Beginners Guide To Creating a Workout; The Foundation Building Routine

Written by Robert Forney - ISSA CFT

So your thinking about starting a workout routine, or you thinking about creating a new workout. You have high aspirations to gain a ton of new muscle mass, or maybe you just want to trim down and lose some fat. If So, you have come to the right place. This article will teach you how to build a basic exercise plan.

As a beginner, you can do any kind of exercise routine and make progress, but after about 3 months you will see your results slowly diminish. This is known as the laws of diminishing returns and you want to avoid this stagnation, therefore you should construct a periodization workout plan. We will discuss the basics of building a periodization exercise routine starting with a solid foundation.

Most people start out by going gungho, only to burn out or get injured. I highly recommend you follow the suggestions this article and start out slowly. This will help you start off correctly and avoid the pitfalls of every new weight lifter.

workout journal

Keeping a record of your goals and workouts is very important.

The first thing you must do when beginning a new workout routine is figure out your goals. In addition you need to figure out why you are beginning an exercise routine in the first place. If you are doing it because someone else is telling you to, then you will be heading for failure. You, and only you, must be the one whom wants to change your life for the better by becoming healthy.

Now with that out of the way, we can get down to business. Start out by figuring out what your main goals are. For example, are your goals to attain more muscle, get leaner, get stronger, lose weight, lose fat, etc? Write down what your goals are. No seriously, sit down and write down your goals on a piece of paper and get your ass in gear. This isn't going to be simple since your just getting started, but once you get started, it will become a routine and it will be hard to stop! You will find that your goals may change as you advance, and that is a good thing, but you need to have your goals written down so you know where your going. You wouldn't take a trip without a map would you?

Now that you have your goals in mind, cause you followed my advice and wrote them down, we are ready to begin to create the actual training program. The goal of the exercise program is to build a solid foundation which can be built on later. The following table is a general rule for rep ranges:

  Strength Power Hypertrophy Endurance


1-5 1-5 8-15 40-60

*Adapted from M.C. Siff Supertraining

The table is a basic guide and should not be taken literally. There are many different ways to increase hypertrophy, and the laws of individual differences tell us that we will all respond differently to any given training stimulus.

As a beginner you should concentrate on rep ranges from 15  down to 5. When you finish your last rep you should feel like you still have 1 to 2 reps left in you. You need at the least one, if not two, solid years of training to build that solid foundation. This gives your ligaments and tendons a chance to strengthen, since ligaments and tendons tend to take longer to become strengthened when compared to muscle.

After you have built your solid foundation, you can then begin to get more goal specific in your training. In addition, you will have this time to find your little niche in the training world. You will also learn your body type and how your body responds to different types of stimulus. You must remember to change your routine a least every 6 weeks. Now, there are many ways to change a routine. You can change your routine by,

  • Increasing sets
  • Decreasing rest between sets
  • Increasing your rep speed
  • Increasing you number reps
  • Decreasing your number of reps
  • Changing the exercise
  • etc.

This gives you plenty of flexibility to add variety into your training. In addition to keeping your progress moving forward, variety makes exercising fun.

Next we need to figure out how many days you want to dedicate to your training. The ideal routine would contain at least four training days a week. You never want to work the same muscles two days in a row. You can choose to have either a split routine or a full body routine.  Below are examples of a full body routine and a split routine. You can arrange the days any way you like, as long as you do not work the same muscles two days in a row. You should now take the time to figure out the days you plan on exercising.

Full Body Routine:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Full Body Off Full Body Off Full Body Off Off

Split Routine:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Upper Body Off Lower Body Off Upper Body Off Lower Body

Either routine is ok for the beginner, but as you get more advance, you will want to switch to the split routine.

Below is an example of a workout program for a beginner This is called a foundation building macrocycle. A macrocycle is a year or longer training plan. After you gain a good foundation, you can then begin an intermediate workout program. As you will see, the following program slowly progresses in intensity and volume. Although the first few months will seem easy, it will slowly get harder as you go. The goal is to let your body slowly progress with the exercise routine. This is the basics of periodization.

The following routine will concentrate on getting you familiar with exercise, hypertrophy of the muscles, and strength endurance.

First 6 Weeks

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Upper Body Lower Body Off< Upper Body Lower Body Off Off

  • Choose one exercise per body part.

  • Do 1 Set per exercise.

  • Do 15 Reps per exercise set.

Second 6 Weeks

Keep the same routine but change the following:

  • Add a second set per exercise. Now you are doing 2 sets per exercise.

  • Change your reps from 15 to 12

Third 6 Weeks

Make the following changes to your routine:

  • Change your reps from 12 to 10

Fourth 6 Weeks

Make the following changes to your routine:

  • Add the third set per exercise. Now you are doing 3 sets per exercise.

Fifth 6 Weeks

Make the following changes to your routine:

  • Change your reps from 10 to 8

Sixth 6 Weeks

Make the following changes to your routine:

  • Change your reps from 8 to 5

Seventh 6 Weeks

Make the following changes to your routine:

  • Change all your exercises for each muscle group

  • Change reps from 5 to 12 reps and start cycle over

As you can start to see, you have limitless possibilities on changing your workouts. In addition, you can see how the routine slowly progresses from a very simple, low intensity routine, to a more complex and higher intensity routine. This allows your body to slowly adapt to your workouts and keeps it slowly progressing. When you change your reps from 8 back to 2, you should see that you can now do more weight with 12 reps then when you first started.

You are keeping track of your workouts right? Keeping a log? If not, stay tuned for my article on keeping a workout log. We have almost covered a years worth of foundation training, which is what we want, a slow progression and lifelong commitment to training. You must remember your embarking on a weightlifting lifestyle which will be a lifelong commitment, and you should begin the correct way. Start slow and ensure yourself of long term progress and injury free training.

Good luck, and when you are done with your foundation training, you can start an intermediate training plan that is more goal specific. After you finish your foundation training, you can move up to the West Coast Routine.

End Notes:

  • Start out easy
  • Decrease reps as you progress
  • Change routine at least every six weeks

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