How To Build a Workout Plan
Top trainers dish on what you need to develop an exercise routine.
66 days. That’s how long it takes to form a habit, according to researchers at the University College of London. And if that habit you’re looking to form is getting in shape, then you’ll need a solid workout plan.
Sure, trainers will hold you accountable to your goals and workout classes require you to show up for scheduled sessions, but the responsibility to exercise ultimately falls on you. When building a workout plan, you’ll want to make sure 1) It works and 2) It works for YOU. A tailored workout plan will help you be more consistent and achieve the results you’re looking for. Here’s how to get started.
CELEBRATE SMALL WINS
The fact that you’re even interested in creating a workout plan is worth celebrating. Finding motivation can be difficult and you’ve already committed to doing this, so count that as a major win. “The most daunting part of a workout plan is just taking the first step,” says Nicole Haworth, Celebrity Trainer and Cofounder of The Workout LA. “Committing to a few minutes every day is a great place to start. Whether that's a one-minute plank, going for a power walk or joining an online workout class, just start somewhere. The forward momentum and endorphins will help you build from there.”
“Behavioral change is hard,” says Todd McCullough, Founder of TMAC Fitness. “The best thing you can do is get started now. Movement creates energy. Don’t overthink it. The single most important ingredient to building a workout plan is consistency.”
DETERMINE YOUR GOALS
So you’re ready to take the next step towards building a workout plan. Now what? The first thing you’ll want to think about is which goals you’re trying to achieve. For most people, those fall under two categories: strength training and weight loss.
“If you’re trying to build strength, you’re going to want to focus on doing total movements with high intensity and short duration,” says McCullough. “Things like deadlifts, squats, push-ups and sprints.”
If weight loss is the primary goal, McCullough recommends first working to build a 12,000/day step count and streamlining your diet. “For beginners, working out is a catalyst to creating positivity,” he says. “If you get in a morning workout, you’re more likely to eat a healthier lunch.”
“Eating right is so important for energizing workouts, maintaining results and helping your body recover,” agrees Haworth. “Hydrate. Focus on lean proteins. And fill your plate with leafy greens.”
Haworth says that weight loss and strength training usually go hand in hand because increasing lean muscle mass helps increase metabolism, which helps you lose weight. Once you’re in a position to take things up a notch, increase your reps and weights but make sure to incorporate rest periods for muscle recovery.
And it’s important to make sure your goals are realistic. “A good workout plan should be consistent and sustainable,” says Haworth. “While having a specific fitness goal in mind is key to keeping you motivated and focused, achieving that goal is more about a lifestyle shift rather than a quick fix. Results take time and dedication. Once you see your body change, the workout will become habitual.”
CREATE YOUR PLAN
If you’re just getting started, Haworth recommends starting with three workouts per week and building from there. “The last thing you want to do is come in too hot with your workouts,” she says. “If you do, you’ll either get burned out or, worse, injured. Be patient with yourself and keep celebrating the small milestones as you work towards your best, healthiest self.”
McCullough agrees: “Focus on one new small habit at a time. When you get that right for two weeks in a row, bump it up and build from there.” For a simple workout plan beginners can do at home without equipment, McCullough recommends the below:
Push-Ups on Knees (8-15 reps)
“Great for building upper body strength. Be sure to walk your knees a bit further back from your hips to maintain a long spine and not dive into the shoulders.”
Jumping Jack Modification (30 seconds)
“Great for getting your heart rate up. If jumping jacks are too hard, simply step one foot out to the side while raising your arms up.”
Elbow Plank Modification (30 seconds)
“Great for building core strength. Like the push-ups on your knees, be sure to walk your knees further back from the hips to keep a long spine.”
GET THE GEAR
If you have an unlimited budget, then go ahead and splurge on the fanciest workout equipment. But, if you’re like most people, Haworth says you don’t need much more than a cushioned mat, a set of light dumbbells and maybe a pack of resistance bands. As for shoes, she recommends investing in a pair with good arch support (especially if you're planning to incorporate cardio) and, for the ladies, a pair of high-waisted leggings with a little compression. “Creating a workout plan is a vulnerable process,” she says, “and there's no reason not to give yourself a little boost by looking good while you do it.”
For the guys, McCullough recommends investing in gear that will provide a mental trigger. “If you’re a runner, buy new shoes and then put them by your bed at night as a reminder to run first thing in the morning,” he says. “I like to do yoga in my living room, so I keep a mat in there to remind me to roll it out in the morning and get moving.”
Ready to get your body moving?