Okay, so let’s say you are just starting a fitness journey but don’t want to pay or can’t afford a personal trainer. Doing the research on what your workout plan should look like can be confusing when you are a beginner.
A number of questions come to mind such as can I workout every day? Should I split my workouts by muscle group or by full body? What should a gym or home workout plan for a beginner look like?
Well, I’m here to answer ALL of those questions and give you a step-by-step guide on how you can schedule your workout program in a simple and easy way.
This first step is CRUCIAL in how you are setting up your schedule for your workout plan. Because we all have different workout and fitness goals, our training regimens are going to look different.
So what IS your goal? Is it to build muscle mass and start bodybuilding? Maybe it’s to gain endurance so you aren’t panting while walking up the stairs (I’ve had my fair share of these moments)? Or is it simply to be healthy and start living an active lifestyle?
You should also think about what gives you the fitness motivation and inspiration to even START your journey. Do you have a goal for your body (i.e. getting a flat stomach, getting rid of belly fat, etc.)?
Whatever your fitness goals are, write them down so you can visually see it and start planning from there!
Before getting into any further steps, I also want to encourage TRACKING your workouts to see your progress!
So that could be writing down how you felt about that workout that day or maybe tracking your heart rate or calories burned using a fitness tracker.
I use an Apple Watch to track my workouts and it has honestly been the BEST thing I could have for my personal health and fitness. I honestly think that you don’t need the latest model (I JUST upgraded to the series 3 from the series 1 – I know I’m a little late to the game) to do the basic functions!
Step #2: DETERMINE HOW MANY DAYS A WEEK YOU WANT TO WORKOUT
When you’re just starting out in fitness, having set days with specific workouts to follow will help you TREMENDOUSLY in getting your feet going. You will learn what works for your body, and what doesn’t work by sticking to a planned out schedule.
So to answer the question in the very beginning of this post of “CAN I WORKOUT EVERY DAY?,” the simple answer is yes, you can. The more complicated answer is… Well, SHOULD you?
When we are lifting weights or putting our bodies through explosive movements (such as jumping), we are essentially “tearing” our muscle fibers.
I know that sounds scary but this is a GOOD thing! The muscle will repair itself to grow back bigger and stronger through time!
But if we are constantly putting stress on our already torn muscles by working out every day, this can HURT the muscle instead of helping to grow it.
My suggestion is to give yourself adequate time for recovery so your muscle is able to rebuild itself without any unneeded stress.
This is all based on your fitness level as well! So if you are just beginning, maybe have about 3-4 recovery or rest days out of the week. But a more advanced fitness person might go for 1-3 days out of the week.
That being said, if you are looking to bulk and build muscle mass, maybe your workout plan will look something like this:
But if you’re only looking to lose weight while still gaining lean muscle, maybe your workout plan will look like this instead:
Making this plan is all based on your fitness goals as well as your own personal schedule.
When creating a workout plan, remember to think of a split that will make you STICK to it.
So if working out 5 days a week sounds terrible already, try doing 3 days. Or if you really just CAN’T workout some days because of work, then that’s okay too!
This is how we are going to play the long game of fitness, my friend.
Step #3: WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING SHOULD I DO?
Now this step addresses the next question I had earlier in this post: Should I split my workouts by muscle group or by full body?
In my opinion, I think both work GREAT! However, if you are looking to build muscle and bulk up, I would suggest dividing your workout plan by muscle groups.
This way, you are maximizing your fitness training to those certain muscle groups in one session, rather than spreading it throughout the week.
It’s important to think about accessibility when it comes to this step of creating a workout plan.
Do you have access to fitness equipment (such as bands or dumbbells)? Will I be doing workouts at home or using maybe a garage gym?
So if your fitness goal is to build muscle, maybe your training would look something like this:
Monday: Lift – Biceps and Back
Tuesday: Lift – Quads
Thursday: Lift – Shoulders/Chest/Triceps
Friday: Cardio – Outdoor Run
Saturday: Lift – Hamstrings and Glutes
And going along with our group from above wanting to lose weight while gaining some lean muscle, maybe your workout plan looks like this:
Monday: HIIT – Full Body (Cardio Based)
Tuesday: Lift – Full Body
Thursday: Cardio – Stairmaster
Friday: HIIT – Full Body (Strength Based – Using Some Weights)
One REALLY IMPORTANT fitness tip I want to mention is that whatever your fitness goals are, lifting weights should be included into your workout plan, AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK!
