Download Australia's Best Supplement App
TRUSTED STORE SINCE 2004
TRUSTED IN OZ SINCE 2004
100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE
SUPER FAST DELIVERY
SUPER FAST DELIVERY
EAST & WEST COAST DISPATCH
1000's of articles
THOUSANDS OF ARTICLES
WRITTEN BY INDUSTRY PROS
FREE WORKOUT VIDEOS
 FREE WORKOUT VIDEOS
 OVER 10 MILLION YOUTUBE VIEWS

Good exercise programming is the difference between making solid gains and injuring yourself. Although it’s easy to find a great program for free on the internet these days, there’s nothing better than being able to tailor your exercises specifically for yourself. If you’ve never done this before, this article will give you a basic overview of how to build your own balanced workout program from scratch.

Step 1. Know your goals

Before you begin, you need to have a clear understanding of what your goals are. Do you want to build muscle, get stronger, burn fat, or perform better at a specific sport? Sometimes there are goals that overlap. However, once your beginner gains diminish, you will no longer be able to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. Thus, you need to set yourself clear goals.

Goals can be short term goals for the upcoming month or two. For example, increase bench press. Or they can be longer term, such as building 10 kilos of solid muscle. When you make your own programs, you need to make sure that your short term goals line up with your long term goals. In the above example, increasing bench press in the next couple of months will be compatible with building 10 kilos of lean muscle in the long term. However, setting a short term goal of being able to run a half marathon in under two hours is not really a good short term goal for building muscle in the long term.

Setting your goals will determine the type of training and program you will make.

Step 2. Determine training style

Once you know what your goals are, it will be much simpler for you to determine the best way to train. The following is a basic guide on the rep range to work in, depending on your goals.

  • Strength: If you are training for strength, you may wish to start your program with a higher weight and lower rep range. Work with a weight in which you can handle for around 3 to 6 reps. You would have to do more sets if you are working closer to the 3 rep end.
  • Hypertrophy: When it comes to muscle building, time under tension and volume is important. As such, grab some lighter weights and train at a higher rep range, at around 15 per set.
  • Hybrid: For those who want a bit of both, it is a good idea to work in between the above rep ranges. Around 8 to 12 is recommended.

There is no reason why you have to stick to one training style for an extended period, even if your long term goals do not change. You can train in one style for a short period (around 4 to 6 weeks) in what is known as a “microcycle”. You can then change your style for the next microcycle. For example, if you are looking to build muscle, you may like to rotate between a strength microcycle and a hypertrophy microcycle.

Step 3. Select exercises

The selection of exercises will be critical. To targeting the muscle groups you wish to train. It is always recommended that you build your training around the three big compound exercises, that is, the bench press (mainly front of upper body), the squat (mainly front of lower body), and the deadlift (mainly back of lower body). To fully round it off, there should also be an upper body pulling exercise such as the row or pull up (mainly back of upper body). For this article, we will refer to these exercises as the primary exercises. All other exercises can be referred to as auxiliary (or supportive) exercises. There are endless selections of exercises you can select as auxiliary exercises, and which you pick can depend on your goals, your weaknesses, or even existing injuries.

You need to select exercises so that you train in a balanced manner. This will help prevent imbalances, injuries, and ensure many years of training to come. As a general guide, for every muscle group you train, you will need to train the opposing muscle group. This does not need to be on the same day, but ensure you cover everything within a given weekly rotation. For example:

  • Balance chest with lats
  • Balance biceps with triceps
  • Balance abs with lower back
  • Balance quads with  ham strings
  • Balance pushing muscles with pulling muscles

If you squat, be sure to also deadlift. If you bench press, be sure to also do a pulling movement. Whether this is a chin up, or a barbell row, it is entirely up to you.

Step 4. Determine training frequency and split

A split is usually a weekly program you follow in which you divide your body into different parts. There is also no strict rule regarding the number of times you train per week. This can range depending on your level of commitment, and of course, the amount of free time you have. Programs can be customised from one day per week to five or six days.

When training fewer days, you would need to cram in more muscle groups into a single day, whereas training more frequently allows for more even spacing and using more auxiliary exercises.

There is no strict rule about having to train a certain body part on a certain day. However, it can be recommended that you attempt to separate related body parts by a day or two. For example, if you are training squats on Monday you may wish to train deadlifts later in the week, instead of doing it on Tuesday. This is because you will inevitably get some activation of your hamstrings while squatting and you want to be fully recovered to lift the maximum amount of weight when you deadlift.

Some examples include:

Frequency

Day

Body Parts Trained

1 day/week

1

Full body

2 days/week

1

Upper body

2

Lower body

3 days/week

1

Squat day

2

Bench + pull day

3

Deadlift day

4 days/week

1

Deadlift day

2

Bench day

3

Squat day

4

Pull day

5 days/week

1

Legs

2

Chest

3

Back

4

Shoulders

5

Arms + abs

Just keep in mind that ideally you should include bench, deadlift, squat, and a pull exercises. Many people debate whether they should deadlift on back day or leg day. In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter too much, as long as you do it!

