How To Build Your Own Workout Routine

I get an email at least once a day that says the

“Steve, what should I do for a workout?”

After all, many people are interested in getting started with
strength training and want to know what workout routine to

Considering that a program should be developed around a
person’s biology, age, goals, diet, free time, etc, there’s a
lot of factors I can’t get in through email that would allow me
to tailor a program specific to that person.

It’s really easy to overcomplicate this process as there are
an infinite number of exercises, sets, reps, and programs to choose

And yes, we have a solution for people that JUST want to
be told what exactly to do: 
uber popular 1-on-1 coaching program
pairs you with your own
Nerd Fitness Coach who will get to know you, your goals, and your
lifestyle, and develop a workout plan that’s specific to not only
your body, but also to your schedule and life.

We take the guesswork and uncertainty out of this process for
hundreds of people – and we’d love to be able to pair you with
a coach who can do the same: click the image below and speak with
our team to learn more:

Coaching Workouts


Now, if you’re more of a “get my hands dirty and
figure this stuff out on my own,” kind of person, – we’re
going to dig into how to build your own workout plan

Developing a workout routine for yourself can be intimidating,
but it’s really not too difficult and kind of fun once you
understand the basics.

If you are ready to start building your own routine and
want to know how its done, great, let’s do

We’ve also created a free resource for folks who want to build
their own workout but would love some more specific direction and

You can download our free guide, Strength Training 101:
Everything You Need to Know, which will help you build a workout
with bodyweight exercises all the way up through your first few
weeks in a gym with weight training.

Grab the guide free when you sign up in the box below and join
the Rebellion!

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.
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Determine Your Situation

For starters: how much time can you devote to

If you can do an hour a day, that’s awesome.

If you have a wife or husband, three kids, a dog, two jobs, and
no robot butler, then maybe you only have thirty minutes, twice a

That’s fine too.

Whatever your time commitment is, 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, right?

After all, we know that
weight training is the fat-burning prize fight victor
, and
efficiency rules all.

Next, you’ll want to determine WHERE you’ll work

Once you determine where you want to train, and how much time
you have, we can start to use the equipment you have to build your
routine and more.

What Exercises Should I Do?

I like to follow the motto of “Keep it simple,

(Note: I am not calling you stupid. You’re reading Nerd
Fitness, which means you’re intelligent, good looking, really
funny, but most of all, modest.)

best workout is the one that you actually stick with
, and
people make things FAR too complicated and try to target a
bazillion different individual muscles with six types of exercises
for each body part.

It’s exhausting, unnecessary, inefficient, and

So keep it simple! We’re going to pick 5
exercises, and get really strong with those movements.

This is the ENTIRE philosophy behind our Strength
101 series

Unless you’ve been strength training for years and know what
you’re doing, we recommend that you pick a full body routine
that you can do 2-3 times a week.

You want a routine that has at least one exercise for

  • Quads (front of your legs).
  • Butt and hamstrings (back of your legs).
  • Chest, shoulders, and triceps: (“push” muscles).
  • Back, biceps, and grip ( “pull” muscles).
  • Core (abdominals and lower back).

Yup, by targeting compound movements that recruit multiple
muscles at the same time, you can build a full body routine that
uses only four or five exercises.

Hows THAT for efficiency!

Here is a quick breakdown on those

  • Quads
    , lunges, one legged squats, box jumps.
  • Butt and Hamstrings
    , hip raises, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings,
    step ups.
  • Push (chest, shoulders, and triceps)

    overhead press
    bench press
    , incline dumbbell press,
    push ups
    , dips.
  • Pull (back, biceps, and forearms)chin ups, pull
    bodyweight 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 above for a
workout, and you’ll work almost every single muscle in your
Get stronger with each movement each week, and you
have yourself a recipe for a
great physique

An example for a great, effective, simple

  • Barbell squats: 5 sets of 5 reps.
  • Barbell Deadlifts: 3 sets of 3 reps.
  • Push-ups: 3 sets of 15 reps.
  • Pull-ups (or rows): 3 sets of 8 reps.
  • Planks: 3 sets, 1 minute hold each.

Don’t need to make things more complicated than this!

If you’re not sure how to do any of the movements above, click
on their links for thorough write-ups. Want high-definition
multi-camera demonstrations of each exercise?

Here’s a sample video from the 100+ in our online course,
the NF
, with Team NF’s Jim and Staci demonstrating a proper
bodyweight push-up:

As stated above, when building your workout, don’t
overthink things!

Pick one exercise from EACH category above, specifically ones
that scare you the least, and that will be your workout every other
day for the next week.

Once you get confident in those movements, feel free
to add some variety.

Why? If you do the same exact routine, three days a week, for
months and months, you and your muscles might get bored, and
you’ll stop getting gains.

So feel free to stick with the above ‘formula,’ but
change the ingredients:

  • If you do bench presses on Monday, go with shoulder presses on
    Wednesday and dips on Friday.
  • Squats on Monday? Try lunges on Wednesday and box jumps on
  • Do deadlifts every Wednesday, but change up the sets and reps
    you pick!

Pick a different exercise to improve and your muscles will stay
challenged, you’ll stay challenge, and you’ll actually DO the

Then, focus on getting stronger!

Lastly, your muscles don’t get built in the gym, they
actually get broken down in the gym, and then get rebuilt stronger
when you’re resting.

Give your muscles 48 hours to recover between workouts,
especially when training heavy.

A Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout works well to ensure enough
time to recover, especially when you are just getting started.

