In order to help ensure continual progress by preventing plateaus and stagnation as well as curing the boredom that can occur over time, you should vary your exercises or, more often, their parameters frequently (on the order of 2-5 weeks). Exercise good judgment and keep an exercise or parameter longer or change it sooner based on your ability to make progress with it.
To further aid progress, you should keep a meticulous training log, maintaining records of the exercises, rest periods, sets, reps, and weights you use as well as your bodyweight at the time and both specific and general notes about your performance. If you want to be really thorough, at varying levels of complexity, you can calculate your exercises' volume and average load per rep for each workout, so that you can maintain another baseline for progression. In any case, make sure to heed the principles of progressive overload in any weight-training endeavor.
As examples of a basic level of complexity for those who fall under the "really thorough" category:
Push Press: 3 x 5 x 200 = 3000 lbs lifted @ 200 lbs / rep
Push Press: 5x200, 5x210, 5x220 = 3150 lbs lifted @ 210 lbs / rep
Push Press: 7x210, 5x220, 3x230 = 3260 lbs lifted @ 217.3 lbs / rep
The average load per rep is total volume divided by the number of sets divided by the average number of reps performed.
Before your weight-training session, it's good practice to do a general warm-up. This should be a vigorous full-body activity that elevates your heart-rate and causes you to break a slight sweat within 6-12 minutes. I recommend that a few rounds of an exercise complex be performed. A complex is a series of exercises performed in quick succession, usually with a very light weight. In this case, I recommend something like: one rep each of power clean + front squat + jerk + back squat + jerk for a few continuous rounds until the heart rate spikes, then resting a bit, and repeating until the body is well-warmed up. Alternatively, traditional cardio activities (treadmill, elliptical machine, rowing, etc.) are a valid option.
In addition, you should perform specific warm-ups and acclimations, especially prior to performing the major compound exercises in each of your weight-training sessions. Generally, a specific warm-up should be a few sets of 5-10 reps with a relatively light weight. From there, you should do a series of triples, doubles, or singles in 5-15% intervals (with about 10% being average) until you come close to your working set weight. Acclimation sets are particularly important because they prime your nervous system for the movement, getting you "into the groove." As you become stronger, you will need to increase the number of acclimation sets you perform. However, in total, between specific warm-up and acclimation, you should be able to reach a working set in about 3-5 sets. More is usually not necessary and less is rarely enough for a decently strong individual. As far as rest periods, you should start very short and gradually lengthen as you come closer to your maximum. Do not fatigue yourself before your workout has even started.
As an example of a specific warm-up and acclimation:
Deadlift: 5x185, 3x225, 3x275, 2x315, 1x365 for a working set of 5x405.
Designing a Routine
Based on what you've read above, you now know enough to create a routine. More specifically, you know the following facts:
-- legs, hips, core, and shoulders are the most important muscle groups for a tricker
-- development of strength and power through these muscle groups should be the emphasis of a routine
-- speed work and plyometrics should be limited if included at all in a routine
-- a training session should be organized, placing plyometrics before speed work before Olympic lifts before power before strength before hypertrophy work
With these four facts in mind, you should choose a schedule, such as the aforementioned M-W-F or M-T-TH-F, and then select your exercises and corresponding set, rep, and loading parameters. Try to divide and order them in a logical manner that allows you to have relatively brief weight-training sessions (30-90 minutes is sufficient) that work both the legs and upper body, though not necessarily the entire body, in each session.
However, before you begin, it's important to know one additional fact: how to balance between muscle groups.
Balancing Muscle GroupsNow that you understand how to balance between muscle groups, you are finally ready to create a routine. Look toward the sample routine for an idea of how one might look. Good luck!
There are three major categories of exercises -- lower body, upper body, and isolation.
Within the lower body, there are quad-dominant and hip-dominant exercises. Quad-dominant exercises are movements that rely heavily on knee extension, though they will also involve hip extension; examples largely include squats and their variations. Hip-dominant exercises, as the name suggests, primarily rely on hip extension and tend to have less emphasis on knee extension; examples include deadlift variations, good mornings, cable pull-throughs, and the Olympic lifts.
Within the upper body, there are horizontal and vertical pushes and pulls. Dividing exercises into these categories is pretty intuitive. Just think about the exercise and in what plane it moves a weight in comparison to the body. For example, a row pulls a weight in a plane perpendicular to the body, so it is a horizontal pull. An overhead press pushes a weight in the same plane as the body, so it is a vertical push. The only exercises that are particularly tricky to categorize are dips and pull-overs. Dips are a horizontal push (because of their emphasis on the chest), while pull-overs can be treated as either a horizontal or vertical pull, though they are exactly neither.
Within isolation exercises, there is knee flexion/extension, elbow flexion/extension, and ankle flexion/extension. Knee flexion and extension are basically leg curls and leg extensions, respectively. Elbow flexion and extension are arm curls and extension, respectively. Ankle flexion and extension are reverse calf raises and calf raises, respectively.
To balance between muscle groups, you should try to match volume between opposing movement patterns. These oppositions are as follows: quad-dominance/hip-dominance, horizontal push/pull, vertical push/pull, knee flexion/extension, elbow flexion/extension, ankle flexion/extension.
If you deem that one of your muscle groups is weak in comparison to the other, you should overbalance your volume in favor of that weak muscle group by slightly lowering your volume for the strong group and raising it for the weak. Keep in mind that judging a strength imbalance is a tough issue because it depends on ratios, rather than equalities. Use your best judgment and try not to let one group lag too far behind its opposition.
Sample Weights Routine
In the following routine,
Power: power cleans, jump squats
Strength: back squats, push presses, snatch-grip deadlifts, overhead supports
Everything else is hypertrophy-orientated -- though front squats, military presses, and romanian deadlifts use a parameter that can overlap with strength quite well.
Power Cleans: 5 x 3 @ 70% to start
Back Squats: 4 x 2 @ 90% to start
Front Squats: 5 x 5
Weighted Pull-ups: 3 x 10-12
Push Presses: 4 x 2 @ 90% to start
Weighted Dips: 3 x 8-10
Standing Military Presses: 5 x 5
Standing Overhead Supports: 3 x 20 seconds @ max military press to start
Jump Squats: 8 x 3 @ 60% to start
Snatch-Grip Deadlifts: 4 x 2 @ 90% to start
Romanian Deadlifts: 5 x 5
Unilateral DB Rows: 3 x 10-12
calisthenic: bodyweight exercise.
concentric: portion of a movement where target muscle contracts under tension.
concentric muscular failure: an inability to perform a complete repetition in decent form on the concentric portion of a lift.
eccentric: portion of movement where target muscle lengthens under tension.
extension: movement that increases the angle of a joint
flexion: movement that decreases the angle of a joint
progressive overload: increasing weight, reps, sets, force of muscular contraction; decreasing rest periods; increasing the amount of work done in a given time period (e.g. deadlifting 10x3x315 in 10 minutes vs. 10x6x315 in 10 minutes).
rep maximum: the maximum number of reps you can do at a given weight.
training history: all the weight-training you do over an arbitrary time period, such as the past few months, the last year, since your last significant break, or your life.
triple, double, or single: 3, 2, or 1 rep in a set
volume: either (sets)x(reps) or (sets)x(reps)x(weight), depending on usage.