Is my workout routine stupid or ok?
July 12, 2006 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Ok, I know 50 million mefis have asked these kinds of questions before, but I swear this is different. I have a new workout plan and simply need somebody to validate the plan. Good idea, bad idea, whatever.

I've just begun, finally, on a long overdue shift in habits. I've gotten my eating, sleeping, work all under control and I'm going back to working out. I need to, not just to lose a lot of weight but because of the demands of my job. Without going into detail, I travel. A lot. In horrible places. Being in good shape would make it easier. I've got the time to really give it a priority. I just need to know the best way to make it happen.

My plan for working out is this:
Monday - Upper Body
Tuesday - Lower Body
Wed - Upper Body
Thursday - Lower Body
Friday - Upper Body
Sunday - Lower Body

Then on Upper days, I would like to swim or bike 30 minutes after workout, instead of having dedicated cardio days. Nothing real heavy, just getting the heart going. I hear so many things about mixing cardio and weights, I'm not sure which is right.

Also, am I making a mistake trying to workout all the upper areas (Chest, Arms, Shoulders, Back) on one day? Any suggestions?
posted by damiano99 to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
I'm far from en expert but it's been my understanding that if you do your cardio first then your weight work is more effective.
posted by dobbs at 10:40 AM on July 12, 2006

- Nothing wrong with doing all your upper body just might find it's a hard workout
- If you're training hard you might find that 3x/week is actually excessive given your muscles' need to recover. 2x/week per body part should suffice
- If you're trying to make decent gains on the weights portion, do your cardio after. Otherwise you're gonna be bagged when it comes time to hit the weights
posted by trillion at 10:46 AM on July 12, 2006

I'm far from an expert but in my experience, doing cardio first tires me out and leaves me with bad form while doing weight work. I usually lift before cardio.

(As for mixing cardio and weights, I've had no adverse reaction to it).
posted by muddgirl at 10:46 AM on July 12, 2006

What is your motivation behind splitting up your strength training into upper and lower days? Is it some sort of time issue?

If you do follow through with this plan, may I suggest that whatever cardio activity you do on your upper days NOT involve your arms? Swimming after spending a considerable amount of time on strength training your upper body will cause some significant soreness (I know this from experience - my lower body).

It would probably help, too, to know what kinds of exercises you plan to include in your upper/lower body workouts.

So, if you can supply additional information, we might be able to supply you with better advice.
posted by MeetMegan at 10:48 AM on July 12, 2006

Oh yeah, when I was splitting upper and lower bodies with cardio, I was rowing on leg days and biking/running/ellitical on upper body days. Otherwise, your legs will be jelly.
posted by muddgirl at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2006

That's a lot of workouts. Probably at least 6 hours a week exercising. Are you used to this volume of activity? If not, you'll have a hard time sticking to your workout plan.

Working out your upper and lower bodies three times each per week also seems excessive. Muscles typically require 24 to 48 hours to recover from the stress of a lifting workout. Once or twice a week for each muscle group should be enough. Don't work out a muscle group if it's still sore.

Personally I don't like to lift and do cardio during the same workout. Do cardio on days when you don't lift or lift in the morning and do cardio in the afternoon, for example.
posted by driveler at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2006

posted by muddgirl at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2006

You could do chest and biceps on one upper body day, and then do triceps and back on another day, but it's up to you. I usually do all of my upper body on one day. I am a female, if that makes a difference.

You could do something like this

Monday - upper body
Tuesday -lower body
Wednesday - long bike ride or swim
Thursday - upper body
Friday - lower body
Saturday - circuit training using your entire body or more swimming
Sunday - rest, or leisurely bike ride

Your current plan is crazy busy, and strict. I think you need to have a day of rest, and a couple days of circuit training mixed in there. If you are a male, you probably most definitely build muscle on the above plan, lose fat, and have a more well rounded workout. Adding variety uses different muscles and increases stamina.

Circuit training at

Circuit training at
posted by LoriFLA at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2006

A similar schedule worked really quite well for me when I was starting out at getting fit again a couple of years ago - both because I couldn't lift or run too much yet, and to get me used to the regularity of it - but a few months in I had to push back to 3 times a week, I was wearing myself out.

Experiment - you can always switch to the chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs/shoulders split after a couple of months, or total body workouts. And try not to get sucked into the 15-exercises per body part thing. Get in and out quickly if you can.

Everyone's body reacts differently, of course. Have fun!
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:03 AM on July 12, 2006

Cardio first. The object of weightlifting is to tear up your muscles and then your body rebuilds them stronger. If you lift and then do cardio, your body will send all of the blood to your legs and you won't get the rebuild as well as you might.

What is your age and sex? These are important.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:20 AM on July 12, 2006

LoriFLA: He should do chest and triceps on one day, back and biceps on the other. Usually, you do pulling exercises when working the back, which use biceps. Triceps are used in pressing exercises, which generally use your chest/shoulders. If you are doing lifting for strength and mass, you don't want to use the same group two days in a row for recovery reasons.

damiano: Personally, I'd only lift four days a week to start. I'm partial to a two day split (Pushes/core on one day, pulls and legs on another) repeated twice. That means I work out on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I do cardio work after I lift on those days (interval training), and also on Wednesday. The weekends are for resting and sports.
posted by Loto at 11:20 AM on July 12, 2006

And yeah, if you the cardio you do is strenuous enough, your lifting will be terrible. Also, the most important thing when you lift is proper form and range of motion. There are numerous sites to assist you with this, but is a decent one and has animated gifs of each lift.
posted by Loto at 11:22 AM on July 12, 2006

You need a day of total rest in there, or at least nothing more than walking or slow cardio, to allow your muscles to recover.

