Struggling with a workout game plan?

Carlos Anthony Castro
4 min readMay 1, 2022
Photo courtesy of istock.com

I get reminders everyday of something I had to learn when I started my career in fitness, everybody is not like me. My fitness journey as an adult was more performance based, as I was training for marathons. I’m one of the weird ones that never cared much about the physical adaptations that come from working out. But people have a lot of reasons for coming to the gym. I work amongst a sophisticated, educated member base at Equinox on the miracle mile in Los Angeles. Some of which show up with the intense approach, ready for a super serious workout on their own. Others like the group fitness aspect of exercise. And yes, some like the more social, networking possibilities that come with being a member of a luxury gym. I think these are all great reasons to have a gym membership.

And there are some that show up without much of a game plan. For this group, walking around usually leads to 30 minutes on the treadmill and leaving, to which I’m totally ok with. After all it’s still movement. But this group actually wanted much more out of their gym experience. They just didn’t know what do about it(I think hiring a trainer would be a great start). And the gym can be a very intimidating place. Especially a gym like Equinox that has a very fit member base (some of which of slamming weights on the ground and doing fancy exercises ie: sophisticated meaheads).

So if you struggle to find your gym gameplan, first ask yourself, “What’s my goal?” In my experience, a lot of people struggle to answer this. I’m happy to give my clients a goal if they can’t figure out one themselves. But keep things simple once you have your goal figured out. Most gyms have a lot of fancy machines. And I ask members all the time, “What are you working on today?”, and some of the common answers I get:

  • biceps and shoulders
  • chest and legs
  • abs and booty

To which I’ll reply, “hey have a great workout!”

To be clear, muscles groups don’t work in isolation. And thats not to say that exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions don’t have their place in a workout routine. But proper programming is training around movement patterns, not muscle groups.

And those movement patterns are:

Squat/ Knee Dominant

As mentioned in a previous article, the king of exercises recruits all the major muscle groups, is more of a total body exercise that most realize( and is low key great for burn that mid-section away). There are various squat patterns for all levels of fitness that are safe and effective.

Hinge/ Hip Dominant

Definitely the most difficult difficult movement pattern to teach in my opinion. Unlike the squat pattern, where the knees bend and the hips drop, the hinge pattern pushes the hips back and engages the glutes and hamstrings more, where the squat pattern tends to be more quad dominant. Shown here is the barbell deadlift. Other hinge patterns exercise include hip thrusts, back extensions & kettlebell swings(advanced for most).

Push

Popular push pattern exercises range from the ever popular bench press, to plate loaded press machines to the body weigh push up, horizontal push movements. The push pattern engages the pecs, tricep, and anterior/ front deltoids. In addition to this there are vertical push options like the landmine press, military press and Arnold press.

Pull

Safe, effective pull variations include the dumbbell row/ horizontal pull(shown here), & lat pull downs/ vertical pull. The lats are the main movement in the pull pattern. But properly done, several other muscles, including the poisterior/ back side of the deltoid, tricep long head, and rotator cuff muscles are engaged( I’ll nerd out more on that in another article)

Sound programming addresses the main movement patterns based on your goals FIRST. Then we add in our accessory exercises. And there’s a level for each pattern based on the individual’s fitness level.

So if that’s you struggling to find a game plan in the gym, remember to keep it simple. The fundamental moves are what ultimately deliver results.

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Carlos Anthony Castro

*Personal Trainer* Marathon Runner * Instagram @iron_endurance_training