How to Set Up a Complete Exercise Program

Woman squatting with kettlebell
Getty Images/Adrianna Williams

One of the hardest parts of an exercise program involves two things:  Setting it up and then, of course, doing it.

If you know anything about exercise, you know that you need to have it all:  Cardio, weight training and flexibility. Okay, that makes sense, but how do you put all of these together without taking up half your day?  Should you do cardio and strength training on the same day? Which one should you do first?

Those are just some of the common questions I get from clients and readers and, sometimes, the answers depend on your goals, schedule and fitness level.  Not helpful, I know.

One thing that may actually help you is seeing a sample workout schedule that includes all the workouts you need, whether you're a beginner, intermediate or a more advanced exerciser.

Your Workout Program - Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced

 

Guidelines For Beginners

  • Ease into exercise with a simple cardio program and a full body resistance training routine.
  • You'll want to have recovery days to allow your body to rest and your muscles to heal from your new routine.
  • A typical beginner program will include about 3 days of cardio and 2 days of strength training.

Sample Workout for Beginners

Monday: Cardio 20-30 minutes. You can choose from one of the following Sample Cardio Workouts:Tuesday: Total Body Strength and core training. You can choose from one of the following Sample Strength Workouts:
Wednesday: Rest or gentle yoga/stretchingThursday: Cardio-20-30 minutes.  You can choose from one of the following Sample Cardio Workouts:
Friday:  Total Body Strength and core training. You can choose from one of the following Sample Strength Workouts:Saturday: Cardio-20-30 minutes.  You can choose from one of the following Sample Cardio Workouts:

 

Guidelines for Intermediate Exercisers

  • If you've been exercising for at least 3 months consistently, you typically fall into this category
  • If your goal is to lose weight, you want to shoot for 20-60 minutes of cardio about 5 or more times a week. 
  • Your strength training schedule will depend on what type of workouts you're doing (e.g., total body training or a split routine). 
  • You can do cardio and weight training on the same day, depending on your time constraints. It doesn't matter which one you do first, so vary your routine and try different combinations to find the one that is right for you.

Sample Intermediate Split Routine for Upper and Lower Body

Monday:  30-Minute Cardio Medley Workout, Upper Body TrainingTuesday: 45-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout, Core Training
Wednesday: 30-Minute Low Impact Cardio Blast Workout (2 circuits), Lower bodyThursday: Rest, stretch or yoga
Friday: Total Body Strength or Circuit TrainingSaturday: Cardio-60 minutes, stretch

 

Guidelines For Advanced Exercisers

  • If you're more advanced, you can split your routine further, focusing more attention on each muscle group
  • You can also make your cardio more intense by, incorporating interval training and other advanced techniques to burn calories and build endurance. 

Sample Split Routing for Advanced Exercisers

Monday: Chest, Shoulders & Triceps, HIIT CardioTuesday: Lower Body and Core
Wednesday: Back & Biceps, Boredom Buster CardioThursday: Rest, stretch or yoga
Friday: Basic Total Body StrengthSaturday: Advanced Intense Intervals

 

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