermediates. Once you are comfortable in this repetition range and your weight usage you can start playing around with the repetition ranges. For those older trainers, you can try adding a bit more weight and reducing your repetitions between 8 and 12 (I don’t recommend performing anything less using heavy weight).
Rest periods: For beginners rest until you catch your breath. Generally speaking, rest between 50 seconds and 1 minute. Of course this depends on your age and fitness level but those rest times will keep your heart rate up and steady. As you progress you may want to reduce your rest times between 30 and 50 seconds.
Beginners: 1 to 2 sets
Intermediates (4 to 6 months of training): 2 to 3 sets
Advanced (8 months plus): 3 to 5 sets
Rest in between workouts:
Beginners: four days’ rest for direct muscle training.
Intermediates: three to four days rest for direct muscle training.
Advanced: two to three days for direct muscle training.
Gender: Generally speaking, men have more testosterone in their bodies than females which will allow for greater muscle growth and strength gains. This will also have a greater effect on male metabolisms. However, all things being equal women generally have a bit more flexibility and range of motion than their male counterparts. I guess you can say this is the trade-off. Men are genetically predisposed to great muscle strength and gain while women are more flexible. Generally speaking, men are better suited to low repetition, heavy weight type of programs while women are geared towards higher repetition workouts. My recommendation is for women to gravitate to higher repetition workouts than low repetition.
Fitness Level: Your current fitness levels will play a huge role in determining how difficult your workouts will be. Use these guidelines:
-Weight training: Under 30 minutes
-Cardio: 10 to 15 minutes performed once or twice per week (to start)
-Exercises: One exercise per body part
-Routine type: Full body workout
-Repetitions: Between 12 and 15
-Sets: 1 to 2 sets
-Weight: Very light to start
-Rest times between sets: 50 seconds to 60 seconds (or until comfortable)
– Weight training: Under 45 minutes
-Cardio: 15 to 25 minutes performed two to three times per week (to start)
-Exercises: Two exercise per body part or basic split programs
-Routine type: Upper and lower body workouts or basic split programs
-Repetitions: Between 8 and 12
Sets: 2 to 3 sets
-Weight: light to moderate
-Rest times between sets: 40 seconds to 50 seconds (or until comfortable)
-Weight training: 50 minutes (varies according to goals and intensity methods)
-Cardio: 20 to 35 minutes performed four plus time per week (to start)
-Exercises: two to three exercise per body part
-Routine type: Split body workout programs (3 day, 4 day, 5 day, or 6 day programs)
-Repetitions: Between 8 and 12
-Sets: 4 to 5 sets
-Weight: Moderate to heavy
-Rest times between sets: 20 seconds to 50 seconds (depending on training methods or techniques)
Please remember, these are simple guidelines. You may have other methods but from my experience these are the variables to keep in mind. For those advanced trainers, you may have other methods and advanced techniques to stimulate further growth.
Daily Schedule: Your program is going to be dependent on your daily schedule. If you have a busy daily schedule you will have to find those times that allow you to consistently train. It is very important that find a consistent time to train and allow for a time frame. For example, you may have only 3 days a week at 5:30 in the morning to train. Figure out those times that you can devote to your weight training and work within those time frames.
Equipment Availability: Your program design will depend on the type of equipment you have available. Honestly, you can achieve most of your goals with the most basic types of equipment (or weightless programs). Follow the guidelines above and you can put together a good starting program.
Let’s use an example and build a sample weight training program.
Let’s say Anne is a 40 year old busy mom of 3 who works from 9 to 5 and wants to lose 20 pounds of fat and get fit and health. She currently weighs 150 pounds and is 5’ 4” in height. She is also a beginner to weight training. Taking the above variables into account we can start developing the type of program she needs based on her goals. She needs an age appropriate program designed for those women who want to burn fat and get fit using a 3 day a week beginners program.
Let’s design her program.
She is a beginner so she doesn’t require a fancy program. She needs to start with a simple full body workout performed two times per week with one day of light cardio.
Her initial assessment is as follows:
1) Age: 35 years of age
2) Gender: Female
3) Fitness level: Beginner
4) Daily schedule: Works 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday. She is also busy Tuesday and Wednesday nights for her kids sporting activities.
