Building Your Own Workout: A Guide.

Do you know what the hardest part of working out is? It’s not the lack of the time. It’s not figuring out which workout to do. The hardest part is:


More than anything else, I have the hardest time starting a new exercise regime. Once I actually get going, I feel good and always want to do more.

Like the average person, I work 40 hour weeks at a very physically and mentally demanding job. 8 hours a day as an electrician means that by the time I get home my motivation and energy levels have dropped dramatically. Sometimes I feel like I have to dig really deep to find some sort of spark to motivate me enough to want to exercise. Even when there is theoretically nothing stopping me from training, I will still find a way to avoid it. Procrastination just takes over.

I need to work out every day to achieve my training goals, so I’ve decided that on the days that I absolutely don’t feel like working out, I need to come up with something that will force me to get started. Once I actually start my routine, whether it is cycling, lifting weights, running or even yoga, I want to keep going and even push myself harder.

The most important factor to a workout plan is motivation and a time sensitive end goal. Without this you will not push yourself to your full potential. The luxury of time to put it off is a massive motivation killer. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose some excess weight before a hike with friends, or to compete in a professional fitness event, it is imperative to set dates and targets. This way you won’t (and can’t) say to yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

The first question to ask yourself is what are you doing now; is it working? Are you safe, and is it making you healthier? If so, keep doing it! However, if you’re JUST getting started, you want to mix things up, or you’re ready to make a change, it’s good to understand what goes into a program so you can build one for yourself.

Before you can build your programme you need to determine your situation and consequent commitment.

How much time can you devote to exercise? If you are lucky enough that you can do an hour a day, that’s fantastic. If you have a wife, three kids, and two jobs, then maybe you can only do thirty minutes every other day. Don’t stress you’re still doing more than half of the population. Whatever your time commitment may be, developing the most efficient workout is crucial. Why spend two hours in a gym when you can get just as much accomplished in 30 minutes at home? It’s also about enjoyment, so if lifting weights isn’t up your street, then mix it up a bit. Try swimming, body weight movements or even something as simple as taking the dog for a walk!

So, you’ve got the motivation and you now know when you can train, you just need some exercises. Keep it simple. Think about the event or sport that your training for and research which muscle groups are used most within that. Combine them with the sport specific training you are doing and you will have a bullet proof routine.

Unless you’ve been lifting weights for years, I recommend a full body routine that you can do two or three times a week. You want a routine that has at least one exercise for your quads, gluteus and hamstrings, your push muscles, your pull muscles, and your core. This means you can develop a full body routine that uses only about four or five exercises. How’s THAT for time sensitive?


Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Quads – squats, lunges, one legged squats, box jumps.

Gluteus and Hamstrings – hip raises, deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings, step ups.

Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps) – Military press, bench press, incline dumbbell press, push ups, dips.

Pull (back, biceps, and forearms) – chin ups, pull ups, inverse body weight rows, dumbbell rows.

Core (abs and lower back) – planks, side planks, exercise ball crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks, hanging leg raises.

Pick one exercise from each category for a workout that’ll target almost every single muscle in your body. These are just a few examples for what you can do, but you really don’t need to make things more complicated than this.

Sets and Reps

When resting between sets you should stick to these guidelines:

• 1-3 Reps: Rest for 3 to 5 minutes

• 4-7 Reps: Rest for 2 to 3 minutes

• 8-12 Reps: Rest for 1 to 2 minutes

• 13 Reps+: Rest for 1 minute or less

Lift enough so that you can get through the set, but not too much that you have no fuel left in the tank at the end. How do you determine how much that is? Trial and error. When just starting out, or if you’re doing a new exercise for the first time, start light and build up. Never lift with your ego. It’s also an idea to get a gym buddy to help spot you if you’re not sure if you’re lifting too much. If you’re doing a new workout, ask a friend to come along, help you out, and workout with you. Above all this will motivate you to actually go and workout, and chances are you’ll have fun at the same time.

When it comes to how long you should be training for; less time and more intensity = better results. I generally say 45 minutes to an hour. If you’re doing 15-25 sets in your total exercise routine, you should be able to get everything done within that 45 minute block. Now, factor in a five or ten minute warm-up, and then stretching afterwards, and the workout can go a little bit longer. If you can go for over an hour and you’re not completely worn out, you’re simply not pushing yourself hard enough.

Lastly, your muscles don’t get built in the gym, they get built when you’re resting. Give your muscles 48-72 hours to recover between training and make sure you eat well before and after to ensure you’re repairing your muscles and staying healthy.  A Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout works well to ensure enough time to recover.

So, what do we have to remember when building our workouts?
  • The hardest part is simply getting started; remind yourself of this and try and find other ways to motivate yourself.
  • A time sensitive end goal is important for motivation.
  • Workout how much time you can commit and what kind of exercise you enjoy for a fitness plan that works for you.
  • Keep it simple – if it’s your first time pick one exercise for each muscle group.
  • Gym buddies can be great.
  • Make sure you are repairing and restoring your muscles properly by both resting and eating appropriately.