This all comes down to your OVERALL HEALTH for when we get older. Sadly, we begin to lose our muscle fibers (fast-twitch ones in specific) the older we get.
By incorporating fitness workouts that include lifting weights, this will increase our chances of SLOWING DOWN the decline in muscle fiber.
It will happen to all of us eventually, but lifting weights will definitely help to slow it down.
Step #4: HOW MANY AND WHAT EXERCISES PER WORKOUT SHOULD I DO?
A BIG question people ask are, okay, so I know what muscles I want to workout but… now what? What exercises are best? How many exercises should I include in my workout?
Hey, I totally get it. There’s SO many options out there that it is super hard to decide! But don’t worry, friend, I’m going to put your worries at ease.
When it comes to the types of exercises, this all comes down to your FITNESS GOALS (remember how I said this would be super duper crucial?) and your fitness level.
So, while a more advanced athlete might be doing combination exercises such as a Bulgarian squat into a single leg RDL, this would not be good for a beginner since they haven’t had practice to perfect their form.
Beginners should focus on more simple and basic exercises to apply the correct FORM (this is when a personal trainer might come in hand).
This is so important to prevent injuries! Do your research on how to correctly perform an exercise and practice it until you #master it!
So, here are some workout routines for beginners that you could do that target certain muscle groups:
Quads: Squats, Front Lunges, Box Jumps
Glutes and Hamstrings: Good Mornings, Romanian Deadlift (RDL), Hip Thrusts, Banded Glute Bridges
Biceps and Back: Bicep Curls, Bent Over Rows, Supermans
Triceps, Shoulders and Chest: Tricep Extensions, Front and Lateral Raises, Chest Press
Let’s say you start to get bored of your workout routine (and trust me, you will!), don’t be afraid to change it up! Keep your same workout day split, but change up the exercises.
Fitness has no perfect formula. This is all based on YOU.
Now, the AMOUNT of exercises per workout is also dependent on you (noticing a trend here?).
How long do you have to workout? Do you have enough energy do you usually have by the end of the day? How many exercise can you do before getting flat out bored of your workout?
A general rule of thumb, however, is to have each workout be at least 30 minutes for it to be effective, so plan accordingly!
Step #5: SO, HOW MANY REPS AND SETS SHOULD I DO?
Ah, now we are getting into the fun stuff.
More often than not, I hear so many people say “lift lighter weights with higher reps for lean muscle” or “lift heavy weights for low reps to get big.”
And this scares most of us. We don’t know what to do, especially women.
So here are some standard rep ranges for each exercise you do:
1-5 REP RANGE: Building dense muscle and strength (growing big muscles)
6-12 REP RANGE: Building somewhat of an equal balance between strength and size of muscles
12+ REP RANGE: Building muscular endurance
Again, there still is no perfect formula to this.
If you wrote down you wanted to do 12 reps but decided hey, I’m feeling good today, let’s do 15 – GO FOR IT!
Or maybe you just had a busy work day so you bump down your reps from 12 to 8 – THAT’S ALSO OKAY! Do whatever it takes to achieve your fitness goals from step #1!
But generally, here is what I would recommend you do: when you are just starting, you should aim for 8-12 reps and 3-5 sets.
This gives you a balanced approach to starting this fitness journey of yours and once you do this for about 4-6 weeks, you can change up the number based on the outcome.
BONUS QUESTION: WHEN SHOULD I ADD MORE WEIGHT OR UP THE NUMBER OF REPS I DO?
This is a GREAT question.
On average, you should be sticking to your workout plan with the same number of reps, sets, and weights for 4-6 weeks.
From there, you can add on more weight if things start to get easier and increase or decrease the amount of reps or sets you will be doing. But once again, determining this is all based on your FITNESS GOALS! 🙂
BONUS QUESTION: DOES GENDER MATTER WHEN IT COMES TO FITNESS?
The short and simple answer to this: yes!
Male and female bodies were made to be SO different, but that’s okay! So, workout plans for women are going to differ from workout plans for men.
But I would say that even though we are biologically made to be different, we all should not be afraid to lift weights (yes, I’m talking to you ladies reading this!). You will NOT get bulky by lifting weights as a woman!
This is the very short explanation for this topic. So I shall save this for another post one day.
Final Thoughts on Workout Plan
Every workout plan is going to be different and that is quite alright. All of the steps I listed above should make you think about what is going to be best suited for you personally. Let me know if you have any questions and happy planning!