Weight Training Program for Busy People
This program is designed for individuals with a moderate to high level of fitness. It is a body conditioning program for those that lead busy lives juggling family, work and social commitments while still desiring to get / stay in good physical shape. It will also work well as a cross training program for many weekend sportsman participating in running cycling, climbing, soccer, rugby, tennis, squash, basketball, cricket, hockey, volleyball, baseball, golf, etc.
It is designed to be done 3 times per week and only takes up 45 minutes per session.
- This program is not intended for beginners. Ensure that you consult your physician before beginning an exercise regime if you have been inactive for a period of time.
- Some of these exercise techniques may be difficult to execute correctly. If you are unsure please start with minimal (or no) weight and get a gym instructor to coach you through the moves.
The program is a selection of the most efficient gym exercises giving maximal benefit in minimal time. We’ve kept to the following principles:
- Compound exercises vs Isolation exercises. Multi-joint exercises (compound_ work more muscles in less time, burn more calories and more closely approximate real-world situations. Leave the isolation exercises to the body builders.
- Free-weights vs machines. With free weights the body has to work harder in order to maintain balance as greater use of supporting / stabilizing muscles are required.
- Focus on core rather than extremities – power comes from the core, the legs and arms get worked as a consequence of training the core rather than visa versa.
- Unbalanced weights. This will be a foreign concept to many, including the experts, but I believe in it and will share my though later in the article.
This program will:
- Reduce fat percentage and increase muscle mass resultingin a higher resting metabolism (burning calories even when sitting on the couch).
- Improve posture. Because all large muscle groups as well as all stabilizing muscle groups are called into action synergistically any under-developed muscles will have to play ‘catch-up’. Very often spinal pain is due to under-developed musculature which does not support the spine adequately.
- Correct / maintain balance between muscles. The biggest culprit for this muscle imbalance has been the body-building movement of the last 30 years. An over-focus on certain muscles (pectorals, quads, biceps) through isolation exercises results in relatively under-developed stabilizing and opposing muscle groups. Over time this then manifests as chronic injuries often in the shoulders.
- Improve cardio-vascular fitness. The heart, lungs, and full circulatory system will also become strong and healthy. These exercises will elevate your heart rate since the body is required to pump blood to major and minor muscles in the upper and lower body simultaneously.
- Increase flexibility. Full range of motion across multiple joints will ensure that muscles and tendons get a full workout.
- Give real world, everyday functional strength. You’ll feel the benefits of this program not only with your weekend sports but also when doing household work, playing with your kids or, touch wood, defending yourself against an attacker.
I can’t say enough about this seldom seen exercise. Some fans have said that if they could only do one weight exercise for the rest of their lives this would be it. If you’ve never done it before then start with extreme caution. Start with only the bar (no weight) and get the technique right – it will take some time initially, but when your neural pathways ‘learn’ the muscle timing and combination you will be able to rapidly add weight to the bar.
- Develops upper & lower body strength, especially scapula and shoulder muscles
- Improves shoulder and hip-flexor flexibility
- Exceptional builder of core strength and improves balance
- Improves cardio-vascular fitness
- Get the bar up. The beginning position of the overhead squat has you standing holding a loaded barbell above your head. To get the barbell to this demanding position you can use a weigh rack to raise the bar and then stand up from under it and jerk it upward. Or you can start with the bar on the ground and simply snatch it up to over your head. Elbows and scapulae are locked out. Feet are slightly wider than shoulder width, toes pointing outward.
- Flex at the hips and knees simultaneously and begin to squat down in a controlled movement – focus on keeping the arms and scapulae locked (in fact think about pushing the bar into the roof the whole time). The bar will rotate from above your bead to slightly behind your head the lower you go.
- Keep the chest out the head up throughout the movement and I can’t overemphasize that you have to really stick you butt out on this exercise.
- Once you reach the bottom phase ensure that the weight stays ‘though’ your heels (not toes) and begin a controlled drive upwards. Repeat.
The squat exercise if considered the king of all weight exercises. Once again it is a compound exercise and it requires massive amounts of power required from many muscles.
It offers the following benefits:
- Builds and shapes the legs and glutes like no other exercise
- High calorie consumption
- Releases natural hormones that tell the entire body to build muscle and shed fat
- Improves cardio-vascular fitness
- Increases bone density of the hips and legs
- Improves flexibility
- Strengthens the core
- Position the squat rack so the bar sits about 5 to 10 cm lower than your shoulders.
- Position your hands evenly on the bar and and back up and under the bar so it rests comfortably on your shoulders.
- Maintaining a wide stance place your feet squarely under the bar and lift it from the rack using the legs.
- Keep the weight centered; do not lift from your heels or toes.
- Slowly and simultaneously flex your hips and knees while keeping your torso erect. Do not lean forward. Keep your hips under the bar at all times.
- Stop the descent when the thighs are parallel or slightly lower than parallel to the floor, never relax or drop to the bottom position.
- Return to starting position in a controlled manner while keeping your torso and back erect and hips under the bar. Repeat.
- This is a real strength builder for the back (trapezius and rhomboids) and shoulders (rear deltoids)
- Also works the lower back and remainder of the core as well as legs which are required to maintain stability throughout the exercise.
