Before you begin an exercise regimen, please consult your doctor. This is particularly important if you’ve been idle for a while, are overweight, have any health conditions, or are in your senior years. Exercise can cause potentially dangerous strain on your heart or injuries. Building up gradually to longer, more rigorous workouts is a key to a healthy exercise regimen.
When a fitness professional creates a workout plan a lot goes into the structure: a person’s injury history, lifestyle, biomechanics, age, goals, etc. While its always best to seek the help of a fitness professional when it comes to exercise, you can still create a simple and safe workout plan using some basic guidelines.
First, it must be realistic. Your goals can’t be bigger than the time you have to put into them, as that sets you up for failure. If you can only spare two days a week, then do two days a week. It’s better to be consistent with those two days per week, then inconsistent with and unrealistic four days a week.
Second, decide on your goals so you can program your reps and sets – strength, muscle gain or fat loss. For strength, you should focus on low-rep, high-set schemes such as six sets of three to five reps. Meanwhile, three sets of 8-12 reps is more effective for gaining muscle. If fat-loss is your main goal, high-rep schemes like three sets of 15-20 reps work well, as do circuits. Overall, keep in mind that when you decrease the number of reps per set, you need to increase the load you’re lifting. When it comes to rest, you’ll generally need more depending upon how much you’re lifting,
Once you have the days per week and goals figured out, now you can pick your exercises, based on the equipment you have access to. Focus on the six major movement patterns first in your program.
Hinge: deadlift, good morning, kettlebell swing, single leg deadlift
Lunge: lunge (forward, reverse, lateral), split squat, rear foot elevated split squat
Push: bench press, push-up, one-arm bench press, overhead press, one-arm press
Pull: pull-up, bent-over row, seated row, one-arm row
Squat: front squat, goblet squat, Zercher squat, back squat
Carry: farmer walk, single-arm carry, overhead carry
Depending on how many days you can commit to, aim for whole body, or all six movement patterns in each workout. If you can do three or more, you can split it up into upper body and lower body days or continue with the whole body. Whatever your schedule, make sure that you get enough rest by scheduling at least one full day of rest each week, and making sure no two high-intensity workouts fall back-to-back.
How do you know if the plan is working? If you are noticing that exercises are getting easier, then you are doing great! Just be sure to keep load and intensity in a challenging range, so your body has to adapt (that is where the magic happens).
Are you safe and is it making you healthier? If so, keep doing it!
By Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC