Best Gym Workout Schedule for Beginners
Putting together the best possible gym workout schedule when you’re new to fitness is essential to your overall success. Proximity to your home / work, your existing commute schedule, traffic, children, it’s all going to factor into whether or not you make it into the gym to get your workout in. Your personality and existing habits will also play a factor so let’s see if we can’t get you on the best possible solution.
First we’ll address when you’re going to be performing your workouts. Then we’ll establish how many days you should be going to the gym. Finally we’ll address what types of exercises you should incorporate into your routine to have a well rounded workout schedule.
Early Morning Workouts for Beginners
Are you an early riser? If you are then finding a gym or fitness class near your home may be the perfect solution for you. If the gym (or your office) provides showers (many do) then you can look for facilities that match what you’re looking for close to work.
The trick here is going to be getting into the gym before your work day starts. I ran a morning program at one point for individuals looking to get some movement into their days before starting the daily work grind.
Work started at 9:00AM so workout until 8:30am then head off to the office showers ready for work by 9:00AM.
And if someone had an earlier morning meeting? They’d let me know they had to leave early and I’d let them go. I was just happy they showed up for part of class.
There are some added benefits to working out in the morning, if you can rise early.
- It’s too early in the morning to come up with a reason NOT to go to the gym
- You feel energized and accomplished for the rest of the day
- Your workout is already done so you don’t have to dread it anymore
The downfalls of early morning workouts are
- Less sleep the night before (if you’re a night owl)
- Morning traffic can be unpredictable, especially in a big city so you may have to leave even earlier
- The gyms near you may not be open in the morning / offer the classes you’re looking to take
Afternoon / Lunch Gym Workouts
Are you a busy working professional who finds getting into the gym difficult to fit into your daily schedule? Are you sending emails, conducting business, sitting in meetings to discuss how to improve work proficiency by scheduling more meetings to ensure no one gets anything done, and doing otherwise business things? Working out during your lunch hour may be for you then! That is, as long as you aren’t scheduling lunch meetings so you can get work to pay for your lunches.
Proximity to / availability of showers will be very important here. That is, if you like your neighboring coworkers. At one point of my office desk career I was utilizing lunch time to fit 2-3 mile runs into my routine a few times a week to improve my cardio for Muay Thai training. I then switched to taking HIIT classes that were offered during lunch time before moving on to my own program of free weights.
Your office may offer an area to work out. Or there may be a gym around the corner. Or a park nearby to run at. There should be some option available to you to get a quick workout in during your lunch break, at least if you live in a city. I’ve lived in cities for so long I don’t quite understand the plight of those living in Suburbia.
Running is free and can be done anywhere so you should be able to at least fit a run in during your lunch hour, granted there’s not 4 feet of snow outside.
Positives of a lunch time workout schedule
- Get away from your job / coworkers / work problems for a bit to work on you
- Avoid the post lunch blah’s that happen after eating too much lunch
- Use as a supplementary training time to get some additional training in outside of your main training time (you train either mornings or evenings as well)
Negatives of a lunch time workout schedule
- Shorter time for you to actually eat
- No time for office gossip
- No free lunch
Rush Hour Commute Workout Schedule
Depending on what time you get out of work my suggestion for finding a gym closer to your office or home may vary here.
- If you get off at 5pm and hate commuting during rush hour then look for a gym closer to your office.
- If you get off at 4pm and can beat most of the rush hour home then go find a gym closer to your house.
- If you get off at 6pm then you’re probably on the tail end of rush hour and can choose either location.
This will, of course, vary depending on where you live / how long your commute is / etc / etc.
Having a gym close to your house or work is going to reduce the likelihood that you don’t go. If you are literally driving by the gym on your way home there will be at least a hint of guilt as you drive by if you don’t stop. If the gym is out of your way then it’ll be that much easier to avoid and not go.
Pros of the After Work Workout
- If the gym is close to the office and you get out of work during rush hour then you’ll avoid rush hour!
- Reduce stress after a long day at work
Cons of an After Work Workout
- You’ve been at work all day. That gives you a million excuses to skip your workout
- If you’re taking a class after work and the class starts AFTER you already made it home it’s that much harder to get back out the door and back to the gym
Alright, so we’ve analyzed all the pros and cons regarding the times of day you’re going to work out so now let’s figure out how many days a week you’re going to work out.
Strength Training Workout Schedule
At minimum, you should be strength training at least once a week. Shoot for two to three times a week. If you strength train Monday then no strength training on Tuesday, train Wednesday, no strength training Thursday, and train Friday. Saturday and Sunday would also be no strength training. Or Monday, Thursday, Saturday strength training. Just don’t do strength training on back to back days, at least not at first.
I’ve read arguments and am now a member of the “don’t work out to 100% failure” crowd. Working out at the end of the year is about training volume. If someone completely burns themselves out twice a week strength training and someone else works to 75-80% four days a week by the end of the year the person who wasn’t working to failure will have performed far more reps and has put in way more volume than the training to failure person.
As a beginner it’ll take awhile to understand your limits. I still find mine years later and, on occasion, train to the limit even though I’m adjusting this new volume mindset.
HIIT Training / Cardio
HIIT is hard on the system. Please don’t do HIIT on back to back days. Depending on the type of HIIT program you may be able to fit this inbetween your strength training days. If you want to work out 5 days a week, shoot for 2 HIIT sessions and 3 strength training sessions. If you want to work out 4x a week, go with 1 HIIT session.
DO NOT only do HIIT training. Again, it’s hard on the system, and your nervous system needs time to recover. Overtraining HIIT will tax your body and lead to potential injury or illness.
Training When Sore
There’s a difference between being sore and having muscles that are completely fatigued. If you’re sore then you can switch up your strength training routine to be a bit more restorative. Go lighter to work on movement patterns and get the blood flowing.
Please don’t train if you cannot engage the muscles you need to engage to perform the workout. This is a safety matter. I’ve done stupid things in the past that were not good and did not get any benefit from training when I shouldn’t. It’s counter productive and teaches you bad movement patterns. Don’t do it.
Beginner Workout Routines
In this modern world it’s a safe assumption that your hips are trashed. Include a warm up when you first get to the gym that involves working the hips.
- Prying Goblet Squats
- Knee to chest hugs
- Sideways leg hug (your foot is roughly 90 degrees across your chest)
- Opening and closing the gate (swing the leg out and away from the body then bring it from away to the body towards the body)
You’ll want to prime the arms and shoulders as well.
For strength training make sure you have some sort of pushing movement (like a bench press or push up), a pulling movement (like a chin or pull up), a squatting manuever (like a squat), a hinging manuever (deadlift), and a lunge.
There are a million varieties to play off of these patterns once you start tossing in medicine balls, free weights, bars, suspension trainers, kettlebells, sandbags, bulgarian sandbags, steel maces, indian clubs, and whatever else is coming next.
And don’t forget the abs. Do more ab things.
Need more ideas? Check out this Complete Beginner’s Guide to the Gym.