Another powerful exercise. Do it right and the benefits will transfer into strength gains, do it wrong and you will be nursing injuries for days afterwards. Deadlifts are good for:
- Upper back, lower back, leg and grip strength
- Training the lower back to remain rigid against a heavy load
- Training with heavy weight thereby forcing the musculo-skeletal system to adapt (the object of training)
Technique (correct technique is critical before piling on the weights):
- Place the barbell with desired weight in front of you on the ground clear and move forward so your feet are placed under the bar shoulder width apart, flat on the floor, with the bar close or touching your shins.
- Take hold of the barbell with your hands just outside your legs (just wider than shoulder width apart) with either an overhand or mixed hand grip (one hand with and over hand grip the other with an underhand grip).
- Keep your arms straight with your head facing forward (head up) and your chest out. Make sure your back is straight and shoulders back, squat down so your thighs are parallel with the floor.
- Inhale deeply and lift the bar by pushing your heels into the floor extending your legs and hips, breathing out as you lift. As you reach towards the top of the lift push your hips forward.
- Once at the top of the lift hold the weight for a second before slowly starting your descent back to your starting position, do this by pushing your hips back and squatting back to your original position. Repeat.
This is such a simple (no, not easy) yet effective exercise. It works the:
- Biceps and trapezius muscles
- Shoulder stabilizers
- Take the bar with an under-hand grip
- Hands should be shoulder width apart
- Pull up in a controlled manner until the chin is above the bar.
- Hold for a second then return in a controlled manner. Repeat.
Probably the most popular exercise in the gym. Watch out that you don’t favour this to such a degree that you land up with a muscle imbalance. If you have been guilty of this over the years actively work on putting this last on your training agenda.
- Pectorals, triceps and front detoids
- Controlled movement stopping 1cm from the chest
- Controlled movement back up but don’t lock the elbows. Repeat.
Clean & Press
Another exercise not seen to often in the gym but a terrific total body strengthener as well as cardio workout all in one. For those of you used to the totally static body building type of controlled movement you will need to break that mind-set in order to be effective on this. The Clean and press is a dynamic, explosive exercise. In addition you will find yourself seriously puffing and the heart will be pumping after just a few reps. Essentially this is a deadlift, reverse arm curl and shoulder press all combined into one movement. There are a number of minor variations of this exercise and it can be quite a difficult one to master so we’ve stayed with the most straight-forward technique. Start off with a relatively light weight and get a gym instructor to monitor your technique if this exercise is new to you. The clean & press is great for the following:
- Legs, back, forearm, triceps, shoulder and core strength
- Cardo-vascular development
- Explosive strength
- Start as per the deadlift exercise, both hands using an over-grip
- Explosive (but controlled) movement into the standing position but seamlessly continue with a reverse curl so that the bar lands up at the chin. There should be some hip and knee flexion during this movement.
- Explosively push the bar up above the head using hip and knee extension to assist.
- In one fluid movement bring the bar back down past the chin and to the floor. Repeat.
Straight Leg Deadlifts
No other exercise works the hamstrings like this one. As with all the rest of our exercises this is a compound exercise and also calls into play the quadriceps, lower back, upper back and forearms. If you suffer from ongoing back tension you may just find that this exercise brings relief as it stretches the hamstring muscle group.
- Stand with shoulder width or narrower stance with feet flat beneath bar.
- Bend knees and bend over with lower back straight. Grasp barbell with shoulder width overhand or mixed grip, shoulder width or slightly wider.
- Lift weight to standing position.
- With knees very slightly bent (not locked), flex (bend) at the hip and lower the bar to the top of feet.
- Lift bar by extending waist and hip until standing upright.
- Pull shoulders back slightly if rounded. Repeat
The tricep dip is a key strength training exercise for the upper body. Simple to perform with relatively quick improvement in strength it should never be neglected. Muscles worked:
- Pectorals and triceps
- On parallel bars, lower body by bending at the elbows and going forward until shoulders are slightly stretched
- Push yourself back up.
Sets and Reps
So now that we know what exercises to do lets look at sets and reps. I am fond of the 25 rep system proposed by Chad Waterbury as it lends itself to our objective of maximal benefit in minimal time.
How it works is that (to really simplify it) you are aiming to do 25 reps over 3 to 5 sets of each exercise with progressive load increases after each set. So for example if the exercise is squats you may do the following:
Set 1: 12 reps at 60kgs
Set 2: 8 reps at 80kgs
Set 3: 5 reps at 100kgs
Of utmost importance is to keep each rep controlled, yet by the time you get to the second to last rep you should really be feeling the burn.
Alternatively, you may find that you have misjudged the weight and its heavier than anticipated, no problem – do the following:
Set 1: 10 reps at 80kgs
Set 2: 6 reps at 90kgs
Set 3: 5 reps at 100kgs
Set 4: 4 reps at 110kgs
Still 25 reps, still progressive loading.
- Overhead Squats
- Bent-over Rows
- Bench Press
- Clean & Oress
- Straight Leg Deadlift
- Start the session with a 5 minute warm-up an a stationary bicycle, treadmill or orbital walker
- Ensure that each new exercise is preceded with a warm-up set of that particular exercise. At least 10 to 15 reps – this is not included in the ’25’ rep quota.
- Chin-ups and dips are body-weight exercises unless you can easily do the 25 reps, then add some additional weight via a dumbbell and strap system.
- If the program is followed as described, and including the 5 minute warm up plus individual exercise warm-ups, the session should last no longer than 45 minutes. If it does then you need to up the pace!