How to Build a Personal Workout Plan

Knowing what to include in a workout is tough. There seems to be a million possible exercises and guides making fitness a confusing space. To see results, it’s important to have an effective plan that works towards your specific goals.

While I highly recommend working with a personal trainer, it isn’t realistic for everyone. This step-by-step guide can be used by ANYONE to create a workout plan tailored to you. 

How to use this guide:

  1. Write down the answers to the questions throughout the article

2. Find a FREE WORKOUT PLAN TEMPLATE at the end – print this out, fill it in and use it for your workout sessions!

Let’s do it

1. What is your goal?

Your plan will look very different depending on what your goal is.

People tend to want to achieve a few different things:

  • Lose weight (fat loss)
  • Build muscle (hypertrophy)
  • Increase their fitness (cardiovascular endurance)
  • Get stronger (strength training)
  • ‘Tone up’ – this is a combination of fat loss and hypertrophy
  • Improve health

What in particular do you want to work on?

Maybe you’re looking to shrink down your tummy or be able to run 2 miles without stopping.

When thinking about your goal, try and be as specific as possible. Then break this long term goal down into short and medium term goals that will help you get there.

2. What is your situation?

Which days are best for you to exercise?

At what time and how long for?

Whether it’s an hour, twice a week or 20 minutes, 4 times a week, that’s fine! Be realistic about when you can be active to make a plan that’s right for you.

Remember: it’s recommended we do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week as this is thought to be most beneficial for our health. This can be broken down into just 22 minutes a day and include things like brisk walking and yoga.

Where do you want to workout?

The gym is an obvious one, but it’s not for everyone. Other options are: at home, in the park, in a studio space, in group classes.

3. Planning the exercises

Keep it simple

Workout plans become daunting when they’re over complicated and it has no benefit to the workout.

Here’s a few different exercises that target different body parts:

Quadsfront of your thigh Squats, lunges, leg extension
Butt and hamstrings back of your thighdeadlifts, hip raises, step ups
Coreabs and lower backcrunches, plank, mountain climbers, bicycles, heel taps
Pushchest, shoulders, tricepspush ups, tricep dips, bench press
Pullback, biceps and forearmspull ups, chin ups, dumbbell rows


You’re looking to do for a full body workout. So pick an exercise from each category to create your workout plan. On different days, pick a different exercise in the category to add some variety.

Been training for a while and feel like you’re ready to take it to the next level?

Split up your training so you focus on a different body part in each session.

4. How many of each: Sets and Reps

This is also dependent on what your goal is.

Repetitions (reps) = How many you do of each exercise. (e.g. 10 sit ups = 10 reps)

Sets = a series of repetitions you do without stopping (e.g. 10 sit ups = 1 set of 10 reps)

Generally there should be an inverse relationship between reps and sets – so if you’re doing lots of reps there should be less sets.

Fat loss and endurance will have higher reps, while strength training has less reps as you’re lifting heavier weights.

If you’re just looking to generally get in shape, try 10 reps and 3 sets of each exercise.

But anything between 3 – 5 sets of 8 – 12 reps will be fine.

5. How much weight should I lift?

To put it simply, this one is trial and error.

It’s always better to start with a lighter weight to perfect your form and technique. Once you’ve done this, move up to a weight that by the end of the set (e.g. 10 reps), you feel you’ve worked your muscles hard but you’ve still got energy to carry on.

If you’re in the gym and unsure, chat to one of the coaches on shift and they’ll be able to give you some guidance.


6. How long to exercise and rest

The workout: exercising for 45 – 60 minutes is optimal, with a maximum of 25 sets in total.

Rest between sets: This depends on the type of workout you’re doing and therefore the number of reps. Essentially, a heavier weight means less reps and a longer rest.

  • 13 Reps+ (endurance): 60 seconds or less
  • 8-12 Reps (hypertrophy): 1 to 2 minutes
  • 4-7 Reps (strength): 2 to 3 minutes
  • 1-3 Reps (strength/power): 3 to 5 minutes

Don’t overthink this one too much… if you need more or less rest that’s fine.

Rest between workouts: muscle groups should have at least 48 hours between workouts.


You should change your workout every 6 – 8 weeks to see the best results

Some Final Tips

  • Be realistic – make a plan that fits your lifestyle and level of fitness. Then you’re much more likely to stick with it
  • Be consistent – it can take 6 – 8 weeks to see real results, so planning your workouts in advance can be the best way to get you there
  • Keep track of what your progress
  • Struggling with motivation? Try exercising with someone or going to a group class. Making exercise social is a great way to keep you going

Don’t forget to download your free workout planner!

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