How to Structure Your Workout Plan

Now you know that you need a personalized fitness workout plan.  Where do you start? How do you sort through the various plans already out there? It’s not going to be effective to throw together a bunch of exercises you like in a random order.  And it’s not going to be effective to continue doing the same thing if it’s not challenging your body any longer. There is a method, not all that difficult, to follow when choosing your workout exercises. The first place to start is to decide on your focus, to lose weight, to build endurance, to get healthy, to maintain health, to build muscle & strength.  Here are some tips on how to make an effective workout plan that will work for most of these fitness goals.


How to Structure Your Workout Plan

First – Choose the number of days you will be working out and what your workouts will be dedicated to : Strength, Cardio, Yoga. Decide if you will break your strength workouts into arms/back or legs/ab or full body.  Personally, I prefer full body workouts because it ensures I’m challenging all of my muscles at least twice per week.

Second – Put your strength exercises before your cardio exercises

Now the actual plan will follow:

  • Stretch 3-5 mins.
  • Warm-up: Choose some type of bodyweight strength exercise or 5 mins. light cardio

Example warm-ups

squat jumps




jumping jacks

step ups


jumping jacks

  • Core Exercises – pick 2-3 per session

Most/All core exercises should be performed with free weights. These are the exercises you want to make continuous progressions with your weight, preferably every 1-2 weeks if you are a beginner. Using free weights you have options – dumbbells, barbell, curl bar, kettlebells, or cable machine.



Bench Press

Push Press

Barbell Row


  • Accessory Exercises – Add 3-5 per session from each of the muscle groups to your workout plan.

The number of exercises you choose will depend on your amount of time for working out. You can also superset or perform some of these exercises back to back with no rest. This saves time and puts the muscles in hypertrophy mode, so supersets are a win-win.

These are exercises that are more likely to focus on helping a specific muscle group, rather than the whole body like the core exercises.

Accessory exercises can be performed on machines, with cable machines, or free weights. Variations of these exercises can be performed based on skills level, possible injuries, and specific muscle groups that need strength to perform the core exercises. (Muscles that are weaker, not necessarily places of fat accumulation.)

Here are some examples, there are many more.


Legs – Glutes, Hams, Quads, Calves


Single Leg Squats

Bulgarian split squats

Single Leg Deadlifts

Cable Kickbacks or Side Leg Lifts

Glute Bridge/Hip Thrusts

Leg Press


Single Arm Rows

Upright Rows

Bicep Curls


Pulls Ups


Tricep Dips


Tricep Pull Downs




Chest Flies


Incline Bench Press



  • Abs: Your time on ab exercises will be dependent on your overall workout plan.

Personally, I like to focus on the core exercises and perform 1-2 sets of superset ab exercises.  I don’t find it necessary to do more.

Focus your time on planks, do them every workout.



Russian Twists

Reverse crunches



Lying leg lifts

Scissor legs

Captain’s Chair



Kneeling Cable Crunch


Swiss Ball Crunches



CARDIO – 10-30 mins. of cardio. 

On days that you are putting in more time to strength exercises, you are likely to limit your cardio to 10-20 mins.  On days that focus on cardio, the time will increase 30-60 mins.


For information and videos on how to perform an exercise, check out the exercise database on Bodybuilding

If you are going to focus on improving strength in core exercises with a barbell, I highly encourage you to check out this program×5/

You can also find more useful information on strength training from Mark Riptide



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18 thoughts on “How to Structure Your Workout Plan

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  1. This is exactly what I needed to read because I just find myself going to the gym and swapping about, but never really seeing or feeling any vast improvement in my health and fitness. But getting a PT seems like SUCH an investment when I don’t have particular goals, I just want to stay healthy whilst raising my kids. This looks like the direction I needed- thanks!

    1. I felt like this for awhile too, by just guessing at what I should be doing. Then I did some research and found some effective strategies!

  2. This is extremely helpful! I’ve been trying to find a template for building my own work-out and motivation to get going. This is exactly the inspiration I needed!

    1. So glad you found this useful! While there are still broad ranges in choices, I have found this effective and it is similar to what most trainers recommend.

  3. As long as I have been working out, I always thought I am pretty sure I can be doing this better. But now I know I definitely can. I am going to bookmark this and save to try and structure my workouts more effectively thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I know I’ve had times of being very confused, but after finding this idea repeated by several trainers I’ve had much better focus & results!

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