5) Anne is joining the local YMCA so she will have access to most commercial grade equipment.
Here’s the type of program best suited for Anne.
Weight training program: Beginner program designed as a two day a week full body workout program
Time: 6:30 PM performed on Mondays and Thursdays. 30 minutes devoted to weight training and 10 minutes devoted to cardio (treadmill).
Method: 1 set per body part between 12 and 15 repetitions
Exercises: Anne has access to a full gym so my recommendation is to start mostly with machines. One exercise per body part using exercise machines.
Anne’s basic program may look as follows:
This type of program can be followed for 6 weeks until Anne is comfortable with the exercises including the weight, sets and repetition scheme. After 6 weeks Anne can progress in the following ways:
1) Add more weight to each of her exercises;
2) Add more repetitions;
3) Add more sets (an extra set is fine);
4) Increase her cardio time from 10 minutes to 15 or 20 minutes
5) Split the workout into an upper body and lower body format to add more training volume and intensity to the program (for example, upper body on Monday and lower body on Thursday).
The absolute most important advice I can give you about your weight training program is to make sure it evolves and grows with you as you start to improve. In other words, your weight training program needs to be progressive. This is the number one mistake all beginners and intermediates make and why they don’t reach their goals. You see, the body’s growth process is very simple. It goes something like this:
As soon as your body stops improving and progressing it will cease to burn more fat, get stronger or build additional muscle mass. You really want to reach your goals faster and more efficiently? Build in a solid progression into your plan.
Let’s use Anne (from above as an example). We know Anne wants to lose 20 pounds of fat and get fit and healthy. With that in mind we can look at building a progressive angle to her training. Let’s use one exercise as an example (the machine bench press).
Let’s say after her first 4 weeks of training she can comfortably perform 1 set of 15 repetitions using 20 pounds. Her body has adapted to this weight so it is time to build in a progressive element into her program. I suggest adding another 2 to 5 pounds to her exercise. Let’s set her program up as follows:
Week 5: 1 x 15 repetitions with the new weight: 25 pounds
Week 6: 1 x 15 repetitions with 25 pounds
Let’s say Anne can perform this exercise with relative ease with 25 pounds after the 6 th week. It is now time to think about adding additional resistance or progression to her next workout. She can do this in a few ways.
Add 2 additional repetitions for a total of 17;
Add an additional 5 pounds for a total of 30 pounds keeping the repetitions the same (at 17);
Let’s say she decides to add 5 more pounds to the exercise. Her next workout will look as follows:
Week 7: 1 x 15 repetitions with 30 pounds.
Regardless of which tactic she chooses it adds up to progressive resistance which means further growth and faster and better results. In this example, Anne has a net gain of 10 pounds which will translate into better muscle strength, tone and fat loss. The idea is to follow this type of progressive resistance for the duration of your training program. Under no circumstance should you stop improving or progressing (unless your goal is to stay the same).
Let’s say that after 7 weeks, Anne is ready to advance to the next level of training. She designs her new program as follows:
Monday: Upper body
Wednesday: Lower body
Friday: Upper body
Anne will follow this program for another 6 weeks using a progressive style of training always striving to improve with each passing week. After 6 weeks of successful training Anne is in a position to now explore more advanced techniques that will allow her to reach her goals faster. Let’s say Anne is now ready for the following program:
Monday: Chest and back
Friday: Shoulder and arms
This program will allow Anne to stimulate her entire body in a more efficient and effective manner by using more exercises, sets, and repetitions. It will also allow her more time to devote to cardio which will be the catalyst that compounds her fat burning efforts.
Can you see how the program slowly progresses from week to week and from stage to stage? This is how you achieve your goals. This is how you transform your body into a fat burning, muscle building machine! This type of program set up allows you to:
The trick is to match your program type with your goals.
The real magic happens when you construct a nutrition plan that compounds your overall results. Using a similar “staged” nutrition plan you can speed up your results and achieve your goals more effectively and efficiently.
Let’s take a look at how to construct your diet.
Your nutrition plan will be the anchor of your entire training program and will be responsible for about 50% to 70% of your success (yes it’s that important!). However, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. The most important aspect to your nutrition program will be how well it’s geared towards your goals. If your goal is fat loss than your nutrition plan will need to reflect that. If your goal is to build muscle than your nutrition plan needs to reflect that. So how does one set up their nutrition plan?
