Training tips from a personal trainer: What should be the primary focus in your training?

If you’re building out a workout on your own and wondering where the thought process comes from, we’re going to discuss that today. Now, if you’re a beginner and have never worked out before, don’t worry if you don’t understand some of the terms! That’s totally normal, and as you progress in your fitness journey you’ll get a handle on all the different terms.

The purpose of today’s blog is really to break down the thought process when it comes to programming exercise based on goals. We’re going to go over some mindset pieces as well as some practical tips that you can actually apply when creating your workout program.

For those of you who train with us, this is a background look at what we think about when creating your programs to reach your goals!


Adherence is the most important thing in creating results (both short term and long term). Whatever program you pick, adherence will get you the results.

When we’re looking to create adherence, there’s actually an acronym you can reference to see if you have all the building blocks in your program to create adherence.

We call it FITTE:

Frequency- how often you’re training

Intensity- how intense is the program

Time- how much time does it take

Type- what type of exercise is it

Enjoyment- do you like it?!?!?!

If you have all of these things in mind, it should create a formula for success.

One thing to keep in mind is fitness is a journey, not a destination. Far too often people focus only on their goals, without coming to terms with the process it will take to get them there. A study was done on 2 groups of individuals that were shooting for the same goal. One group focused solely on the goal, and the other group focused on the process it would take to get to the goal. The group that focused on the process is the one that ended up crushing the goal. 

Ultimately, it’s the process that will create success not the desire you have to reach your goal.

Consistency is key when it comes to adherence. You want to find times that work in your schedule. If you can do 30 minutes a day consistently, you’ll CRUSH someone who does 60 minutes sporadically. 

Pro tips when it comes to adherence:

  • Start at 2-3 days a week CONSISTENTLY

  • Pick a time in your schedule that works for you regularly. Do your best to create a routine based around it.

  • Make sure you actually like what type of exercise you’re doing!

  • Make sure the type of exercise you’re doing will get you to your goals.

Intensity & Goals

It all starts with your goals!

What your goals are will determine what your exercise programming should look like. Goals can usually be broken down into two different categories: strength gain and hypertrophy (getting toned). Notice how we didn’t put weight loss in there? When it comes to losing fat, nutrition plays a HUGE part in that. While we won’t go into nutrition today, whenever you’re starting an exercise program you want to make sure you’re addressing your nutrition too.

Different types of training will yield different results and will also change the frequency of which you train. Volume is a tool that trainers use to manipulate workouts to get certain results. Volume has to do with how many reps and sets you do during a program. 

Intensity and volume go hand in hand. Usually highly intense workouts have high amount of reps, think of those HIIT workouts you’ve done before. The challenge with HIIT is that you really should only be doing it 3-4 times a week because it can take a huge hit on your nervous system (pun intended). When you train at a higher intensity you need to train less frequently.

To gain muscle, the goal is to do 10-20 sets per muscle group/movement pattern, per week. 

Yes, you read that right. PER WEEK.

The reason why is because you want to give your muscles plenty of time to repair so that they can grow.


Rep range to gain muscle should be about 6-12 reps. You’ll want to mix it up when it comes to the amount of weight you’re lifting. On the lower end of reps, lift heavier, and on the higher end of reps lift lighter.


Each muscle group should be hit 2x a week if your schedule allows. 


To get stronger you have to create continuous tension and resistance on the muscle. Higher weight, lower reps. We’ll talk about this more when we get to Progressive Overload.


Pro Tip: 

  • Don’t train yourself to muscle exhaustion every time. Allow your muscles to heal and recover and you’ll ultimately get more gains.


Progressive Overload Theory


In order to continue to get stronger you need to constantly add more tension and resistance to the muscle. One way to do this is to add more weight to your reps each week as you progress. A good baseline is adding 10% if you can, each week to each exercise.


Keep in mind that not all muscle groups are created equal. Some larger muscle groups, like your quads, will progress at a higher rate than your biceps because there are more muscles that make up that area of your body.


There WILL come a point in time when you won’t be able to lift more weight. When this happens you can look at changing up your volume, maybe increasing reps and sets to continue to progress.


Another way to look at your progression is through the lens of beginner, intermediate, and expert. A beginner will see more gains, faster than someone who has been exercising consistently for a longer period of time. The reason why is because your body adapts once you’ve been exercising for a while, versus your body responds very quickly to new behaviors. It’s almost like when you go on a diet: in the beginning you may drop weight very quickly because it’s so different from what your body is used to…but then over time you stop seeing the quick weight loss because your body adapts.


It works the same way in the exercise world.


There are other things than exercise that affects your progression as well: things like sleep, stress, nutrition, hydration…all of these things contribute to success. So if you aren’t progressing as much as you like make sure you take a look at these different categories.




Taking rests during your program is ESSENTIAL to seeing progress. From a scientific perspective, your body must restore ATP in order to perform at top level…in order to restore ATP you’ve got to rest.


Rest periods are determined by a couple different things: where you are in your journey, the type of routine you’re doing, and the goals that you have.


If you’re brand new and your endurance isn’t very high, you’re going to have to take longer rests. You’ll be surprised, however, at how quickly your body begins to catch up.


If you’re doing a HIIT routine, your rest periods are going to be shorter (10, 20, or 30 seconds)…and don’t worry about that burning feeling in your lungs…it’s totally normal!


Now, when we talk about goals, this is what we want to look at:


Muscular Endurance: if endurance is your goal you want to be lifting less than 30% of your 1 rep max and resting 30 seconds or less (think HIIT)


Muscle Hypertrophy (getting toned): When you’re trying to get toned you’ll want to lift 65-75% of your 1 rep max and resting anywhere from 30-90 secs.


Strength and power: When your goal is to get really strong and powerful, you’ll want to be lifting at 85% of your 1 rep max or greater, with 2-5 minutes of rest in between.


Proper rest time influences the safety and effectiveness of your workout, and yes, rest time in MANDATORY.


Pro Tip:

  • To find your 1 rep max, make sure you’re working with a professional who can spot you and guide you on proper form and technique.

  • Set a timer for rests! Often we can go over our rest times unintentionally


Warm ups & Cool downs


What better place to wrap up today’s topic than warm ups and cool downs? 


You ALWAYS want to warm up before you start exercising. Some things to keep in mind is you want to get your heart rate up at least a little bit, that way you can increase the core temperature of your body. Studies have shown that increasing the core temp reduces your risk of injury!


You can accomplish this by doing some light cardio. You’ll also want to warm up with a few exercises that will get the muscle group you’ll be training ready to go. For example, if you’re working on your chest today you may want to warm up with some push ups to get your body going.


One mistake we see a lot is people stretching or foam rolling BEFORE exercising. This is a big no-no because it actually calms down your nervous system…it’s like telling your muscles, nerves, and joints that it’s time for bed! It can increase your risk for injury and lower your performance during your actual workout.


Make sure to stretch at the end of your workout! Always stretch the muscle group you trained, and ensure to hold stretches for 30 seconds. 


For those of you who are beginners…you probably have a lot of questions. The best guidance we can give is to start with a professional who can really break down what all this means for YOU and how this should guide your programming. To try working with us, just click on the image below and send over your information, or give us a call at 302-689-3489. We’d love to work with you!


For those who have been lifting for a while, we hope this added value to you! Let us know what you think by commenting below, commenting on our Youtube page, or sending us a message.


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