Jaco 1

Whole body or split?

Both options work, and your choice depends on your goals, how many days you can commit to training, how motivated you are, and your preferences.

Whole body workouts involve training all your primary muscles within a single session. They are suitable for beginners, people who cannot commit to training more than two or three times a week, fat loss, those who want to develop holistic fitness and strength, and anyone who prefers a day on/day off approach to exercise. Whole body workouts also allow you to work each muscle more frequently per week. 

Split routines involve working different muscles on different days. They are useful for bodybuilders, people who are happy to train four times a week or more, anyone with areas of their body that they want to emphasize, and individuals who want shorter, less demanding workouts but are okay with training more frequently. Training volume per muscle group is high, but muscle group frequency is lower i.e. once a week, twice at the most.

Choose the approach that works best for you but also try the opposite approach whenever your workouts need changing up.

Reps, sets, and rest

The number of reps you perform, the number of sets, and how much rest you take between sets depends on your goals. This chart is a good place on which to base your workouts.


Rep range


Muscular endurance


30-60 seconds

Hypertrophy (muscle building)


60-90 seconds



3-5 minutes


1-5 – explosive

3-5 minutes

The last rep or two of each set should be very hard but still completable using good form. Note that there is no rep range for weight loss - that’s because there isn’t one, it’s about using these different rep ranges to provide a stimulus to your body for weight loss. The common myth of high reps and low weights won’t make you lose weight; it will just build more endurance in your muscles.

How heavy?

Weights are often prescribed according to your “one repetition maximum” or 1RM which is the amount of weight you can lift once, but not twice. The chart below shows what percentage of your 1RM you should use according to your workout goal.


% Of Your 1 Rep Maximum

Muscular endurance


Hypertrophy (muscle building)






Establishing your 1RM is not always easy and can also be dangerous as you may fail your lift. This is no big deal for biceps curls but far more serious for squats or bench presses. You can estimate your 1RM (e1RM) using an online calculator or the following equation:

Reps performed x weight x 0.0333 + weight = e1RM

For example, if you complete nine reps with 45 kilograms…

9 x 45 = 405 x 0.333 = 14.4865 + 45 = 58.4865 or 58.5kg rounded up
If this all sounds a little complicated then don’t worry, just choose a weight that keeps you within the repetition range for your chosen goal. 

For example, if you are training for muscle growth, if you cannot manage six reps, the weight is too heavy. However, if you can do more than 12, it’s too light. Adjust the load to keep you in the “sweet spot” for your chosen goal.

Exercise choice

There are lots of effective exercises to choose from, and yet a lot of people are guilty of doing the same handful of exercises repeatedly. This can make workouts less productive. Instead, you should rotate your exercise choices every few weeks to keep things fresh and interesting. Use a variety of training equipment including free weights, weights machines, cable machines, kettlebells, and any other tools you have access to.

In general, focus most of your energy on compound or multi-joint exercises which provide the best results in the shortest time. However, you can use isolation exercises to “finish off” a muscle group after you’ve completed the more effective compound exercises.


To continually improve your muscular fitness, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts. If you only ever do three sets of 10 reps with 20 kg for squats, that’s as strong as your muscles are ever going to be.

Instead, you must make your workouts a little bit harder week by week to make progress. This can be done in several different ways:

- Do more reps

- Do more sets

- Shorter rests between sets

- More exercises per muscle group

- More complex exercises

- More workouts per week

- Use a training system e.g. drop sets, supersets, etc.

Doing the same workout over and over is a sure-fire way to dig yourself into an exercise rut. Look for ways to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts to ensure you continue to make progress.

Rest, recovery, and nutrition

Training takes a lot out of your body. If you want to get results from your workouts, you need to put something back in! That something is rest, recovery, and proper food.

Exercise breaks your muscles down; a process called catabolism. The rebuilding and recovery process only happens between workouts, and when you sleep. This is called anabolism. Subsequently, if you train hard, you must rest hard too. This means getting eight or more hours of sleep per night, avoiding training for too long (90 minutes maximum per session), and not training too often either. While exercise is good, you can have too much of a good thing.

Make sure you allow time to recover as well as time to train. Food provides the building blocks your body needs for growth and repair, so your diet needs to be healthy. Ultimately, no matter what you do in the gym; if your diet and lifestyle do not support recovery, you won’t get the results you want.

Strength training can often seem complicated but, really, it’s not. Just lift, rest, eat, sleep and repeat- Practice makes perfect. Because of exercise science, we know a lot about how training affects your body – right down to the cellular level. However, the actual process of strength training is much the same as it was over a hundred years ago. Stick to these guidelines, and you will get the results you want from your training.