How to Make a Workout Plan That Works for You | livestrong – Livestrong

It’s not easy, but writing your own workout plan can be the best way to get the most out of your workouts.

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Any goal requires a road map — and any fitness goal requires a training program. A good workout plan contains all the right elements to you set you up for success. Creating your own workout program from scratch can feel overwhelming, so we’ve broken it down into easy-to-follow steps.


The art and science of writing exercise programs is called program design. It’s one of the most important skills coaches and trainers must master, because programs provide blueprints for helping clients and athletes get to where they want to go.

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There are many factors that go into writing a great program, and getting good at it takes practice. I’ve been training clients in person plus online for nine years, and I continue to refine my system design systems all the time.


Below are eight steps you can use to create fun and effective 4-to-6-week workout applications for yourself. I provide insight and advice from two certified personal trainers, as well because insight through my own plan design system.

This process might take a person up in order to an hour the particular first time you try it, but in time you will become so efficient that you can write a program in 15 minutes or less.


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1 . Get Clear On Your Goals

You need to identify your main training goal before you start writing your program. Different goals require you to manipulate different variables at the gym, and it’s essential to know what those are so you can direct your own efforts in the right direction. Nobody wants to put in months associated with hard work only to find out they didn’t end up where they wanted to go.


Leann Hatler, CPT , suggests taking the personal inventory before you set out in order to write a training program for yourself.

“Consider what you are looking to achieve, what your timeline is to get there, what skills you already have to move toward your own goal as well as what you need to do differently to make progress possible, ” she says. All of this information can help you make better programming decisions.


We’ll cover writing workout plans for these four common training goals:

  • Get stronger
  • Build muscle
  • Improve your endurance
  • Lose body fat

Some of these goals play well together. Others compete with each other, making it difficult to see big improvement toward both during the same training program. (It’s absolutely possible to get stronger and build muscle mass at the same time, but it’s tough to each build serious strength ‌ plus ‌ serious stamina concurrently. )



Don’t stress if you want in order to improve multiple aspects of your fitness. There’s an important coaching concept called periodization that says a person can organize your training in such a way that will you develop multiple physical qualities over the course of a year. This means that so long while you train consistently, you can ultimately accomplish many different goals.

Start by picking one main training goal to target for a 3-to-4-month training block. Other qualities will be maintained while you focus on your main goal. You’ll use multiple 4-to-6-week training programs that build upon each other over the particular course associated with a single block of teaching. Once you complete this prevent, you are able to choose a different goal for the next 3 to 4 months.


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2. Determine Training Frequency and Split

Training frequency refers to how often you teach each week. It’s important to determine training frequency early in the program design process because it helps you arrange your workouts. How frequently you train depends on how much free time you can devote to the gym as well as your prior education experience.

Decide how many workouts you’re going to do each week and what you’ll be targeting inside each workout. Keep in mind that you will repeat each exercise four in order to six times as a person work through this training phase.


Why four to six occasions? This seems to become the sweet spot for most trainees to reap the particular full benefits of a workout program. “If you change things up too often, you won’t get better or more powerful, but if you stick to the same things the same way for too long you are no longer stressing the system as much and won’t create further adaptation, ” says Wesley Showalter, CSCS .

Beginners need to lift weights twice per 7 days at a bare minimum in order to see progress. More experienced trainees may maintain their results with just two lifting exercises, but three or more workout routines may be necessary if they are actively trying to get stronger or build muscle.


Some intermediate and advanced trainees can lift weights like often seeing that five in order to six times per week, so long as they are managing other life stressors plus prioritizing recovery outside the particular gym. If you teach with the high rate of recurrence, it’s best not to train large muscle groups such because your legs, back and chest on consecutive days.

But more training is not necessarily better. You can’t force progress in the gym, and trying to expedite your own results may leave you feeling burnt out and frustrated.

“Be realistic with exactly how often you are going to teach, ” Showalter says. “I often observe people who try to perform too much as well fast within the gym all the time. They beat themselves up for not hitting expectations, then quit. inch It’s much better to set the bar a little bit lower and consistently hit all your planned workouts than to set the bar too high and constantly fall short.

Once you’ve decided how many days you want to raise weights each week, it’s time to pick a training split. Training splits dictate which movements and/or muscles a person plan to train during each individual workout.

Here are a few possible instruction splits you could select depending on how numerous days per week you plan to train.

Twice Per Week

Three Times Each week

Four Times Per Week

Five Occasions Per Week

Full-body workouts

Full-body exercises

Full-body workout routines

Body part split

Upper-body push, upper-body pull and decrease body

Two upper-body workouts and 2 lower-body exercises

Two upper-body workouts, two lower-body workout routines and one full-body workout

Upper body, lower body plus full entire body

Upper-body drive, upper-body draw, lower body and accessory day (eg. arm, shoulder, glute and calf isolation exercises)

Entire body part break up (eg. chest/triceps, back/biceps, hip and legs, core/shoulders)


Newbies and people who teach less frequently should stick with full-body workouts to make the most of their exercises. I don’t recommend using a body part split unless you are an skilled trainee whose main goal is building muscle.

