• Lucy O'Sullivan

Designing a gym programme - for beginners

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Before you start training, if you were going to become serious about it, first consider that a program should be developed around your biology, age, goals, diet, free time, access to a gym, etc.

I am here to help with technique tips and offer suggestions, but there’s one person that knows what’s best for you: YOU.  Developing a workout routine is really not too difficult and kind of fun once you understand the basics.

The first question therefore is are you training well now? Are you enjoying it? And is it making you healthy? However if you have read a few of my articles and realise that weight training is the way to blitz the body fat, are you ready to give that a go? Understand what a gym programme is and you can start building them yourself. 

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:

Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and/or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.

Strength training. Do exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles, but not to overload them to excess where you cannot function the next day.

Aerobic (Cardio) activity includes —

- Moderate aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn or things such as tempo running which as a slightly faster than normal jog for 30 minutes.

- Vigorous aerobic exercises such as running and aerobic dancing or exercises such as plyometric training (jumping, bounding and skipping), and interval training such as sprints-walk-sprints. 

Strength training includes —

- Resistance training with dumbbells, barbells and machines, using your own body weight, resistance tubing, resistance paddles in the water (aqua-aerobics), or activities such as rock climbing.

- Flexibility training such as yoga also counts as strength training.

NB. With weight training this can be performed as high intensity intervals, circuit training or straight reps and sets training (that can be as easy or as complicated as you like dependent on if you were an athlete or bodybuilder).

When designing a programme - KEEP IT SIMPLE

I have been lifting weights for years, however I find for the best results (with limited time) (especially when I want to be on the archery field during the summer) doing a full body routine two or three times a week is ideal.  

The main exercises I teach are weight training or body weight training exercises, you can pick one of these exercises to ensure a full body work out.

Try to target the butt and hamstrings (back of your legs), the front of your legs, your push muscles, your pull muscles, and your core. It only takes 4-5 exercises and this can take as little as 30 minutes.

- Butt and Hamstrings – squats, hip raises, deadlifts, straight leg deadlifts, step ups.

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

- Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps) — overhead press, bench press, incline dumbbell press, push ups, dips.

- Pull (back, biceps, and forearms) — chin ups, pull ups, horizontal rows, lat pull downs, dumbbell rows.

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

These are just a few examples for what you can do, and remember for overall fitness you really don’t need to make things more complicated than this.

If you do the same routine, three days a week, for months and months both you, and your muscles will get bored.  If you do squats on Monday perhaps do hip raises on Wednesday and focus on deadlifts on Friday, you will get better results.


I also find that with limited time, make sure you do one push and one pull exercise on; Monday, Wednesday and Friday for example. But if you wanted you could also train a ‘push’ day' and a ‘pull day’ performing two push exercises (and your legs and core) on one day, and two pull exercises on another day (and your legs and core).

Remember muscles only build when you are resting. If you don't rest properly you will never get full recovery, try to train every other day if you are doing a full body workout, so that muscles have time to rest and recover.

Or if you are a bodybuilder do a ‘leg day’ one day and ‘arm day’ the next etc.

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