My Weekly Workout

by | Jun 6, 2012

Food is by far my favorite thing to write about, but exercise is another essential component of my healthstyle and many readers have asked me to share my weekly routine.

To be honest, however, I have avoided posting my workout regimen for several reasons. First, I am not a trainer and this is in no way intended as a training program for anyone. These exercises are just what work for me and you should not assume they will work for you as well. I also worry that some fitness snobs will come out of the woodwork and accuse me of doing everything wrong, a criticism I have no interest in refuting or discussing.

That being said I have been a consistent gym goer for the past 18 years and feel very comfortable in the weight room.

My routine has changed over the years, but I am very happy with my current fitness level. At 30, I feel confident saying I’m in the best shape of my life and it feels awesome.

A few points to start:

  • I work out 3-5 days a week and start every session with half hour of cardio. The only thing that keeps me out of the gym is scheduling conflicts. I love exercise.
  • I almost always workout with a partner–a male nearly double my size–and our workouts are approximately the same (obviously using different weights).
  • We rotate cardio equipment between treadmill (either running or brisk walking at a steep incline), stationary bike and elliptical machine, trying not to repeat the same exercise 2 days in a row.
  • For strength training we focus on 2 or 3 muscle groups per day, and try to get through all the major muscle groups twice in a week (but I’ll settle for one time per week if that’s all I can fit in).
  • I do an abdominal workout every time I’m at the gym, rotating through a few different exercises throughout the week.
  • I always wear gloves when I weight train to avoid callousy man hands. (BTW, these aren’t hot on men either). They also make me look tough while I’m lifting.
  • I try to do my lifting slowly and controlled in both directions of the movement. But sometimes I forget.
  • For most of these exercises we use free weights, but once every week or two we’ll use the machines to mix it up.
  • In addition to my weight training sessions, I make an effort to walk extensively each day. According to my Fitbit pedometer I take between 8,000 and 17,000 steps per day (this includes my workout). This is intentional and I do it for both stress relief and fitness purposes.

On any given training day we do two or three of the following sets of exercises after our cardio workout. If we anticipate being able to workout every weekday, we will use the last two days of the week to push harder and complete the entire set in just 2 days.

Muscle Groups

Shoulders

My shoulder workout consists of shoulder presses and lateral raises in a superset (each exercise back-to-back, then rest). I do 3 sets of ~12 reps using dumbbells.

Biceps

My only bicep exercise is dumbell curls. I alternate each arm and do 3 sets of 20. I superset my bicep workout with lunges, still holding the dumbbells.

Triceps

I do tricep workouts on the cables using the rope attachment. We do supersets of bent-over tricep extensions and tricep push downs.

Back

I use specific cable machines for back exercises. We superset cable seated rows and cable pulldowns, usually 3 sets of ~12. For lower back I do lifts using the Roman chair, usually holding a single 10-pound barbell weight to my chest.

Chest

For chest we superset bench presses (I just use the 45-pound bar) and flies using dumbbells. For these I’m happy to get through 3 sets of 10.

Legs

I’m not fond of the quadricep and hamstring equipment at my gym (my partner uses them), so I only use the machines for V-squats and hip extensions. I do 3 sets of 20, and superset if the gym isn’t too busy.

Abs

Each day we rotate between the various abdominal equipment we find in the gym. This usually includes hanging leg raises, incline crunches and a few others.

Final Thoughts

As a female I was reluctant to begin almost every one of these weight training exercises, besides abs.

Nervous, I started with biceps and triceps, then shoulders and back. I gave myself a 6-month trial period and said if I thought I was getting too “bulky” at that point I would stop. The opposite happened and I became more adventurous in the weight room.

Six months later I reluctantly worked chest exercises into my routine and was again pleased with the results. I only recently started my leg workouts and, again, was blown away by the unexpected awesomeness of the transformation.

I became stronger, thinner and my clothes looked better after each exercise I added to my regimen. From my perspective, strength training is infinitely more rewarding than running marathons.

Has weight training helped you reach your health and fitness goals?

Originally published April 14, 2010. Little has changed in my routine and I’m still kicking ass and taking names.

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45 Responses to “My Weekly Workout”

  1. thomas says:

    so how are your abs? ;)

  2. John says:

    This is a great starting point for a lot of people. But you’re right about each person needing their own regimen. For example, I do more sets of less reps and rather than being slow I try to be very quick and explosive. This is because I am a discus thrower and thats what is best for my sport.

