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February 12, 2022 8 min read

Personal trainers can be expensive, especially the good ones. This doesn't have to mean you should go without a fantastic workout regiment. In this article, we are going to teach you how to build your own workout plan.

Muscular handsome trainer looking at fitness plan on clipboard for working out in the fitness gym

Building Your Own Workout Routine

Building your own workout routine can really help you develop a sense of excitement and pride when you start to see results because of your workout. However, it is easy to overcomplicate the process since there is a near-infinite amount of exercises, training and cardio styles, and programs to choose from. 

Workouts should be developed around a person’s age, goals, nutrition requirements, schedule, fitness level, and other factors that can make it difficult to create your own workout plan. So if you are someone who is eager to build your own program and enjoy the learning process follow along as we dive deeper into how to make your own workout plan step by step.

Step #1: Decide on Your Fitness Goals

When designing your workout you need to ask yourself a couple of important questions:

  1. Are you training for a sports-specific goal, ike running a marathon by the end of the year? 
  2. Are you trying to lose weight? If so how much?
  3. Are you trying to build muscle and finally hit that 225 bench press you’ve been struggling with? 

A simple way to formulate your goals is by using the SMART method, which helps make sure that your goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. 

  • Specific: What do I want to accomplish? (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable: How many pounds do I want to lose/gain? 
  • Achievable: How can I accomplish this goal?
  • Relevant: Is this worth doing?
  • Time-bound: What can I accomplish in 6-weeks? Can be days, weeks, months, or years. (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

Regardless of your goals, write them down or type them in the notepad on your phone as these goals are what help mold how you’re going to build out your workout.

To help prevent injuries due to your programming, remember that you have the rest of your life to train. Take rest days when you need them, and don’t try to get results too quickly.   

Step #2: Schedule Workouts to Work with Your Schedule

The best way to stick with a workout routine is to make sure it works around your schedule. If you have an hour a day after work to work out, that is great. Life can get in the way sometimes, especially if you have kids, a wife/husband, and several jobs.

So if you can only get in a couple of home workouts,  dynamic warm-ups, or cardio sessions in a week, that is totally fine. 

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), if you  accumulate three 10-minute groups of exercise throughout the day to a total of 30-minutes of exercise, then that is as effective as someone who does one 30-minute bout of exercise.

So regardless of how much time you have, developing a program around your schedule is possible. 

It's recommended that if you are going to perform three or fewer workouts per week, it would be more effective to make those days full-body workouts or HIIT. If you plan on working out four or more times per week it is better to break things up by muscle groups to prevent injuries by overtraining.  For example, your workout splits may be broken up into chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs, and shoulders.    

Step #3: Creating Your Ideal Workout Plan

Without regular exercise and weight training, odds are that you will be in poor shape. It might seem obvious but exercise is vital for muscle strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, balance, and so much more. Despite this information, we seldom do enough to stay healthy. On the other side of the coin, if we do exercise regularly, we often limit ourselves to only one or two types of activity. People tend to only do what they enjoy, or what they feel as being the most effective, which tends to leave out aspects of fitness and exercise that are necessary. The best workouts have elements of strength, balance, flexibility, and aerobics.

So how do you create a workout plan with all of these elements? 

The best workout programs are the ones that you actually stick with since people tend to overcomplicate programming and try to hit all of their goals at the same time. This makes the whole process unfun, frustrating, and totally unnecessary. Keep it simple and watch the results roll in. We recommend if you’re just starting out that your focus should be on implementing compound movements into your workouts, as they have been found to result in massive improvements in endurance, muscular strength, and balance since you’re using more than one muscle group & joints at the same time. 

Some of the best compound movements for each of the main muscle groups are:

  • Quads: barbell squats, lunges, one-legged squats, box jumps.
  • Glutes and Hamstrings: barbell deadlifts, hip raises, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings, step-ups.
  • Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps): barbell overhead press,  bench press, incline dumbbell press, push-ups, dips.
  • Pull (back, biceps, and forearms): chin-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight rows, bent-over rows.
  • Core (abs and lower back): planks, side planks, exercise ball crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks, hanging leg raises.

Isolation movements tend to be single-joint movements that only focus on one muscle group, like the quads. Some of the best isolation movements for your upper and lower body are: 

  • Quads: leg extensions
  • Hamstrings: leg curls, cable kickbacks
  • Back: machine rows, cable rows, pullovers
  • Shoulders: Shrugs, DB lateral raises, cable front raises
  • Biceps: Concentration bicep curls, cable hammer curls, incline curls
  • Chest: Pec deck flys, machine chest presses, cable crossovers
  • Triceps: DB kickbacks, machine dips, skull crushers

Isolation movements are a great addition to your workout because you can focus on good form and technique as you build muscle, which can help prevent pain or injury from occurring. 