3. Pick Your Set plus Rep Ranges

Picking sets and reps is the most important step in designing the training system. That’s because sets plus reps dictate your volume and intensity, which are the two variables that ultimately have the majority of impact on your results at the gym.

Volume refers to the total amount of work you’re performing. You need more volume if you want to build muscle or improve your endurance. Intensity refers to how heavy you are training. You need more intensity if you want to get stronger.


Volume and intensity are inversely related. This means that when you are training with more quantity (ie. more sets and reps), a person won’t be able to use as much load plus vice versa. It’s important to keep this in mind when selecting sets and reps so you design a program that is in line with your goals.

Aim to perform at least 10 sets per muscle or movement pattern (eg. squat, hip hinge, upper body push, upper body pull) each week. Keep in mind that this will be divided up across multiple workouts and there will be some muscle mass overlap with different exercises.

For example , you don’t need in order to do 10 sets of tricep isolation exercises if you also did several sets associated with bench press or overhead press. Depending on how many days you train per week, you will likely do 3 to 5 sets for each exercise per workout.

Building serious strength requires you to lift heavy loads, so you’ll need to do sets with fewer reps. “Keep the reps low (1 to 6) and the intensity (weight/load) high along with long rest periods between heavy sets when training for strength, ” Showalter says.

Most of your power training should occur in the 3 in order to 6 rep range. Every once in a while you can carry out heavy units of 1 or even 2 repetitions, but avoid do this every single week as it can be hard on your entire body.

Building muscle is different than building strength. You don’t need to go quite as heavy thus you can perform models in a variety of rep ranges and still see results. Many coaches suggest performing primarily pieces in the particular 6 to 12 representative range for hypertrophy. Just know that will you can actually execute sets with many different rep varies and nevertheless build muscle tissue so long as you perform at least ten sets for each muscle group each week.

If your goal is in order to improve muscular endurance , you need to carry out some longer sets. Showalter suggests executing lots of sets in the 12 to 15 repetition range. Stick with 2 in order to 4 units per exercise when you’re using high reps.


Occasionally, a person can drive yourself along with sets as high as 25 to 30 continuous reps. I don’t recommend going any higher because the loads you’ll need to use will be too light to elicit changes in your body.




Strength stamina

12 or more

67 percent or less


6 to 12

67 in order to 85 %

Maximum Strength

6 reps or much less

85 percent or a lot more


1 to 2 reps (single-repetition event)3 to 5 repetitions (multiple-repetition event)

80 in order to 90 % 75 to 85 percent

Source: American Council on Exercise

What About Fat Loss?

Despite what you might have heard, there is actually no specific training plan for fat loss. “Ultimately a big part associated with weight loss comes down in order to your nutrition, ” Showalter says. He says factors outside the particular gym such as creating a caloric deficit, increasing your own step count, getting enough sleep plus managing stress play the deciding role in whether or not you lose body fat.

I suggest building a training program around either strength or hypertrophy if your main objective is fat loss. These approaches help you hold onto muscle as you lose body fat, keeping your metabolism healthy and giving you the particular lean, athletic look that many people desire when they diet.

In case you only have a little bit of time to exercise in service associated with your fat loss goal, prioritize lifting weights and try to increase your daily step count outside the gym. When you have more time, a person can furthermore add in one to two sessions of higher-intensity intervals and/or moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio .

Some extra cardiovascular can help manage stress levels and boost your calorie burn. But it’s essential not to overdo it, while too much cardio exercise causes numerous people to experience big increases in appetite, which make it harder to stick with a diet.

4. Make an Equipment Inventory

Before you insert particular exercises into your program, you need to know what tools you’re working with. Access to equipment will certainly vary widely depending upon if you’re coaching at home, at a big box commercial gym or even at a small boutique gym with unconventional equipment.

Showalter suggests making a list of what equipment you have access to and where it’s located. He also recommends making a note of the busiest times at your own gym. Most gyms tend to become more crowded before and after work, and a person may have more competition for different pieces associated with equipment during those occasions. If if you’re forced to train at busy times, you’ll need in order to know what alternatives you can use when necessary.

Folks who teach at home have less competition with regard to equipment but might be limited in other ways. For instance , you won’t have the ability to go because heavy if you don’t have a lot of weights at house. You’ll need to drive intensity within other methods, such since doing more difficult exercises or changing your lifting tempo. Wherever most likely training, it’s important to get to know your own equipment plus how in order to use it effectively.

5. Select Exercises

Once you’ve decided on a goal, picked a training split, established your sets and reps plus made an inventory of your own equipment, it can finally time to plug in exercises. Many people make the particular mistake of starting here when creating programs, yet it’s much more efficient to get the other variables squared away first.