    My advice to anyone just getting started in lifting is to do some research about what lifts and lifting style is best for them. Also if you ever wonder what exactly a lift is, just go to YouTube and search for the name of it. There are a lot of videos for each lift showing you the best way to do it and giving helpful tips.

  3. I lift and run/do cardio. I find running calms me and lifting empowers me. With lifting I am strong, look strong but above all FEEL strong both physically and mentally.

    I usually exercise 5x a week – using my body as a guide if I need to do less/want to do more. When I’ve had to take extended breaks from exercise (due to injury) I’m miserable. Exercise rules!

  4. Mary says:

    How long does your workout take? I’d like to start working out in the mornings but have no idea how much time to allow at the gym in order to not be late(er than usual) to work.

  5. I want a fitbit!! That thing is so freaking cool!

    My routine is similar to yours. I rotate between spin class and running for cardio, and then do about 30 minutes of strength training. I was just thinking that I needed something for my lower back, so I’m going to look into your roman chair routine.

    Great post!

  6. I totally agree with your last thought about strength training being so much more rewarding than running marathons. I’ve been doing CrossFit for almost six months now and despite it being trendy, it really works. In addition to being stronger now than I ever have been, I continually amaze myself. Because CrossFit is based on functional movements and the workouts are always varied, I find that I never get bored and see my strength in action in lots of normal ways…picking up the big bag of manure, moving furniture, and carrying groceries.

    Not to mention that I can rock my bikini with no fear. But that’s a distant second. ;)

  7. Lizzie says:

    Thanks for the tips, D-bone. Weight training has definitely helped me! I naturally have large muscular legs (and being a runner and a soccer player didn’t hurt), so I always avoided doing weights for my legs out of fear of making them any bigger. But ever since I tore my ACL in 2001, my left knee and hip have been plagued by problems. A month or so ago I started doing quad and hammie weights to stabilize my knee, and it’s been great. My knee and hip feel much stronger, and my legs haven’t gotten any bigger–just stronger. Wahoo!

  8. Brenna Waack says:

    I love lifting and have been going to the gym several times a week since high school. But I have to disagree with the marathon comment, mostly because I’m an avid runner and get tired of being inside. So my runs (3-6x week) are a great stress relief and it’s fun to meet people at 5ks, 1/2 and full marathon races. Another plus, being in the sun gets me some au-natural vitamin D!

  9. For me, it’s not about burning calories (although it is). It’s a lot more about feeling good, centered, strong balanced and how the other 23 hours are affected from my one hour of exercise.

    I have been working out consistently since college. (long ago for me). I have gone through many cycles. 80′s aerobics, years of running, martial arts, back to running, weight training, boxing, etc. Right now, I do 3-5 zumba classes per week which is kick butt hour long latin dance cardio that burns about 500-800 calories. I put my all into it because routines like this are great for the brain too. I do a special strength training class for one hour every Monday morning with an exercise genius. It’s skeletal, posture, strength and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Weight training is crucial for having a balanced body in proportion, and very important as we age. I’m much older than you, but I have maintained my strength and balance and I hope to continue to exercise until the day I die.

    Your take on fitness is why I’m devoted to your site. :)

    • Darya Pino says:

      Awww, thanks Angela! I totally agree with you, the best part about exercise is feeling fit. It’s so hard to describe that to people who are out of shape and don’t like to exercise. But I try :)

  10. emma says:

    Hi Darya

    I tend to have a large lower body and i’m scared that doing weights will make my legs and thighs bigger. Is this true?

    • Darya Pino says:

      I’m the same way and I found the weights – particularly hamstring/glute exercises – helped tremendously. I was very surprised :) I don’t use a ton of weight ~30 lbs, but this small addition really made my legs look great.

  11. Pam says:

    OK, ok, I’m getting the message. I’ve been all cardio (mostly running and tennis) for a long time. Somewhere deep inside I know I should add some strength training, but just haven’t found the courage to get started. I think I’m afraid it’ll be hard and not nearly as satifying as being outside on a great day running. I’m also concerned it’ll cut into my running training. I’m trying to increase my mileage to be able to participate in longer runs, 1/2 marathons, maybe even some day a whole marathon. I guess I need to just jump in and give it a try. Any advise on the best way to get started? I don’t have the $$ for a trainer, but I hate to do it on my own and maybe injure myself doing it wrong.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Definitely! Start on the machines. They almost always have a little instruction sticker on them explaining proper use. Start with light weights and move up until you’re comfortable. Don’t try too much at one time. But the weight machines in your gym are probably set up in a nice little circuit. Give it a try, it’s really awesome. I love running too but the weights are definitely worth it!

