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Programme Design For Beginners

Knowing what is best to do in the gym can be a minefield. 

In today’s social media obsessed world, it’s easy to get distracted by both exercises and workouts that may look great on camera but don’t translate well to real-world results.

Generally speaking if you don’t really know where to start in the gym, a pretty solid strategy is to have 3 full-body workouts per week. 

Ideally they would be split across the week i.e – Monday, Wednesday & Friday or Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. 

This may not always possible with your work and family commitments but if you can spread the sessions out to every other day it will enable you to train hard during the session and allow adequate recovery to go again in 48-72 hours. 

So now we’ve decided how often you will train, it’s time to look at what a workout may look like… 

In the example above, we’ve gone with 3 days per week. 

With most people, in this situation full-body sessions are a good idea.

As such, you want to make sure you include 4 major movements… 

1 – Upper Body Pull

Examples include – Lat Pull Down, Seated Row, etc

2 – Lower Body Push

Examples include – Squats, Lunges, etc

3 – Upper Body Push

Examples include – Shoulder Press, Bench Press, etc

4 – Lower Body Pull

Examples include – Deadlift, Leg Curl, etc

You don’t have to do it in the order above but you won’t go far wrong if you do. 

Once you advance, you could progress to pairing the upper body exercises together and vice-verse for the lower body. 

Quick note – if you do progress to pairing upper or lower body exercises, i’d generally recommend a pull movement to be followed by a push. 

So for instance, you may do a set of leg curls, followed by a set of squats. 

Once you’ve completed the 4 key movements above you can then add on 1 or 2 exercises for your ‘problem’ areas. 

If you goal is fat loss, a like to have my clients finish with some type of conditioning work for example. 

Or you might particularly enjoy an exercise and want to do a couple of sets of that towards the end of the session. 

Now, let’s look at some popular sets and reps schemes… 

The main question here is what is your goal? 

Typically speaking, if you want to get strong but without gaining muscle mass you may look to do around 25 reps of an exercise. 

This can be achieved with the following combinations… 

  • 6 Sets x 4 Reps
  • 5 Sets x 5 Reps
  • 4 Sets x 6 Reps 

If strength is the primary goal, rest periods should be around 3 – 5 minutes between repetition of the same exercise. 

Where as if your goal was to gain size, the rep goal could be anywhere from 30 – 50 reps (generally speaking)

This can be achieved with the following combinations… 

  • 4 – 5 Sets x 8 Reps
  • 3 – 5 Sets x 10 Reps
  • 3 – 4 Sets x 12 Reps
  • 2 – 3 Sets x 15 Reps

If size is the primary goal, rest periods should be around 2 – 3 minutes between repetition of the same exercise. 

I can’t give you all the answers to your gym programming questions on a blog but hopefully i’ve given you something to consider and at least a place to start. 

Don’t forget a basic programme, consistently performed is infinitely better than the ‘perfect’ programme performed sporadically. 

Thanks for reading, have a great day.


Do you need confidential help with your health, fitness or nutrition? I have a range of services available, with Personal Training in my Private Gym in Manchester, also at your home or workplace in the surrounding areas. For clients further afield, I provide Online Personal TrainingNutritional Consultancy & Private Fitness Holidays.

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