Picking exercises can end up being daunting, as there are seemingly endless options and many criteria to consider. Try not to get overwhelmed, and take solace in the fact that this isn’t actually the most important part of the program design process. You can see outcomes using several different workouts so long as a person use the right amount associated with load and volume.

There are six essential criteria you may use to help you select exercises.

  • Train all the major motion patterns every week.
  • Prioritize compound exercises over isolation exercises.
  • Pick workouts that feel good on your joints plus allow you to use a full range of motion.
  • Pick exercises that match your own skill amounts.
  • Pick exercises that align with your goals.
  • Don’t put too many workouts in 1 workout.

6. Address Any Mobility Challenges

Lots of people come to the weight room with aches and pains. While you don’t require to let minor issues get inside the way of workout, it is important in order to make sure you aren’t setting yourself up to move well both in plus out of the fitness center.

Mobility teaching is like flossing — people may enjoy it, but you need to stay on top associated with it to reap the benefits, ” Showalter says.

Regularly performing dynamic stretches and drills may improve your own mobility plus connection with your body. “Adding in mobility to your own warm-up because well since after models of your exercises as active recovery will be a great way to be efficient along with your education, ” Showalter says. This individual suggests picking drills that will target stiff or problematic areas; some common offenders include the particular shoulders, thoracic spine and hips.

You can sprinkle these exercises throughout your workouts to save time plus make sure you no longer skip them altogether. For example , if you are performing a superset of squats and chin-ups, you could add a third exercise in order to work on your hip or even shoulder flexibility .

7. Consider Cardio

Writing aerobic or conditioning programs can be even more complex compared to writing strength-training programs, and is beyond the scope of this article. The goods news is that most people who just want to look and feel better don’t need the same level of conditioning technicality as a professional athlete preparing regarding a race, game or fight.

Here are the few simple ways in order to build cardio into the workout program:

  • Add additional cardio days. ‌ You can perform a cardio workout on a day when occur to be not lifting weights if you have extra period for the gym.
  • Replace a single or 2 lifting times with cardiovascular days. ‌ In the event that you are training three days or even more, you could replace raising days with cardio days. Make certain you’re still lifting at least twice per 7 days.
  • Add high-intensity conditioning to the end of a lifting exercise. ‌ Finishers are usually short bursts of intense cardio that you execute at the end of a workout. This is the great strategy to maintain or build your cardio fitness without adding tons associated with extra training time.
  • Perform more cardio exercise outside the fitness center. ‌ Look for ways to make your daily life more active or take up energetic hobbies. Could you walk, ruck or even bike your own commute instead of driving or taking the particular train? Can you play pickup sports with your friends or even join a martial arts class? You will find nearly endless possible opportunities to get moving.

8. Build In Progression Over four to six Weeks

The principle of progressive overload states that you need to take on greater challenges over time if you want in order to continue seeing progress in the gym.

A big reason why using a structured program is so much more effective than doing random workouts is that it gives you a framework from which to progress. You don’t want to change your entire training program each week, but you perform want to manipulate certain variables to increase the difficulty and push your self.

“Over the particular course of the training phase you can do things such as lower the reps plus increase the particular weight or vice versa, aim to shorten rest periods or aim to get more reps on an exercise with the same weight, ” Showlater says. “Stick with the same physical exercise but aim to add more tension on the particular system by doing this slightly faster, heavier, with increased rep or even with much less rest. ”

Here is usually a listing of possible ways to improvement:

  • Add more weight
  • Add more reps
  • Perform even more pieces
  • Take less sleep between sets
  • Improve your form
  • Perform a good exercise a lot more explosively
  • Increase your mind-muscle connection (most relevant for hypertrophy)

If you’re training along with minimal equipment or limited weights, you may need to get a little more creative. Here are some options that might work if you’ve exhausted the list above:

  • Slow an exercise down
  • Put pauses to an exercise
  • Carry out 1. five reps (Two examples: A 1. 5 rep squat requires you to definitely squat all the way down, stand up halfway, lift all the way down again before standing up completely. The 1 . five rep seated row requires you to pull your elbows all the way up back to your own sides, extend your arms forward halfway, pull right back again before extending your hands fully. )
  • Progress to a more challenging variation of the particular exercise

Regardless associated with how you choose to progress, it’s a good idea to track what you will absolutely doing from week in order to week. Track your work outs, sets, repetitions, weight and any other related data electronically or using pen plus paper. You’ll need this information when is actually time for you to write your next instruction program and it keeps a person motivated to work hard through week to week.

Need More Info on Where to Start?

Once you’ve completed four to six weeks of training, really time in order to write your next system. Look more than your recent training data. Assess exactly what went well and what was challenging. Consider regardless of whether you may still sustain the same training frequency over the next four to six weeks. Then, make use of the exact same process outlined in this article to create the next program. Soon, you’ll have workout planning down to an art.



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