  12. Robby says:

    I was _super_ excited about winning the mayor of my gym too!

    I only started going to the gym about 18 months ago, so I got a personal trainer. After working with her, I’m too scared of getting hurt to ever lift weights without her (as I see most people doing), although I run or swim on the days that I don’t work with her.

  13. Nick says:

    Love the guns! :)

    An active life is a healthy life.

  14. Laura says:

    So I know you start with lighter weights, but my question has always been how much weight you progress to…Do you keep you dumbbells and weight machines at the same weight or do you move up, and how much is too much?

  15. Madhu Ganesh says:

    First off, i am a new comer to this blog and i already find myself into it.
    Darya, you write excellent articles, some of the articles are really profound(how to eat slow!) but simple enough to get what you’re trying to say. I really appreciate the way you write your stuff, very even-handed and humble albeit informative(like the cholesterol video).
    May be a bit more of compound exercises and substitute cardio with
    aerobic+anaerobic like Kettlebell swings,snatches etc. I don’t see pullups either.
    Please don’t worry about fitness snobs(like me) and instead welcome more people like me so that its two way street with negative criticism. You don’t have to be a trainer to frequent more on fitness. Hey,you have 18 years under your belt.
    Just my feedback.
    Keep the Good stuff coming.

  16. kristen says:

    Darya,
    When you say, if you anticipate being able to work out 5 days a week (pretty rare, I’m sure, but still) does this mean, you’ll do 30 mins cardio in the gym and no weight training Monday – Wednesday and then do 30 mins of cardio and the entiring strength training program on Thursday and Friday…? Just want to clarify. Thanks!

  17. Casi says:

    I started working out at least 3-5 times a week about a year and a half ago. I focused mostly on cardio, running on the treadmill and cardio floor exercises (jumping jacks, burpees, etc). I did do some weights, but not consistently. I lost some weight, but that wasn’t my goal. I mostly wanted to look tighter overall, and that wasn’t happening. Two months ago I hurt my back and I was unable to workout at all. Once I started bringing exercise back into my routine I stuck mostly to free weights for my arms, and did minimal running/floor exercises because they put too much stress on my back. I have never felt better about how I look. Weight training has been great for my body! No bulks in sight….just tightness. I do cardio now, but mostly walking and a bit of jogging. But my main focus are free weights, push-ups, and planks. And now that my back is better I can do even more different type of weight training for all over my body. It’s great, I love weight training.

  18. Joe says:

    As you mentioned, exercise “experts” could make suggestive tweak or two, but what I want to underscore is your consistency and a well balanced routine.

    Bravo.

    -Joe

  19. Wow, I arrived at basically the same routine through my own trial and error. I definitely like that you do the same ab exercises as I do, since I’ve heard so often that I shouldn’t bother with abs, since they don’t directly lead to a flat stomach. It’s my core! Core strength is important!

    The great thing about a lot of these is that you can do them at home with a set or two of dumbbells. On the days when I run around my neighborhood I like to end doing some strength exercises like pushups, leg raises on my stairs, and jackknives. :)

  20. Claire says:

    Just curious why you emphsized you always work out with a male much bigger in size than you. Female partners or trainers are not as good?

  21. Mike says:

    Great article. And, congrats on the Livestrong.com link to it.

  22. Thanks for the inspiration to get back into weight training.

  23. Matthew says:

    Hi Darya,

    walking is great stress relief for me, too, so I can relate when you say you intentionally take up to 17,000 steps a day.

    Regarding the intensity of your weight lifting, what is the weight you lift as percentage of your one Repetition Maximum (RM)? So, assuming you bench press X pounds in your 1RM. What percentage of this X number do you lift when you are doing 12 reps? Usually, trainers recommend you lift 70% of your 1RM if you want to increase the size of your muscles. But recently, scientists found that working out as low as 30% of your RM (till failure, usually 25 reps) triggers the same level of muscular protein synthesis (which leads to muscle gains).

    Check this out:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811125943.htm

  24. Dee says:

    Darya, good as usual… Love your introduction …lol :)

    • Dee says:

      Also, like you, i design my own fitness regimen…. I try to focus 3 d on resistance/ weights and 5d on cardio…. I’m still in weight loss mode…

  25. Kelsey says:

    Hey Darya,

    This article is really helpful. I’ve been working out regularly for the past few months and want to be more focused on the muscle groups I’m attacking each session. Thanks.

    One question – what is a superset?

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