There is a time and place for implementing compound and isolation exercises.

According to  this research study done by the National Institute of Health “the selection between isolation and compound movements should be based on individual and practical aspects; like equipment availability, movement specificity, individual preference, and time commitment.”

In other words, find the exercises that work best for you and stick with them. 

How Many Sets and Repetitions Should You Do?

To decide how many sets and reps you’ll perform for each exercise, you will need to look back to your fitness goals. 

  • If your goal is to focus on weight loss, high-rep schemes like 3 to 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps work well. If getting stronger is what you want then you should focus on low-rep, high-set schemes such as six sets of three to five reps. 
  • Meanwhile, if putting on muscle size is more your speed then three sets of 8 to 12 reps are more effective. Keep in mind that when you increase the number of reps per set, you will need to adjust the weight accordingly, if the reps go down then the weight should increase.  

What Exercises Should You Do?

Typically you have the most amount of energy at the beginning of your workout; for example, deadlifts require a lot more energy and focus. It will benefit you to perform complex movements earlier in your workout and isolation movements towards the end. Unless your main goal is to strengthen a specific muscle group, then it can be beneficial to do isolation exercises first, followed by compound exercises. And if you struggle with focus during workouts,  Focused AF can help.

Once you get confident in doing the basic movements, don’t be afraid to add some variety to your routine. If you do the same exact routine, week after week for months on end you might get bored, hit a plateau, or just drop off. Pick different exercises or switch up the programming so you can stay consistently challenged. 

 How Long Should You Rest In-Between Sets?

Getting plenty of rest in-between sets will allow your body to recover, so you can execute the next set of reps with good form and technique, resulting in less risk for injury. The rule of thumb we recommend when it comes to rest periods is to wait the least amount of time you need but still rest long enough that you can perform all reps with proper form.

If you’re still unsure of how long to wait between sets here is a quick guide on how to program your rest periods based on your goals.

  • 1-4 Reps (lifting heavy for strength training/power): Rest for 3 to 5 minutes between sets.
  • 5-9 Reps (strength training): Rest for 2 to 3 minutes between sets.
  • 10-14 Reps (muscle growth/strength training): Rest for 1 to 2 minutes between sets.
  • 14 or more reps (lifting for endurance/cardio): Rest just long enough to recover and reset your heart rate

Step #4: Track your Progress 

If your program is working you should be getting stronger, faster, or more fit with each day of exercise. The best way to check in on your progress is to record your workouts. Write down the date and your sets, reps, rest periods, and weight for each exercise. If you see your numbers improving (more weight, faster times, less assistance, etc), then you’re getting stronger and making progress. We recommend using a notebook, an Excel spreadsheet, a workout app, or a Word document. Try to make each week better than the last, and repeat. It is that easy. 

Step #5: Make Changes When Needed

You’ve crafted the most killer workout routine and you’ve been seeing great results, or you’ve been working hard in the gym but you’re not seeing results at all. To continue seeing benefits from your program you will need to start making changes. You’ve crafted the perfect sweat session. But to keep benefitting from it, you need to constantly change it.

The body can adapt in 10-15 weeks to whatever stress is being applied to it. Luckily you don’t have to change up your whole routine; instead switching out some workouts, different machines, or even switching the rep scheme will do. For example, instead of performing bench press each week like before, switch it up with an incline press. 

Foods rich in fats. Main food group - macronutrient fats

Step #6: The Importance of Nutrition 

The next step on your journey to achieving your goals should be your nutrition and supplements. Whether your goal is fat loss or adding some muscle mass 80% of the challenge is what you’re putting into your body. Giving your body the energy it needs to do the job you want is essential. Skimping on nutrition can reduce muscle mass, lower bone density, decrease recovery time, increase fatigue, and put you at risk of injury/illness. We don’t believe that there is a one size fits all approach to dieting and nutrition.

However, one trick to help you achieve your fitness goals is to track your macros.

There are three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fats. Protein has several functions, with the biggest ones being to help promote cell and tissue growth, build lean muscle mass, and catalyze biochemical reactions. Carbs come in three forms, including sugars, starches, and fiber. Carbs have several functions, with the most important ones being to convert glucose into energy, help the body to absorb proteins and micronutrients, and synthesize amino acids.

Despite what people say, fats are essential for your overall health. They help with storing and providing the body with energy, protecting your organs, and help with creating & regulating hormones. As long as you continue to eat healthy food, tracking your macros daily can help you to reach your fitness goals faster. 

Wrapping Your Workout Routine up

Designing your own training program is within everyone's capacity. Keep in mind that if you’ve never done it before, you’re going to make some errors along the way. Don’t let your lack of experience stop you from trying. The only way to get better at programming is to give it a shot, make mistakes, and learn from them.