Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Design a Personal Exercise Program

You took the decision to make a fitness change/challenge, but you don’t know where to start? How many times should you exercise per week? For how long? What exercises to do? How many repetitions? Holding how much weight? Resting for how long?

Yes, designing a workout plan that suits you well can be overwhelming at the beginning, but once we lead you into the main steps, it gets easy to digest.


Before you hold that dumbbell, or pay for the gym membership, let’s go through the very basis of reaching any goal, which is: Goal Setting.


Set Your Fitness Goal

Your goal must have the next attributes in order to make it happen:

  • It must be well defined

A goal like “I want to be fitter” or “I want to lose weight” is very generic, instead; put more precise goal, such as “I want to lose 5 kg in the next 5 weeks” or “I want to be able to jog for 20 min in a row without fatigue”.

  • It must be written

Goals set verbally –or only in your mind- are often forgotten, or not pursued. Write your goal and put it in a place where you remember it constantly.

  • It must have a deadline

In the above mentioned example goal; “I want to lose 5 kg in the next 5 weeks”, if time frame was not set, you probably won’t achieve it because it loses the sense of urgency, why the rush right!!

  • It should be wanted emotionally

Do you really want it? Is it really your goal or a borrowed goal? A borrowed goal is somebody else’s fitness goal/plan and you just projected it on yourself. If it’s not yours, you won’t have the passion for it, and if it worked for someone else, it might not –and probably not- would work for you.

  • It must be difficult, yet achievable

If it’s too difficult to be done; it probably won’t happen. If it’s too easy; there is no enough attention and enthusiasm to do it. Set a goal half the way in between.


Evaluate Your Situation

While you’re setting your goal, you need to consider your lifestyle, family responsibilities, work hours, gym or no gym, indoor or outdoor, cost, available equipment’s, etc. Only YOU can tell the what, when and how of a workout plan that matches your life.


What Exercises to Do? and how many?

Since you’re getting started with training, we recommend you start with whole body workouts that work major muscle groups, why? Because you need a strong base of all-body strength (limit strength) before you jump on more detailed, specific muscles training.

Choose one to two exercise for each of the following main body parts, (select to show exercises that target that area):

This is a starting group of exercises, after about month of doing them, change some, increase intensity, or use variations, because when you do the same exercise over and over again, your body gets really good at doing that exercise, but it doesn't induce development any more (i.e. your body adapts). Plus, it gets boring.

In general it is recommended to perform the next numbers of exercises per workout:

  • For size and strength: 4-6 exercises for beginners/intermediates, and 3-5 exercises for advanced.
  • For fat burning and general fitness: 8-10 exercises for beginners/intermediates, and 6-8 exercises for advanced.


How many sets to do?

  • For size and strength: 2-3 for beginners/intermediates, and 3-5 for advanced.
  • For fat burning and general fitness: 1-2 for beginners/intermediates, and 2-3 for advanced.


How many repetitions?

This depends on your goal (you did set that already right?) as follows:

  • 12 - 20 reps, for muscle endurance and general conditioning.
  • 8 - 12 reps, for fat loss.
  • 6 - 12 reps, for muscle mass (size).
  • 3 - 5 reps, for muscle strength.


How Much Weight to Lift?

Every person has his own appropriate weights to train on, you can know this by trial and error method, chose a reasonable weight to test with, if you can finish your repetition easily then it’s too light, if you couldn't reach the last rep, it’s too heavy; chose weights that you can go with it for the whole reps, but the last two rips are difficult. 

Note that: the higher the reps, the lighter the weights, and vise versa.

Know more about How to determine strength training loads?.


For How Long to Rest between Sets?

Depending on weights lifted: the heavier the weight the, longer the rest time.

Depending on goal: rest time is usually between these ranges:

  • For fat loss: 0-30 seconds.
  • For general fitness: 30-60 seconds.
  • For muscle size: 1-2 minutes.
  • For strength: 2.5-3 minutes.


What’s the best cardio to do? And For How Long?

That’s easy, the one that you enjoy the most, that is safe for you, and one you can do sustainably, whether its outdoor jogging, treadmill, cycling, stair climbing machine or combination of them.

Practice what works best for you, and do it for at least 20 – 30 min within 55% to 85% of your maximum heart rate, three times a week in order to see significant results, any amount of training over that; it’s up to your fitness goals and time constrains.

Read more about Types of workout programs.


How Many Days to Train? And for How Long Each?

Back to knowing your situation, can you train every day? or only specific days in the week? It’s up to you. But optimum strength session length is 45 to 60 minutes, giving 48 to 72 hours rest between workouts for muscles to heal and grow. If you chose to do cardio and strength the same day, do strength fist.


Now you know your goal, exercises, weights, reps, sets, rest time, and training days, put the whole thing together by using Fitnessyard’s workout plan builder and get into action.

References :

F. Hatfield. Fitness the complete guide. Edition 8.6.6 

M. Mejia, M. Murphy. The gym bible. 2006

More links

Rate this article:
No rating

Fitnessyard TeamFitnessyard Team

Other posts by Fitnessyard Team


Join For Free