I agree with others that you don't need more than 2 days a week per muscle group (that is, don't exercise your biceps more than twice a week). If you want some serious weight-lifting gains, what worked for me was doing one muscle group one day a week, four or five exercises per muscle group. So biceps/forearms one day, shoulders the next, then triceps, then back, then chest, ending with legs. No leg-based cardio on leg days. Honestly, even if you aren't into serious weight-gains you might find this works better for you--you won't have hella-long workouts trying to get your whole upper body in on one day or have to resort to just one exercise per muscle group, and you'll still see significant gains.
posted by schroedinger at 11:42 AM on July 12, 2006

I'm going to be the lone voice here. With that being said, I'm an advocate of High Intensity training; it happens to be safe, efficient and most important, sensible.

It passes what I consider the litmus test: can you explain/understand what you're doing. If you can't, you're just following someone else's instructions.

So, answering your questions:
It's fine to do your whole upper body in a single day. In fact, technically, you're working your legs on the "off day" in stablization and contraction of nearby groups. The people who split Back & Biceps and Chest & Triceps, miss the basic concept that the antagonist muscle groups are not getting good 'rest'

When your working your biceps, your triceps work to some degree and therefore aren't getting the necessary recovery time)

You're probably overtraining in general and could stand to train just 2 days (4 total) a week). Make sure you're getting at least one (preferably) two days off per week. Overuse injuries are tough to recover from.

Exercise stimulates change, rest permits it.

Hmm. I'm not thrilled with the wikipedia article, but it will at least give you an idea.
posted by filmgeek at 12:32 PM on July 12, 2006

I like to do a short cardio workout prior to working my legs as it gets my leg muscles nice and warm and they don't tend to get tired like my upper body after a tough cardio workout.

I'd also put more focus on the cardio as that's ultimately what is going to help you lose weight and feel great about yourself.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 12:33 PM on July 12, 2006

Coming in new, as you are, doing just about anything will get results. The only thing you have to worry about is injury or burnout, and I don't think that routine will make you prone to either. Of course, if you start feeling tired all the time or start getting injured a lot, make sure you're getting enough rest and not trying to do a heavy workout every single time you go in.
That being said, cardio after weights is the way to go if you're doing both at once (beyond, of course, a warm-up before lifting). If you really care about getting hyooje you would want to separate your cardio and your weights but I doubt it matters for you at this point.
And finally, no, cardio is not what ultimately will help you lose weight and feel great about yourself. Maybe it is for *you*, PWA_BadBoy, and for a certain type of person, but that is by no means a true across-the-board statement, so don't present it as such.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2006

As a beginner, the plan you have out lined is just way too much frequency. People starting out (or restarting) always try to do too much, and its a recipe for disaster. I do it myself, I constantly have to hold back knowing that I'm not conditioned and I'll just hurt myself.

On the other hand, working out everyday makes getting back into the habit that much easier, assuming you stick to it. So if you really have the time to do workouts every day, try something like this:

monday: lower
tuesday: upper
wednesday: cardio
thursday: upper
friday: lower
saturday: active rest/prehab work - this is a combination of movement prep/stretching/form work - things like lunges, bodyweight squats, bridges, etc
sunday: play tennis/bike/etc - go _easy_ or monday will suck

As far as cardio on weight days - the deal is this: you should do the one first that carries the higher priority. With this kind of plan, I would recommend keeping cardio after weights _very_ easy - at least until you gauge how your body reacts. I'm talking 15 minutes stationary/treadmill at a comfortable talking pace.

This plan is easily adaptable as you get stronger and fitter. For instance, six months from now you might make monday and thursday heavy days, the other two light (right now they should all be quick workouts with light weight). You could start doing HIIT on wednesdays.

Some general tips:
* seeing as you are male, you probably focus on arms/chest over back and legs. Many guys do this. Don't do this - it looks bad and will only exaggerate muscular imbalances. work on back first on your upper days, then chest. Leave arms till last or don't do them at all, at least to start.

* Stick to basic compound movements - squat, bench, row, deadlift, press. Get someone knowledgable to check your form. Please, no tricep kickbacks.

* Have a protein shake after your workouts if you can. They are cheap and easy. Don't worry about other supplements except maybe a multivitamin and fish oil.

* Watch out for overtraining/overuse injuries - don't be afraid to skip a week or two if you feel drained. Use common sense, and moderate your work load according to how you feel.

* Don't work to failure. Leave a rep or two in you. You don't have to destroy your muscles, just break them down a bit.
posted by rsanheim at 8:14 PM on July 12, 2006

I just wanted to second rsanheim's good advice here. I see so many guys in the gym who work out their arms and chest at the expense of the larger muscle groups. This is a bad mistake, as not only will it give you an imbalance in your musculature (as rsanheim said) but it also means that in the long-run you won't make the gains that you're after. I'm a big fan of not working-out every day -3 times a week is enough for me- (I normally spend about 2 hours each time) but if you have time and you don't burn out then go for it.
posted by ob at 1:32 PM on July 13, 2006

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