Step 5. Choose auxiliary exercises

The goal of auxiliary exercises is to assist you in improving your primary lifts, fix imbalances and weaknesses, and to support your goals. The following is a small list of auxiliary exercises that go well with the above mentioned primary exercises:

  • Bench: incline/decline bench, wide grip, narrow grip, dumbbell  bench variations, cable flies/cross overs, dumbbell flies, push ups, pec deck, dips, triceps exercises
  • Barbell row: one arm dumbbell row, pull up, chip up, seated row, T-bar row, lat pulldown, biceps exercises
  • Squat: front squat, low bar squat, lunge, Bulgarian squat, hack squat, leg press, step ups, leg extension,
  • Deadlift: sumo deadlift, straight legged deadlift, single leg deadlift, leg curl, hyperextension, deficit deadlift, rack pull, hip trust, glute ham raises

Simply choose around three to five auxiliary exercises from the above list to complement your primary lift. Over time you should also include prehabilitation exercises designed to prevent injury. Rotator cuff exercises are often a good example.

Step 6. Write your program

Now that you have all the above information, it is time to put it all together to make your own customised program.

Keep in mind what goals you have, this will help you form your rep range and weights to use. As stated above, always be sure to do bench, squat, deadlift, and a pulling exercise in every weekly rotation, and simply select a set of auxiliary exercise, which can be changed every few weeks or so.

Moving from one week to the next, you should also be increasing either the number of reps or the weights used. This process is known as progressive overload, and is the cornerstone to making gains. After around 4 to 6 weeks, it is recommended to take a rest or taper week to allow your central nervous system to recovery from intensive training. You can either take it easy, or just not lift at all.

For example, let’s say you train four days/week and want to run a full body program in which helps you get stronger while also putting on some muscle. It will probably look something like the following (of course the actual weight used should be adjusted to your abilities). 3x12 refers to 3 sets of 12 reps. BW = body weight.

 

Day 1

Exercise

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Taper

Deadlift

3x8

60kg

3x8

65kg

3x8

70kg

3x8

75kg

2x6

40kg

Straight legged deadlift

3x8

50kg

3x10

50kg

3x12

50kg

3x8

55kg

2x6

35kg

Leg curl

3x8

30kg

3x10

30kg

3x12

30kg

3x15

30kg

2x8

20kg

Glute ham raise

3x4

BW

3x6

BW

3x8

BW

3x10

BW

None

Day 2

Exercise

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Taper

Flat bench press

3x8

40kg

3x10

40kg

3x12

40kg

3x8

45kg

2x6

30kg

Cable crossovers

3x8

8kg each

3x10

8kg each

3x12

8kg each

3x15

8kg each

2x6

8kg each

Dumbbell Shoulder press

3x8

10kg each

3x10

10kg each

3x12

10kg each

3x8

11.25kg each

2x6

8kg each

Dumbbell skull crusher

3x8

5kg each

3x10

5kg each

3x12

5kg each

3x8

6.25kg each

2x5

5kg each

 

Day 3

Exercise

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Taper

Barbell squat

3x8

60kg

3x8

65kg

3x8

70kg

3x8

75kg

2x6

40kg

Barbell lunge

3x8

30kg

3x10

30kg

3x12

30kg

3x8

35kg

2x6

20kg

Leg press

3x8

100kg

3x10

100kg

3x12

100kg

3x8

110kg

2x6

90kg each

Leg Extension

3x8

30kg each

3x10

30kg each

3x12

30kg each

3x8

35kg each

None

 

Day 4

Exercise

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Taper

Wide grip Pull up

3x3

BW

3x4

BW

3x5

BW

3x6

BW

None

Barbell row

3x8

40kg

3x10

40kg

3x12

40kg

3x8

45kg

2x6

30kg

Seated row

3x8

60kg

3x10

60kg

3x12

60kg

3x8

65kg

2x6

50kg

Bicep curl

3x8

5kg each

3x10

5kg each

3x12

5kg each

3x8

7.5kg each

2x5

5kg each

 

Keep in mind the above program is an example, and is by no means something that you must follow strictly. You may also be wondering why abs and calves have not been included. Muscle groups like these can be slotted in at any time. So throw them in when you wish.

More Great Reading
Beginner's Weight Training Programme
Beginner's Weight Training Programme
10 Days of Reduced Sugar Benefits Obese Kids
10 Days of Reduced Sugar Benefits Obese Kids
10-20% 1RM Best for Power in Hexagonal Barbell Jump Squat
10-20% 1RM Best for Power in Hexagonal Barbell Jump Squat
10 Exercises You Should Be Doing
10 Exercises You Should Be Doing
10 Ways to Know You're Addicted to Protein
10 Ways to Know You're Addicted to Protein
10 Ways Women are Better Than Men at Weightlifting
10 Ways Women are Better Than Men at Weightlifting