I stuck with a Monday-Wednesday-Friday full day routine for
nearly 10 years and just focused on getting stronger with each

I realize all of this can be overwhelming, especially if
you’re trying to learn Strength Training AND build your own
workout too.

So we created a free resource that gives you some starter
workouts (both bodyweight and weight training) that gives you the
confidence to start today.

You can grab our Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to
Know when you join the Rebellion and sign up in the box below:

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.
I identify as a:


How Many Sets Should I Do?

SIMPLE ANSWER: Not including a warm-up set or
two, I recommend doing between 3-5 sets per exercise.

A “set” is a series of repetitions that you complete without
stopping. For example, if you drop down and do 10 push-ups right
now, you just did 1 SET of 10 REPETITIONS (or REPS) of

Got it? Cool.

Again, do not overthink this. Do not freak yourself out by
worrying if you should do 4 sets or 5 sets. Pick one, record how
you do with it, and get stronger the next time you do that

So, try to keep your TOTAL (all exercises combined) workout
number of sets for all exercises is in the 15-25 set range (5
exercises total, each with 4 “work sets” is a good

Remember, the most important part is to get started –
you’ll learn how your body responds and you can adapt as you

What you DON’T need to do: multiple exercises
for each body part with 10 sets.

Unless you are a bodybuilder or an advanced athlete following a
specific protocol prescribed to you by a coach, you can stick with
4-5 sets for each of the 5 exercises in your workout routine and
get outta the gym (or finish your home workout) sooner.

How Many Repetitions Should I Do?

This is another thing that many people

If you are new to exercising or strength training, you’ll want
to aim for higher reps per set with lighter weights as you’re
learning the movements (if you’re training with weight).

As you get stronger and start to learn about how you like to
train, you might switch to a lower rep range, even up to a single
rep of maximum effort (on a movement like a Squat or Deadlift).

Some general rules:

If you’re looking to burn fat while building muscle, keep your
number of repetitions per set in the 8-15 range per set.

If you can do more than 15 reps without much of a challenge,
increase the weight or the difficulty of the movement. This is true
for things like lunges, bodyweight squats, push-ups, pull-ups,

There are some generally accepted ‘rules’ about how
to determine how many reps you should target per set, based on your

  • Reps in the 1-5 range build
    super dense muscle and strength (called myofibrillar
  • Reps in the 6-12 range build a somewhat equal
    amounts of muscular strength and muscular size (this is called
    sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).
  • Reps in the 12+ range build muscular

Remember that how you eat will determine
if you get bigger or stronger

If you’re looking for a simple answer: do 4
sets of 8-10 reps for each movement you’ve chosen, and see how
your body responds. But don’t neglect your diet! That’s 90% of
the battle!

How Long Should I Wait Between Sets?

Keep it simple, you smart, good looking, funny, modest

Below is a basic formula for you to determine how long you
should wait between sets, but this can be adjusted based on your
level of health. The goal is to wait the least amount of time you
need, but still rest enough that you can perform all reps of the
next set safely and properly!

Here are some guidelines (not rules set in

  • 1-3 Reps (lifting heavy for strength/power):
    Rest for 3 to 5 minutes
  • 4-7 Reps (lifting for strength): Rest for 2 to
    3 minutes
  • 8-12 Reps (lifting for size/strength): Rest
    for 1 to 2 minutes
  • 13 Reps+ (lifting for endurance): Rest for 1
    minute or less

If you need more or less rest than the above recommendations,
that’s more than okay. Do the best you can, record how long it
takes you to rest between sets, and try to rest for shorter periods
in the future. Your body will adjust as you get stronger and

Do NOT overthink this!

How Much Weight Should I Lift?

We have a FULL resource on
how to determine your starting weight for lifting
, but I’ll
give you the gist here.

The simple to learn but tough to implement
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

How do you determine how much that is?

Trial and error.

But ALWAYS err on the side of “too light” versus “too
heavy” when starting out. It’s better to say “I bet I could
have done more!” instead of “that was too much, and now I need
to go to the hospital!”

If you’re doing exercises with just your body
you need to find a way to make each exercise more
difficult as you get in shape – once you get past 20 reps for a
particular exercise and you’re not gassed, it’s time to mix
things up.

  • Can you do 20 push ups no problem? It’s time
    to start mixing them up to be more challenging. Pick
    a variation from this article
     and make yourself work for
  • 20 bodyweight squats too easy? Hold some
    weights high above your head as you do the next set. Try
    one-squats. Always be challenging yourself.

If you want more information on how much you should
lift, and when to scale certain movements or adjust your workout,
check out our Strength 101: Everything You Need to Know.

It’s free when you join the Rebellion with your email in the box

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
  • Everything you need to know about getting strong.
  • Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.
I identify as a:


How Long Should I Exercise?

Easy answer: 45 minutes to an hour.

If you’re doing 15-25 sets of total exercise, 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.

Less time, more intensity, better results.

What if you don’t have 45 minutes? Maybe you
want to build some cardio into your weight training. That’s where
these next two sections come in.

Alternating Sets

Let’s say you’re doing four sets of squats and you
plan on doing four sets of dumbbell bench presses after

If you wait two minutes between each set, this will take you
around twenty minutes or so (factoring in the time to get set and
actually do the set).

Try this instead: Do a set of squats, wait one
minute, then do a set of dumbbell presses, wait one minute, then do
your next set of squats, and so on.

Because you’re exercising two completely different muscle
groups, you can exercise one while the other is “resting.”
You’re now getting the same workout done in half the time.

Also, because you’re resting..

Source: FS – All-FitnessBlogs
How To Build Your Own Workout Routine