Monday - Friday 6:00am - 8:00pm 150 St. John St, Portland, ME
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Monday - Friday 6:00am - 8:00pm 150 St. John St, Portland, ME
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What to do in the gym

(3.5 – 4.5 minute read)

I’ve been there. You somewhat know what you’re doing in the gym, you show up, you have good intentions but what do you do? Should I do a circuit? How many reps? How much weight? Do I focus on one body part? This was me back before Instagram was a thing and I’d cut out workouts from fitness magazines I was subscribed to (I feel old). Now that we have social media at our finger tips, it’s much easier to go to your favorite fitspo’s page and do whatever it is they’re posting.

Here’s the thing, movement is movement. I’m never going to talk someone out of moving their body, no matter what it is they are doing (unless its dangerous of course). At the end of the day you need to do what you ENJOY and can stick to.

However, I’m speaking to the crowd that doesn’t have a preference, they just want the best results and don’t know how to get there.

The issue with just choosing random workouts day to day/week to week is that you’re never giving your body the chance to make progress or be proficient with any of the movements because you’re switching it up so often. Can you get results doing workouts like this / not having any real structure? ABSOLUTELY. Plenty of people have but doing workouts with intention will get you those results better and faster.

In order to ‘tone’ aka build muscle (which is the most effective way to lose fat), you’re much better off following the same program week to week for at least 6 weeks and each one of those weeks, aiming to lift more weight for the given amount of reps.

Speaking of reps, if you are looking to build muscle (tone up), I recommend staying in the 8-12 rep range. Here’s how it breaks down:

Focusing more on STRENGTH 3-6 reps

Focusing more on MUSCLE BUILDING 8-12 reps

(the two above are somewhat synonymous – you’ll build muscle by focusing on strength & vice versa)

Focusing more on ENDURANCE 15-20 reps 

So, what would a sample 6 week program look like? There are so many ways to break this down but here’s what I typically do with my online clients:

Each week:

2 lower body days

2 upper body days

If there are certain areas the client wants to target more, those are the muscle groups we will emphasize. For functional purposes I do like to make sure there is a solid balance of muscle groups regardless of specific goals. Here’s what it could look like:


Lower Day 1 (glute & hamstring focus)

Upper Day 1 (shoulders & chest focus) 

Lower Day 2 (quad & calf focus)

Upper Day 2 (back focus)


**core/biceps/triceps sprinkled in but those groups will also be used indirectly from various compound (multi joint) movements.

So each week, you will complete those same 4 workouts, trying to lift more weight each week (this isn’t going to happen each week but that needs to be the intention in order to make good progress).

Now, for my in person clients it’s a little different. I steer more towards circuits that look like this:

Circuit 1 x 3-4 sets depending on experience/fitness level

Upper Body Movement

Lower Body Movement

Core Movement


Circuit 2 x 3-4 sets depending on experience/fitness level

Upper Body Movement

Lower Body Movement 

Core Movement

I like doing it this way for in person clients because:


1. it teaches them a variety of movements to do on their own (most knowledge for their time)

2 .if they are only seeing me once a week they are able to hit multiple muscle groups

3. it makes it more interesting/time go by faster

4. it’s still effective as long as the effort is there


Clients that see me 2x (or more) per week I may do days that are just upper or lower but again, this depends on their level/experience/preference.

If you are completely on your own, I recommend going with what I initially explained unless you are a beginner. In that case, circuit training is a way better call. If you have never trained before or don’t have much experience and you jump right into doing days of just one muscle group or area, you’re not going to have a good time. Too much too soon, you’ll be sore AF and more likely to injure yourself. No bueno!

Also, if you do not have much experience lifting weights, I HIGHLY recommend hiring an in person trainer. It’s vital that you are executing movements properly if you want to make good progress and avoid injury. It’s a short term investment for a long term result/wealth of knowledge. Seriously, think about how awesome it would feel to go into the gym with complete confidence and never have to wonder about form / what to do again!

So this is getting long and I definitely feel like I could expand on many different points but here’s what you need to know for the best results:

1. Stick with the same program for at least 6 weeks to allow your body to make progress with the programmed movements.

2. Each time you lift make sure you are trying to lift more (WITH GOOD FORM). This is where progress is made.

Lastly, when you do end your program, then what? Well, there are many things you can do here and perhaps this should be a whole separate newsletter but here are the cliff notes:


-change your rep scheme a bit (ie. if you were doing 12 reps switch to 8 with heavier weight)

-add some supersets, pyramid sets, drop sets etc. (different stimulus for the body to adapt to/make progress with)

-swap in some different exercises (keep in the ones you want to continue working on but change the reps on those)


That’s all for this week. Let me know what questions you have! Like I said, there was A LOT I could elaborate on here. Go ahead and click that reply button and we can chat more  : )

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