If you want to create a training plan yourself, there are 10 training variables that you cannot avoid.
In this article I will show you how to use them properly so that you will soon become your best trainer yourself.
I will also explain how these variables affect practice using the example of my free bodyweight training plans.
Let’s get started!
One thing in advance: If you want to create your own training plan, you should already have some experience in bodyweight training.
I wouldn’t recommend a beginner to lend a hand right away. If you are a beginner, you can get some free training plans as goodies by subscribing to my newsletter. Or you go straight to the limit and get my e-book P.A.T. Bodyweight training with even more content, but with costs.
If you are looking for quality criteria or training variables for an endurance training plan, I recommend this article of mine.
The following training variables can be applied not only to strength training with your own body weight, but also to your training in the gym or with heavy additional weights such as dumbbells.
Due to my focus on the blog, I will show you examples from the world of body weight training.
An often underestimated factor: The choice of exercises.
But not for nothing in the first place. It’s just very important that you start with exercises that match your fitness level. That is why in my e-book you will find, for example, five different levels or degrees of difficulty for each exercise, so that you can classify yourself well.
A simple example: You want to integrate push-ups into your training plan, but you can only manage 5 at a time and not with clean technique. Now there are two ways you can do more reps:
- You deteriorate your technique even further, try to work with momentum and maybe only do half repetitions, so you are not using the FROM (Full Range of Motion = range of motion in the joint).
- You make the exercise a little easier and do not put your hands on the floor, but at knee level, for example on a bench or an armchair.
I advise you carefully on the latter variant.
Perhaps you will now ask the question: But isn’t it good if the exercise is really difficult for me?
Well, there you are addressing an important factor. As a beginner you should in any case orientate yourself on about 15 repetitions. If you can do 15 repetitions in the first set with good technical execution and the last repetitions were really exhausting (so you couldn’t easily do 5 without a break), then you are spot on.
Later, after a few months of training experience, you can also move into the other areas and vary your training, as you can see in the following table. I also wrote an article about strength training and one about muscle building, in case you want to read more there.
You now know why the exercise selection is so damn important if you want to create a training plan, so heed it too!
Right now I’m trying to do one-arm pull-ups.
This is really a big challenge. Maybe it’s just as big for you to just add a classic pull-up, by the way, you can find instructions from me here, or to improve yourself and be able to do more pull-ups.
Anyway, one thing that can help with this is to properly use the exercise order variable. In practice, this means that you then do the pull-up or the corresponding training for it first in your training. You will not be tired yet and your body can concentrate fully on getting better with this one exercise.
At the moment I do it like this: Every workout starts with the progressions to the one-armed pull-up, then comes the rest.
The exercise sequence can therefore help you to set priorities in the training plan. There is even more focus in the next tip.
Focus orientation is about how your training plan is put together in the week so that you can train all muscle groups. There are the following popular approaches:
- Full-body training (muscle groups of the whole body are addressed during each training session)
- Lower body / upper body (units for the lower body alternate with units for the upper body)
- Push vs. Pull (units for the pushing muscles alternate with units for the pulling muscles)
- Muscle group-specific training (certain muscle groups or body regions are trained)
In my free training plan for beginners, for example, I use a muscle group-specific approach in the first few weeks so that you only load one muscle group in each unit in order to avoid whole-body muscle soreness that lasts for days.
Only after week 6 do I switch to full-body training, which is generally the most recommended approach for training with my own body weight.
A variable that is easy to explain, but one that you should also keep in mind.
It’s about how often you train during the week. 2 to 6 training units are normal, most athletes – and those who want to become one – train 3 to 5 times a week, unless they are top athletes, here the training volume is naturally a lot larger.
I usually work with 3 to 4 training days in my training plans. I also train 3 to 5 times a week.
It is important for you to know that 4 times 30 minutes of training is better than 2 times 60 minutes.
The simple reason for this is that you can recover to some extent before each of the four training units and still set new stimuli. If your time budget does not allow otherwise, two training units per week can make a big difference and three decent 30-minute training sessions per week with bodyweight exercises are enough – in addition to a balanced diet and the right mindset – to get your dream body create.
The scope of a training session can generally be determined based on the sets, repetitions and exercises performed. A set stands for performing an exercise with several repetitions without a break.
A training unit with a small scope would then be, for example, a unit with 6 different exercises, one set of each being performed. On the other hand, a high-volume unit with 8 exercises and three sets per exercise.
