What workout style is the best for "me"?

It is often thought that each individual requires a totally individualised program to achieve a result for them.

“But what about me”?, “what workout is best for me” is a typical question we get asked.

Which can be true and relevant for some, in particular those on either end of the ability spectrum (total novice / physical dominance) , however, those looking for physical competence in transforming the way they look, move and feel should differ their workouts only by intensity, not by kind.

By this, we mean that all people have the capacity to and should perform the same (or similar) workout principles, however, adjusting a few variables according to their ability.

Of course there will be variations to the movements, scaled number of reps and more than likely different load prescriptions for each person, however, everybody’s workouts should have an element of high intensity that is relevant to THEIR ability. (relevant intensity)

Intensities, modalities and total training volume can/should always be varied to elicit the desired response for the individual, however, putting yourself in a certain umbrella and neglecting certain training principles because of your gender, skill level or body composition is ignorant.

Knowing that most people have a desire to lose/maintain their body fat % and maintain/grow lean muscle mass for both performance and aesthetic properties, whilst learning and developing new skills, we can assume that they would all benefit from these 3 variables.

1. High Intensity / low volume (high weight, low reps)

E.g. 5 x 3 Back squats at 90% of 1 Rep Max

2. Medium Intensity / Medium Volume (medium weight / medium reps and sets)

E.g. 8 x 8 Push press at 65 % of 1 rep max

3. Low intensity / High Volume (low weight/ high reps) with limited rest:

E.g. A metabolic conditioning workout like Fran (21, 15, 9 Thrusters and burpees) or perhaps 4 x 12 bulgarian split squats / bent over rows at 30% of 1 rep max.

The current research points towards (1) promoting high muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and high CNS neuro-muscular output, (2) leading towards downstream signalling of Muscle Protein Synthesis and myofibrillar hypertrophy and (3) leading towards aerobic, anaerobic and metabolic conditioning (utilising metabolism; and whilst metabolism is always in use, this is referring to creating a stimulus which promotes a positive adaptation).

From experience, we have seen that most people will elicit the rep schemes of (3) in their training, however, lack the intensity that promotes the metabolic conditioning aspects, therefore leaving them in no man’s land.

Neither creating enough volume to promote MPS or enough intensity to promote a metabolic response, thus leaving their workout nothing more than an acute caloric expenditure.

(Which I often refer to as useful as “jumping over a stick for an hour”)

Yeah you’re burning calories and expending energy, but you could get the same response by walking/ jumping over a stick for an hour)

So, how do you make sure you aren’t a “stick jumper” and can start maximising your time in the gym for more effective results?

  1. Follow a program which incorporates all 3 intensity thresholds from above and utilise these intensity thresholds in a calculated manor. Remember, intensity is relative. What may be heavy for you is light for someone else, stick to your lane for a given intensity and do it well.

  2. Know when to use 1,2 and 3 effectively to create the stimulus necessary for adaptation. Don’t get stuck in a single category forever.

  3. Scale workouts to suit your strength and ability, however make sure you elicit the desired response and outcome of that intensity threshold. I.e. relative intensity

  4. Include movements which promote multiple joints (compound lifts) throughout large ranges of motions. Think full depth squats, locked out presses and burpees etc.

  5. Whilst also incorporating isolation movements to promote structure and stability of the finer motor skills. (supplementary lifts to promote MPS and metabolic stress)

  6. If you’re new to this, start by seeking physical competence before physical dominance. Develop good motor patterns and high skill acquisition before searching for increased load/ intensity. Vary your intensity using other principles like tempo and rest periods etc.

  7. Don’t mistake fast reps with limited rest periods. Often we see people trying to elicit a metabolic response by moving faster, when they should be moving slower and resting less.

Workouts should differ only by intensity, not by kind
— crossfit