Let’s go over the steps.
Step 1: Determine your goals. Remember, be specific. Give yourself a goal weight such as losing 30 pounds of fat or gaining 20 pounds of muscle mass.
Step 2: Determine your current calorie maintenance level. The absolute simplest and fastest way to find this out is to simply multiply your current body weight by 14 and 16 and take the average. For example, let’s say you weigh 200 pounds. Your daily caloric maintenance level will be as follows:
200 x 14 = 2,800
200 x 16 = 3,200
2,800 + 3,200 = 6,000 / 2 = 3,000 daily maintenance calories.
This is the simplest way to figure out your daily calorie maintenance levels. Please remember, it’s not 100% accurate but it will give you an idea of where to start (I’ll direct you to a more accurate calculator at the end of this lesson).
Step 3: If your goal is fat loss you will need to create what is called a calorie deficit. If you want to gain weight you will need a calorie surplus. However, before we continue this is where it gets a little tricky. Depending on what your goals are will depend on how you structure your nutritional plan. Here’s how I look at it.
Losing body fat and gaining weight
The trick is to structure a plan that loses maximum body fat while retaining muscle (or even building muscle) tissue. To do this you will need to do this in stages. If you’re too aggressive right off the bat you might lose too much weight and start to lose more muscle mass. If you’re not aggressive enough you might not lose any body weight or fat.
The trick is to provide a starting point and gradually refine your nutrition plan so that you’re losing fat at a comfortable rate while sparring (or even building) muscle mass. The same goes for gaining weight. If you start off too aggressive you might gain more fat than muscle mass. On the other hand if you’re not aggressive enough you won’t gain additional mass.
Here’s how I suggest structuring your plan:
Weeks 1 to 6
Take your daily maintenance calories and multiply that by 20%. If your daily calorie maintenance is 3,000 calories multiply that by 20%. In this case you have 600 calories. Take that number and either subtract it from your daily calorie maintenance (for losing weight) or add it (if gaining weight). This will be your starting point.
Example for losing weight: 3,000 maintenance calories x 20% = 600.
3,000 – 600 = 2400 daily calories to start losing body weight.
Example for gaining weight: 3,000 maintenance calories x 20% = 600.
3,000 + 600 = 3,600 daily calories to start gaining body weight.
Do you remember how you structured your progressive weight training plan? This is exactly what you’re going to do for your nutrition plan. In fact, you’re nutrition plan is going to go hand in hand with your weight training plan so that it compounds your results.
As your weight training program progresses you are going to compound those results by adjusting your nutrition program to match that of your training program. Let’s say that after 6 weeks of positive weight training results you want to add a more progressive element to your routine by adding more reps, weight or sets. This forces your body to work harder so by adjusting your nutrition program to match this change you will essentially compound your results.
Your nutrition program will be a mirror image of your training program. A change in one will require a change in the other. With that in mind, let’s say you want to be a little more aggressive with your nutrition plan after 6 successful weeks with your weight training program. You want to be losing or gaining roughly 1 pound per week during this time period. Ideally you want to lose or gain between 5 and 10 pounds during this time period depending on your goals.
Weeks 7 to 13
Depending on your progress you should try and reduce or add more daily calories as you ramp up your weight training program. For example, to compound your weight loss results start reducing your daily calorie intake by another 400 to 500 calories.
If you’re gaining weight, try adding another 400 to 500 daily calories to your diet. Since you’re training is ramping up and you’re progressing at a positive rate you’re results will only be enhanced.
Using the above example, your new daily calorie intake will be as follows:
Losing weight: 2,400 daily calories – 400 calories = 2,000 daily calories
Gaining weight: 3,600 daily calories + 400 calories = 4,000 daily calories.
At this point you should be losing or gaining about 1 to 2 pounds of body weight per week. Ideally you want to be either gaining or losing between 10 and 15 pounds during this period.
Weeks 14 to 20
To compound the results from your weight training results on an even higher level, you may want to adjust your daily calorie intake even further. I suggest either adding or subtracting an additional 500 calories from your daily calorie intake.
