The right way to plan workouts

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Mapping out your workouts a week at a time not only ensures you’ll actually hit your goals but can also help you take advantage of a lesser-known physiological phenomenon

“On a weekly basis, accounting for something called supercompensation helps your body perform at its peak every day,” explains Dan Rohanna, an advantage trainer at Equinox Sports Club West in New York City. Simplistically speaking, the goal is to train, recover, train, recover on repeat. 

On Monday, you might work out to your max, tiring yourself out. “This pushes the body into a recovery phase where your performance decreases and you are fatigued,” Rohanna explains. Your body has to replenish its stores of creatine phosphate, glycogen, and proteins. If you give yourself proper recovery so it can do this, it’ll be able to perform at a higher level when you do return to training typically 48 to 72 hours later. “It’s a rebound effect because you’re bouncing back from the stress of exercise,” says Rohanna. “With a properly structured program, an individual can time these windows, thus maximizing training results,” he says. Since it’s highly individual—some people require a full 72 hours between hard workouts while others need closer to 48—it may take some trial and error. 

You can start by following the sample plan below from Rohanna. From week to week, consider playing with variables such sets and reps, exercises, or the amount of weight you use. Watch the video, then scroll down for more details.

Day 1: A double: Steady-state cardio and bodyweight conditioning

Think of this as a day of endurance that you’ll be able to build upon throughout the week. “We’re working up muscular endurance to get the body ready for strength, power, and sprints,” says Rohanna. Ideally, do the bodyweight conditioning around 8 a.m. and the cardio around 4 p.m. (Learn how to master the two-a-day.) For steady-state cardio, run, cycle, jump on a rower, or swim for up to one hour. Just make sure you don’t push yourself beyond moderate effort.

Sample bodyweight conditioning workout:

Do 4 to 5 rounds of 20 reps of bodyweight moves like push-ups, TRX rows, Russian twists, and burpees. Rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute between rounds. 

Day 2: Mobility and flexibility work

Today is the day to get in enough R&R so you’re ready to bounce back stronger for tomorrow’s weighted strength training. “Pick your favorite yoga class to get a good recovery session in,” says Rohanna. Or, try this Kinstretch mobility routine

Day 3: Weighted strength training

If you properly recovered yesterday, this is the day you’ll likely be able to go harder than you did on Monday.  Sample workout:  Make sure that you’re using weights challenging enough so that the last one or two reps are very tough but you can do them with good form. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets/reps. Barbell squat (5 sets of 5 at 75 to 80 percent of your 1-rep max) Walking lunges (4 sets of 8 reps) Renegade row (3 sets of 10 reps per side) Shoulder press (3 sets of 10 reps) Dumbbell lateral shoulder raises (3 sets of 10 reps) Dumbbell calf raises (3 sets of 12 reps) Dumbbell shrugs (3 sets of 12 reps)

Day 4: Active rest or recovery

Now your body falls back into that recovery phase. To maximize that feel-good feeling in the gym, you’ll want to take it easy today, Rohanna says. Try a full-body foam rolling session. Focus on your quads, glutes, adductors, calves, mid-back, and lats. These muscle groups are the main drivers for your weekly work, he notes.

Day 5: A double: Power-based training and short, intense cardio 

After a day of recovery, your body is again ready for power work and explosiveness. Mix things up by incorporating cardio. Do a power-based workout in the a.m. and a speed workout in the afternoon. Sample power workout: Rest 2 minutes between sets. Hang cleans (5 sets of 3 reps at 70 percent of your 1-rep max) Barbell deadlift (4 sets of 5 at 70 percent of your 1-rep max) Box jumps (3 sets of 12 reps) Dumbbell high-pulls (4 sets of 8 reps per side ) Bench press (5 sets of 5 reps at 70 percent of your 1-rep max) Clap push-ups (3 sets of 10 reps) Lat pull-downs (3 sets of 10 reps Sample speed workout: Treadmill sprints:  5-minute warm-up 2 rounds @ 1 minute sprinting/1 minute rest 4 rounds @ 40 seconds sprinting/1 minute rest 6 rounds @ 30 seconds sprinting/30 seconds rest  5-minute cool-down

Day 6: Active rest or recovery 

“Doing extra work doesn’t always do more for you,” notes Rohanna. Try a form of exercise you enjoy like hiking, swimming, or playing a sport. 

Day 7: Active rest or recovery

Allow the body to recover from a hard week. If you’re itching to exercise, break out the foam roller or take a low-intensity studio class you enjoy.