How to create a workout schedule for best results


Exercise is more than just moving your body. While that is a great place to start to create the habit, at some point, you need to dive a little deeper into it and start making a schedule that fits your goals. You can’t just jump around doing HIIT if you want to build muscle, and you can’t just run if you want to tone your legs. There are other parts that are involved in it, ones that are going to get you results you actually desire. So while I always preach any movement over no movement, I do suggest gettin specific when you are ready. Like I said, create the habit first so that you have a solid foundation, and then dive into specifics. Let’s talk deeper about how to create a workout schedule for best results.

General Workout Schedules

What I mean by workout schedules is…how many workouts per week are you going to do? And what are they for? Are we doing workouts because we feel like that is the right thing to do? Are we doing them because we just want to move and feel good? Are we doing them for a specific goal? Because all of these can look completely different.

Let me create a few workout schedules based on goals, but remember…you need to do what fits your schedule. So maybe that looks like 3 workouts a week, or 2 workouts and running, or zero workouts and tons of walking on vacation. It is going to look different for everyone. But remember…do not get stuck in the trap of just “working out”, you want to make sure you are working towards something.

5 workouts per week:

If you have the ability to get in 5 workouts per week (because 1-2 rest days are 100% needed) then I suggest separating body parts and doing strength training.

You could do Upper body, Lower body, cardio, upper body, lower body. This will ensure you are hitting all muscle groups enough to get solid workouts in and build muscle.

If you are looking for more cardio, you could do maybe 2-3 full body strength training days and 2-3 cardio days.  Again, the best schedule for you is going to be one you can stick to, and one you actually enjoy. If you hate running, you don’t have to run. But, if you have lifting….I’m sorry, you still need to lift.

3 workouts per week:

If you are working with 3 workouts per week, I would suggest 2 full body strength training days and 1 cardio day. Otherwise you could also do 1 upper body, 1 lower body and 1 full body. I add in the cardio option because heart health is important. Cardio is not necessary for fat loss, or weight loss, but it does have benefits within our daily routine.

2 workouts per week:

And if you are just starting and 2 workouts is where you are comfortable, then I would suggest 2 full body days. If you have the ability to do a little longer workout (over 30 minutes) you could split it up between upper body and lower body if you prefer. Again, it is all about what you enjoy and what you can fit into your schedule.

These are just suggestions, from me. If you are looking to just get moving and create a foundation, I would follow one of these schedules. You need to create the routine and habit before you start getting really specific. Because when you do, it might take a little more planning and time management on your part, which is hard to do from the get-go when you are starting from scratch. So build the foundation, then move into one of the following schedules.

Specific Workout Schedules

Once you have developed the routine and have gotten to a place of your workouts just being a part of your routine, then you can move onto more specifics. This is going to be tailored more towards results based, and again, is my progressional opinion. This might not work for you, and it might not be sustainable for you, so I will always recommend picking what you can stick with over what you feel like you have to do. Because as soon as you feel like you are doing “too much” you are going to start to resent it and dread every single workout.

Weight Loss:

If you are working specifically on weight loss, you need to be focusing on strength training. This is because as we build muscle, we are increasing our ability to burn more calories at rest..which can then result in weight loss because of being in a caloric deficit.

I recommend doing 4-5 workouts per week. This could be upper, full, lower, full. Or you could do upper, cardio, lower, cardio. Or upper, lower, upper, lower. You mix and match what works, but I suggest a mix of strength training with cardio/circuit training. This is programming is found in the Collective if you need some direction with somewhere to start.

Muscle Building:

If you are looking to build some serious strength and muscle, then focus all your attention on strength training and progressive overload. This means keeping programming relatively similar as you then work to a.) add weight b.) add reps c.) move quicker. If you want to focus on the strength and growth of one specific area, I recommend working this muscle group 2-3 times per week.

So you can set up weeks maybe upper, lower, upper, lower, core/cardio. Or upper, lower, upper, core, upper. Or lower, upper, lower, core, lower. Again, whatever suits your needs.

If you can only workout 3 times or less per weak, I would focus on all full body workouts so you can increase the number of sets that the muscle undergoes each week!

Performance (specific end date): 

If you are training for something specific like a race, or competition, I would recommend ramping up training 4-5 months out, and then working to a peak, and then tapering back down before said competition. This will give your body time to get where it needs to go, and also give it time to rest and recover before you do your race.

Things like races and competitions are going to require different kinds of training. If you are running, the only thing that will make you better at running is…running. If you are biking, you need to bike to prepare. With that being said, you also need to cross train. There is so much research out there on the importance (and benefits) of cross training when it comes to marathons, triathlons and more. So don’t out 100% focus on your sport, you still need to dabble in other areas.

This is just my take on how I would set up my weeks depending on my goals. Now, this does not have to be a forever thing. You do not need to only focus your attention here for months and months and months. If you start to lose interest, take a week or two to just do whatever you want and whatever feels good. Then go back to your goal training. You don’t ever want to get to the point that your workouts are a chore, you want to make sure you stay interested and excited!

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Haley Rowe August 7, 2020