Using the above example your new daily calorie intake will be as follows:
Losing weight: 2,000 daily calories – 500 calories = 1,500 daily calories
Gaining weight: 4,000 daily calories + 500 calories = 4,500 daily calories
At this point you should be gaining or losing about 2 pounds of body weight per week. After this stage you will have lost or gained 10 and 15 pounds of body weight.
Using this strategy you can expect the following net gains over a 20 week period (These are just estimates):
Weight loss: between 25 pounds and 40 pounds of body weight
Weight gain: between 25 pounds and 40 pounds of body weight
The most important thing you can remember here is that over each training stage (from above) your results will only be compounding as you progress. As your weight training program gets harder and harder your nutrition program will only serve to enhance your performance and results. Using this formula you won’t need any type of fad diet or supplements.
Tip**Want to harden up those muscles? Want to lose body fat faster? Get your sodium and sugar under control first! Once you get your sodium and sugar in your body will be primed for fat loss. It is absolutely critical that you get these two variables under control before you embark on a fat loss plan! Here are some simple guidelines:
Men: Reduce your sodium intake to less than 2.5 grams per day.
Women: Reduce your sodium intake to less than 2 grams per day.
Now, you will need to design your menu plan. However, once you know your daily calorie requirements for your goals half the battle is over. This it makes it a lot easier to find a menu that fits with your daily schedule.
Let’s use Anne (from above as an example). If you recall Anne wants to lose 20 pounds of fat. Anne is 5’5” in height and weighs 150 pounds. Using this information we can find Anne’s start point for her nutrition plan.
Her current maintenance calorie level is:
150 x 14 = 2,100
150 x 16 = 2,400
2,100 + 2,400 = 4,500 / 2 = 2,250 daily maintenance calories (rough estimate)
To start losing weight she will need to cut 20% of her daily maintenance calories. So her new calorie intake will be: 2,250 x 20% = 450. 2,250 – 450 = 1,800 daily calories to start losing roughly 1 pound per week.
Her nutritional progression will be as follows:
Weeks 1 to 6: Daily calorie intake: 1,800. Anne will need to design a menu plan with 1,800 calories and follow that for the next 6 weeks. Menu requirements: 1,800 calorie menu plan.
Expected weight loss: 5 pounds
Weeks 6 to 12: Reduce her calorie intake by another 400 calories. To stimulate even more fat loss Ann may need to further reduce her calorie intake to about 1,400 calories. Anne has two options. Reduce the amount of food she is eating from her current menu plan or redesign another one. Menu requirements: 1,400 calorie menu plan.
Expected weight loss: 10 pounds
Weeks 12 to 18: Reduce her calorie intake to 1200 calories and possible use more advanced weight loss methods such as carbohydrate cycling for her last 3 weeks. Requirements: 1,200 calorie menu plan
Expected weight loss: 10 pounds
As you can see, over the course of 18 weeks Anne will lose an additional 25 pounds (possibly more) if her weight training (and cardio) program progresses.
This can also be applied for those of who want to gain weight. You need to do this in opposite fashion to find your ideal daily calorie requirements to start gaining weight.
I think you can understand how this process works. Once you understand the basic process you can start to design your own program and how best to achieve your goals. This process will work for any type of situation regardless if it is too:
Using the above outline I’m quite certain you can start to put together your own successful plan which will get you on the road to achieving your goals.
Still confused and don’t know where to start? Or maybe you just don’t want to bother trying to figure all this stuff out? I know you WANT a plan immediately so that you can start to look and feel healthy. If you ABSOLUTELY need a plan no matter what and don’t want the hassle of figuring all this stuff out, I can HELP!
Let me design your program from start to finish! My unique approach will allow you to reach your goals sooner rather than later. Just ask Cory Smith who lost 43 pounds of body weight in two months while increase his strength by 43% using my custom approach. You can read how he did it here.
If you truly want to change the way you look and feel and are tired of all the conflicting information and just want a program that delivers, send me an email at:
In the subject line simply state “Yes Blake, I need a plan ASAP”. In the content area tell me a little about your self including your goals, gender, current body weight and current activity levels. I’ll provide you with a free program recommendation on what you need in order to achieve your goals and my prices (which are super affordable).
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.