In part one of how to be your own trainer, we looked into goal setting. This article will look into program design and diet. Having been coaching clients for 6 years now, I feel that I have worked out the best way to get results.
Any program that you design needs to be specific to you, there is no point copying a program off the internet which involves exercises that you are not familiar with or involves a greater commitment then you are currently prepared to give.
That last part tripped me up for years, I would create a program for myself that was 5 days per week weight training, plus 2 days cardio. And then proceed to quit after a week because the commitment required was more than I could handle. If you only manage to train in the gym once per week, writing yourself a 6 day training plan is not going to work. Create a program that you can follow twice per week, and slowly build up the number of days.
It doesn’t matter how many days you plan on spending in the gym per week (although obviously the more you train the faster the results) what does matter is that you manage to train every muscle. Don’t avoid legs because you don’t enjoy training them, but don’t go in the opposite direction and fill your program with exercises you can’t/won’t do.
So your program will need to cover
There are a range of exercise examples (yes I have missed many, and yes some are very easy or very hard), any weekly program should include at least one exercise from each of these muscle groups. Make sure you are confident with an exercise before going heavy, and get help if needed.
Regarding sets and reps, if you are looking to get stronger then low reps. If you are looking to get bigger muscles then go high reps. If your main goal is fat loss then I would recommend a mixture of both, low reps for the big compound exercises (deadlift, squats, bench press) but add in some high rep exercises too.
Sets should be determined by 1) How many reps you are performing, so if you are only doing 3 or 4 reps per set you can probably manage around 4 or 5 sets. But if you are performing 15-20 reps per set then don’t overdo the amount of sets. 2) How difficult you find an exercise, if you have never squatted before then doing 5 sets of 5 reps might be too much, try 3 sets to start off with.
Your first job is to work out what your current diet looks like in terms of calories. So download your favourite calorie tracker and just eat your normal diet for the next two weeks or so. Once you have your calories and macros (protein/fat/carbs) data you need to work out what is your average, this is why it is essential that you have at least 2 weeks’ worth of data. If your data suggests that Mon-Fri your calories are 1800 or so but on weekends your calories are 2400, then already you have identified where you are going wrong.
Whilst doing this, you need to identify any outliers. So if you ate 1800 calories every day except Monday 21st Feb where you took part in an eating competition and consumed 4500 then it’s best not to include it in your calculations because it would affect your average. Coaching my clients the difference between removing an outlier and just cherry picking results to give themselves a better looking average has been one of my biggest challenges!
After working out what your average is, you need to decide what your goal is. If you have never exercised before then I would suggest keeping your calories the same and adding the exercise. That way you will be lowering your calories for the day without having to make any changes to your diet.
For those of you who are more advanced, I would suggest finding out what your recommended calories are using one of the two following Energy Expenditure Calculators
Health Calc: http://www.health-calc.com/diet/energy-expenditure-advanced
Precision Nutrition: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/weight-loss-calculator
Or you can do it yourself and use the formula available from healthyeater.com:
A general rule is to find out TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and then subtract calories for fat loss or increase calories for weight gain. I would check your current calorie average before jumping in to this though, as sometimes the TDEE can be a bit high.
So let’s say you have worked out your TDEE (2,200) and have your current daily average (2,300). Now what?
Firstly I would recommend dropping your calories down to 2,200 (or whatever your TDEE is) for a month. Just sticking to a target alone should provide you with some fat-loss results. Once you feel that fat loss has plateaued you can begin to lower calories again, either in stages (2,100 per day for a month, then 2000 per day) or week by week (2,200 per day for a week, then 2,150 per day). Whichever suits you.
Do not drop calories just for the sake of it, this will not help. Take measurements with a tape measure around your stomach, hips, arms, butt, and chest. Weigh yourself weekly too, if you drop more than a kg in a week then your calories have got too low. Again, this is not suited to people who have had a bad relationship with food in the past. If you have ever suffered from an eating disorder, then please steer clear of this approach.
I would advise against dropping your calories too much below your TDEE especially if you’re new to it. If your average calories was 2,300 then slowly dropping down to 1700 will get you fantastic results. Dropping down to 1200 will not.
There is so much more that I could go into here, but this article is already in danger of becoming overwhelming. Honestly I would recommend hiring a trainer or nutritionist for this part, or learning how to do it yourself properly.
Don’t forget to look out for part three where we will look at Macro-nutrients, supplements, and motivation
As you may have realised coaching yourself is a complicated business, if you have any questions about being your own trainer, please fill out the below form and we can organise a free strategy coaching call where we will discuss any issues you are having
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.