But be careful: the more sentences doesn’t always mean the better. Let me summarize it as follows.
One sentence is good, three sentences are even better, but 10 sentences are no longer ideal in most cases. Usually the optimal number of sets in bodyweight training is in the range of 2 to 4 sets, depending on the level of performance and training goal.
When training with weights, the training load is calculated from the total weight moved or lifted.
This works for bodyweight training Approach only difficult, even if the weight could be calculated using an approximate formula: For example, when doing a push-up on the floor, you move around 70% of your body weight up and down.
Since this method is not effective in this case, the load is usually specified based on the number of repetitions. So, for example, if you’re doing 23 pull-ups, 37 push-ups, 24 one-legged squats, and 33 leg lifts during your workout, this is a good way of indicating the training load. The prerequisite for this, however, is that you carry out the same variant of the exercise (if you make it more difficult or easier, you have to use this as the standard value) and do it using the same, clean technique.
You can also follow your progress with this. So my tip: Record the number of repetitions and see how you keep improving. If you’ve been stuck for over a month, it might be time to change your training plan or have a new one created.
A parameter that is always difficult to understand for beginners.
There is a simple reason for this: Beginners cannot yet listen to their bodies as well as someone who has been training for months or even years.
What does the intensity mean? It provides information about how close you are getting to your maximum performance.
It makes a difference in the training effect whether you do 15 easy repetitions of an exercise or choose the exercise so that you can barely manage the 15 repetitions.
This training variable is not only dependent on your fitness level, but also on your daily state of mind: Sometimes you feel great and you can give it your all, on other days you only struggle to 70% of your capacity.
It is important to train intensively, but with measure and goal. For example, I plan a regeneration week in my training plans at least every 5 weeks, during which the training intensity is low.
The training density provides information about how much work you are doing in the physical sense. It is also a signpost for planning breaks.
The denser your training, the shorter the breaks and therefore the more repetitions completed.
Freeletics, for example, works with an extremely high density, as there are sometimes no breaks at all.
There are different approaches to the length of the break after a set, depending on the training method you choose. A good guideline is to choose a break between 30 seconds and 90 seconds, depending on how demanding the exercise was. Here you will find some training methods presented in more detail and also which length of break suits them.
You can make your workout easier or more difficult by the speed of execution.
Because normally the exercise becomes more difficult, the slower you do it.
There is the possibility to express this speed in three numbers (using the example of a pull-up):
- The concentric phase indicates how many seconds you need for your muscle to contract, i.e. you from the Starting to come to the end position.
- The isometric phase indicates the time in which you remain in the phase of greatest tension.
- The eccentric phase indicates how long you need for lowering to the starting position.
An example would then be 1-0-3, which means you pull yourself up within a second, i.e. very quickly, and then slowly let yourself down again – within 3 seconds. If you stay longer in the isometric position, i.e. when doing a pull-up with bent arms at the top of the bar, one speaks of an isohold, an interesting variant that is adequately celebrated in the Bring Sally Up Challenge.
Periodization describes how you change your training over time – we’re talking more about months and years here.
An important factor for me, which I have included in all of my training plans, is the alternation between intense weeks and regeneration weeks. Your body just needs a break if you train hard on a regular basis. Therefore I plan a week with less intensity in the training plans at least every 5th week.
Do not forget that your muscles do not develop or you cannot get stronger when you train, but only when you have trained and recovered.
What else you should consider if you want to create a training plan
You now know which screws you can turn if you want to create your own training plan.
Before you become a craftsman training plan, however, you should ask yourself a few important questions:
- What is my why?
- What is my goal?
- What is my current performance status or my fitness level?
In bodyweight training, for example, the selection of suitable exercises depends very much.
- Where would / can I train?
Do you want to go to a gym, train at home or do you have a suitable place outdoors.
- Have I already reserved the time I need for my training in the calendar and in conversation with my loved ones?
If you have something in your life changes, you should have discussed it with your “knight round”.
I wish you every success with creating your training plan and even more fun with the subsequent training!
If you want to fall back on tried and tested bodyweight training plans, you can sign up for my newsletter here and get free training plans or here my e-book P.A.T. Buy bodyweight training with over 50 weeks of training plans.
Whichever you choose, keep moving!
PS: The list of training variables presented here is based on Bret Contrera’s book “Bodyweight Training Anatomie”. It’s one of my top 10 reading recommendations for 2018.