January 25, 2017


Top tips for structuring your workout routine

THE STATISTICS SHOW this time of year is when many people start to see their New Year goals slowly drift away.

A lot of these goals are health and fitness related and having worked in commercial gyms for years I have seen this trend repeat itself time and time again.

Suddenly the packed January gym floor, with lots of new faces, goes back to normality.

There are a lot of reasons for this — boredom, a lack of accountability, not knowing what to do, little to no progress, or purely just having little to no enjoyment with your new fitness regime.

I have said before that whatever path you go down you need to enjoy it. Perhaps you took the wrong path when joining the gym, hoping that was going to set you up for 2017.

It’s easy to become bored with the same routine you’ve been doing three times a week for the past month.

So this week I’m going to give you some assistance with mapping out your sessions.

I’ve broken this article up using the same structure I’d like you to approach your 45-60 minute session with.

This isn’t a specific programme for you but at least it will give you an idea on some structure.

If you’re looking for a specific programme my advice is to seek advice from a personal trainer.

I have worked with clients in the past who have done as little as 10 one-on-one sessions. In those sessions they learn how to train themselves the right way and then get great use out of their gym membership following on from that.

A lot of the time I would recommend people to work on their limiting factors. For a lot of people that is mobility/flexibility, strength work and core work, following with their fitness and conditioning work.

I would ask you to question your current training regime. Is it something you can see yourself doing in 20 years’ time?

To me, longevity is a big thing. Fitness isn’t something I do for a summer holiday next year or for a special event in my life in the future.

What I am doing now is something I still want to be able to do 20 years from now and something that will benefit my health and lifestyle for the long-term.

Warm-up: 10-15mins

This is a very important part of your session. I’ve seen many approaches over the years; from those who do nothing at all, to the 10-minute cross-trainer option, and the 15-minute foam-rolling session.

None of these may be the best of options. The goal of your warm-up is to set aside 10-15 minutes for getting warm, loose, working on some mobility/flexibility and activating/stretching your muscles to prepare for the session ahead.

Try to add some structure so that you raise your body temperature, add some joint movement and plenty of stretches.

Having access to tools like resistance bands, foam rollers, lacrosse balls and plenty of other mobility tools will also help.

I have included a pretty standard warm-up video below which will hopefully help you out.


Strength work: 20-25mins

No matter your age, gender or training level I feel strength training is a must for anyone’s workout program.

I would generally encourage people to pick movements that will give them the best benefit, and to work on their weaknesses.

I would focus on compound movements such as squats and deadlifts along with plenty of pulling, pressing and some core drills.

I have previously highlighted five of the best exercises for your gym programme and you can bring all of these into the strength portion of your session.

If you were to have three days a week where you can cover these five movements spread out you are doing well.

I have mentioned “mechanics, consistency and intensity” before and this is where you need to scale the movement relative to yourself.

For some people it might mean mastering the basic technique of the air squat before progressing on, or for others it could be working on five sets of five reps of back squats.

You can see some good video examples of the right technique for those movements in the article linked above.

When it comes to reps, sets, tempos, volume and all that gym jargon I would suggest you go relatively heavy or go work off a four-six-week programme that uses a percentage format relative to your own level.

Again, if you are not sure on what programme to do then source a trainer who can assist you.

A programme I have used in the past with some clients is the Wendler 5/3/1 and I have seen some great results when retesting strength six weeks later.

Again, if you are new to the movements or strength training there is no need to begin percentage programmes just yet.

My advice is to keep working on the movement while slowly making progress. Air squat  –> goblet squat –> back squat is a good example of that.

Accessory work/conditioning/extra work

I have decided to put all of this together even though they can incorporate very different approaches.

You have already got a good chunk of the work done by getting a good warm-up in, working on areas of your mobility and bringing in some strength and core work.

This portion of the session is where I feel you can make a few alterations and generally can go by feel and base this part of the workout on where you need to work the most.

For some people it might mean doing some aerobic work/anaerobic work, or for others it might be an opportunity to do some accessory work with some extra weight training. Then again, you may need to do some yoga or extra mobility work.

It comes down to what is needed most and how you are feeling on the day.

If you find yourself already burnt out from a long day at work and possibly didn’t sleep well the night before, well then this is a time I wouldn’t suggest hammering yourself in an anaerobic conditioning piece.

Perhaps what is needed here is to be happy with what you have done and leave your session at that, or do some extra work that wont be too taxing.

This could be anything like some yoga, resistance band work, core work or even just going for a light jog.

If you are feeling good and raring to go, well this is a time I would suggest pushing yourself and getting out of your comfort zone.

This will more than likely mean hitting up an anaerobic piece; getting the heart-rate high and bringing in some intensity.

Things like rowing, sprints, kettlebell swings, battle ropes, box jumps and the dreaded burpee for example.

At the same time, don’t just throw them all together and do random movements. A smart approach is going with a couplet or triplet of exercises for a number of rounds.

Setting aside 10 minutes and getting through a 400m run with some kettlebell swings and push-ups is a good example.

Generally when I work with clients on a one-on-one basis at this stage of the session I suggest what I feel is best for the client at that moment.

I have included a video below which outlines a rough guide on a workout structure.


I hope you’ve found this information useful and if you need any more advice you can pop me a message from the links below.

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

You can also see some of his previous articles here.