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How To Create A Workout Plan | Beginners Guide

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Have you ever shown up to the gym without a workout plan? New to the gym and want to learn how to create a workout plan for yourself? This is the post for you!

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how to create a workout plan for the gym or home

“How do I start working out at the gym?”

“What should a beginner do at the gym?”

“How do I create a workout plan?”

These are all good questions that almost ALL exercisers ask themselves at some point in time.

We all have to start somewhere when creating a workout plan!

In fact, I think that until just a few years ago, I never even considered having a workout plan.

Pssst! If you are recently postpartum, check out my 21-day postpartum challenge featuring a workout plan + clean eating challenge!

I figured that showing up and moving my body was enough – even if I didn’t have a workout plan.

So I’d show up, analyze the gym, and use whatever machines were available to me in the moment.

I never really wondered how to build my own workout routine or plan.

And honestly, I went super easy on myself and let myself be intimidated by weights.

(Click here to read about joining a new gym with confidence.)

Plus, if there were what felt like a lot of people in the gym, I’d do a super easy and short cardio workout, then ditch.

Well, it is true that moving your body (with or without a plan) is better than nothing at all.

But you’re really selling yourself short if you don’t show up to the gym without a workout plan.

I’m not saying that you need to have flashcards prepared, but it is smart to show up with some sort of workout plan.

(Most of the time, mine is in my head.)

Figuring out how to create a workout plan that helps you stick to your goals is super important.

(P.S. Get free workout flashcards on my freebies page.)

If you show up to the gym with a workout plan in mind, it will help boost your confidence and help you see results.

This does require a little bit of work, but trust me, it will help you!

Need extra help with nutrition and emotional eating? Check out my online course designed to help you reframe your mindset when it comes to food!

How To Create A Workout Plan When You’re A Total Beginner

When you’re a beginner, you’re probably not ready to create entire workout plans to follow for months at a time.

You’re at that point where creating a plan for ONE workout at a time is great.

Related Reading: The Problem With Weight Loss Journeys

This way you can troubleshoot without getting too overwhelmed, and you can learn workout routines for beginners without getting hurt.

Once you have more knowledge about different equipment and exercises available to you, you can learn how to create a workout plan that fits your long-term goals.

how to create a workout plan
I may or may not have a workout plan.

So for now, let’s take it one workout at a time.

Here’s what to do if you need to come up with an individual workout plan on the fly.

1.   Spend your warmup brainstorming.

If for some reason I show up to the gym without a plan in mind, I try to make my warmup multi-purpose.

If you’re asking yourself, “How should I start at the gym?” the answer is always with a workout!

After stretching and foam rolling, I recommend walking on the treadmill or taking it easy on the elliptical for about ten minutes before adding in anything else.

You can then spend this time taking a look around the gym and planning a workout.

What you choose ultimately depends on your goals.

Here are 50 different types of fitness goals to work on.

See what space or machines are available to you and brainstorm a few exercises. OR: Try one of these free workouts!

You can also hop on Pinterest and find a gym workout plan or even home workout plans.

Or, if you’re feeling up to it, try my dumbbell upper body workout for beginners!

2.   Pick a major muscle group to work on.

When I see people at the gym who are doing random exercises at odd intervals, it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t show up with a gym workout plan.

Pick a major area (like legs or upper body) and focus on hitting those muscles.

I like to do things in sets.

I pick three exercises, do 10-12 reps, and repeat.

Then I pick three more exercises that work the same muscle group in a different way.

Example: 10 Lat Rows, 10 Lat Pull-Downs, 10 Pushups, Repeat 2-3x. 

(I do a few different sets of 2-3 exercises to make a weight-training workout of about 45 minutes.)

Focusing on one major muscle group will help you see muscle toning and you’ll really feel it the next day.

Here’s a beginner upper body workout to try if you need it.

Plus, it will help you come up with your “next” exercise since you’ve narrowed it down. (If you need help with exercises try BodyBuilding.com’s many articles and workouts!)

full upper body workout routine

3.   Set a goal.

If you’re going for cardio, this one is easy.

Brainstorm and visualize an attainable goal.

It can be anything, but if you need ideas, here is that list of 50 different types of fitness goals to work on again.

Maybe your goal is 30 minutes on the treadmill, shaving a minute off of your mile time, or 10 sets of sprints.

Just setting a goal will give you more purpose and leave you feeling more accomplished when you smash it.

Just don’t get carried away when setting your goals – they should be challenging but not impossible.

There is no point in learning how to build your own workout plan if you can’t see it through!

Also see: How to Set Realistic Goals After Having a Baby.

4.   Go easy with your exercise plan.

This is pretty important when learning how to build your own workout routine.

I’ve dreamt up some pretty intense workout plans, and guess what happened?

I failed because I didn’t take into account what my body was currently capable of.

If we’re being honest, I really needed to start with core rehab exercises like these ones.

Set your sights on a workout plan that you can do right NOW.

Then modify it as you learn more and gain strength.

Again, you can create your own workout in your mind but there’s no point if you can’t physically accomplish it!

Related Reading: 5 Unique Fitness Ideas To Spice Up Your Home Workouts

Working Towards a Great Exercise Plan

It may take some time to develop a great workout plan.

Learning how to create a workout plan on the fly takes time.

You may need a few test workouts first.

Do you like home workouts better? Are you into gym workout plans?

Are you focused on muscle-building workout plans or weight-loss workout plans?

No worries, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Soon you’ll look like a pro and have others asking you, “How do you create a workout plan?”

Until then here’s what you can do to learn how to create a workout plan that works for you:

Pay attention to others and glean new exercise ideas.

I love watching what other people do – it helps me get more creative come crunch time.

Get tips from others on how to build your own workout routine if you can!

Use trial and error for a few workouts.

Use these tips as a guide but it’s ultimately up to you. See what you like and don’t!

Ask a gym employee to show you how to use machines you aren’t familiar with.

Or, if you’re brave ask another gym-goer.

This will help you meet new people and add to your exercise repertoire.

You’ll find that some people are following strict workout plans while others are creating their own workout routines.

Pay attention to how your body responds to a workout or specific exercise.

I have tried new things at the gym only to be sore for a week.

So sore, in fact, that it made me skip the gym for several days while recovering.

If that happens to you, use lighter weights or try a different exercise.

Keep a fitness journal.

Always write down the things that made you feel great.

This has helped me immensely in figuring out how to create a workout plan that’s effective but still enjoyable.

Take a look at your overall goals.

Focused on muscle mass?


You’ll want to plan more cardio if you’re only about losing weight and being lean.

I am personally in love with weight training and toning, so I tend to go for weights.

Still, I try to keep a good balance.

My biggest tip: if you love something, roll with it!

After trying a few different types of workouts, I found out that I don’t really love PiYo.

Or running in the rain.

But I do love free weights and PUMP (a weight-lifting class set to music).

Related Reading: Cute Free Habit Tracker Printables

I also found out that even though I find yoga slow and boring sometimes, it makes my body feel great and relieves lower back pain.

I also know that angry rock music fuels me best (see my girl power rock playlist suggestions here).

Still need help figuring out how to create a workout plan? Learn from the examples of others! I created Restore The Core to take the guesswork out of your core exercise plan for the next 4 weeks! Check it out!


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