If you’re a new exerciser or you’re trying to get back into exercise, knowing where to start is a challenge. The right workout schedule will depend on a variety of factors like your age, fitness level, goals, and any physical restrictions you may have.
The Types of Exercise You Need
Whether your goal is to lose weight, get healthy, get in better shape, or all of the above, there are three main components to a good exercise program:
- Cardio exercise: Cardio can be any activity that gets your heart rate up, from walking or jogging to cycling or taking a fitness class. Regardless of the exercise, it is always smart to warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio.
- Weight training: You don’t have to lift heavy weights or even spend a lot of time on weight training at first, but you do need to lift. Your muscles will get stronger and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn overall, which helps with losing weight.1
- Flexibility training: You also need to have the flexibility to go through a full range of motion for each exercise. Stretching increases your flexibility and helps your body recover after exercise.2 While some people like to set aside a day to focus on flexibility, you don’t need a separate workout for this—stretching should be included in every workout.
Some people prefer to set a schedule with days devoted to just cardio or strength training, however, these exercises can be done on the same day or even combined with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Set a weekly schedule in advance to ensure you get the right amount of each of these types of exercise throughout the week.
Where to Start
No one workout program is going to fit everyone, but it may help to see a sample workout schedule that would include all the workouts you need, whether you’re looking for beginning exercisers or more advanced exercisers.
These sample workouts give you a place to start, but they’re only suggestions. First, determine your fitness level so you know whether to use beginner, intermediate, or advanced schedules.
Beginner Workout Schedule
If you’re new to exercise think about these things before you start:
- Ease into exercise. Start with a simple cardio program and a total body strength training routine. If that’s too much, just start with cardio and let that be enough.
- Be sure to rest and recover. You may need extra recovery days to allow your body to rest and heal. It’s normal to be sore when you try new activities, but if you can’t move the next day, that means you overdid it and may need to back off your next workout.3
- Make it work for you. A typical beginner program will include about two to three days of cardio and two days of strength training. These workouts can also be combined if you do not have five days to devote to exercise.
- Learn how to monitor your intensity. Most beginners will start working out at a moderate intensity. That means you’re at about a Level 5 on the perceived exertion scale (PES) or you can use the talk test. If you can carry on a somewhat breathy conversation while you’re working out, that’s usually a moderate intensity.
Sample Workout for Beginners
Below is a sample program that gives you an idea of what a typical beginner workout schedule would look like for someone just getting started with—or getting back to—exercise.
Remember to start every workout with 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio and stretching, and to cool down with flexibility exercises.
Aim to include multiple planes of motion in your workout. Add lateral moves by doing side lunges or shuffles in your warm-up, for example, and incorporate rotation by throwing cross-body punches while walking.
|Monday||Cardio: 10 to 30 minutes. You can choose from one of the following sample cardio workouts:|
Beginner Stationary Bike
Beginner Walking Workout
Beginner Elliptical Workout
|Tuesday||Total body strength and core training. You can choose from one of the following sample strength workouts:|
Beginner Total Body Strength
Beginner Total Body Strength Level 2
Beginner Total Body Strength Level 3
|Wednesday||Rest or gentle yoga/stretching|
|Thursday||Cardio: 10 to 30 minutes. You can do the same workout you did on Monday or a new one.|
|Friday||Total body strength and core training. It’s a great idea to do the same workout you did on Tuesday so you can practice the exercises and build the strength and endurance to do more.|
|Saturday||Rest or optional cardio: This is a great time to do something less structured like take a walk or a leisurely bike ride.|
Intermediate Workout Schedule
If you’ve been exercising for at least three months consistently, you typically fall into this category. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to work your way up to 20 to 60 minutes of cardio about five or more times a week.4
- This is a great time to try interval training once or twice a week, which will give you more bang for your buck.
- Don’t skimp on strength training, either. It’s one of the best ways to lose weight because it builds muscles and boosts metabolism to help you drop pounds faster.1 Your strength training schedule will depend on what type of workouts you’re doing (e.g., total-body training or a split routine).
- Keep track of your calories. In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn, so watching your diet is still important.
- You can do cardio and weight training on the same day, depending on your time constraints. It doesn’t matter which one you do first, so vary your routine and try different combinations to find the one that is right for you.
The following schedule includes a split routine for your upper and lower body, allowing you to focus more attention on each muscle group. This will help you increase your lean muscle tissue and strength.
Sample Intermediate Split Routine
30-Minute Cardio Medley Workout
Upper Body Training
45-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout
30-Minute Low Impact Cardio Blast Workout (two circuits)
Lower body stretch
|Thursday||Rest or gentle yoga/stretching|
|Friday||Total Body Strength or Circuit Training|
|Saturday||Cardio Endurance Workout|
Advanced Workout Schedule
If you’ve been exercising regularly for several months and do a variety of activities, you fall into this category.
- Mix up your workouts to keep things interesting. As an advanced exerciser, you have lots of options for scheduling your workouts. If you want to focus on strength and muscle, you can split your strength routine even further, doing push exercises one day and pull exercises the next.
- You can also make your cardio more intense. You can do this by incorporating high-intensity interval training, high-intensity circuit training, or other advanced techniques to burn calories and build endurance.
- Rest and recovery are critical. The real focus should be on allowing your body to rest between high-intensity workouts. Too much intensity can cause injury, overtraining, and burnout.3
Sample Split Routine for Advanced Exercisers
Chest Shoulders, and Triceps
Lower Body and Core
Back and Biceps
Boredom Buster Cardio
|Thursday||Rest or gentle yoga/stretching|
|Friday||Total Body Blast|
|Saturday||HIIT Tabata Cardio Workout|
A Word From Verywell
These are just examples and won’t fit every exerciser, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to start easy. Start where you are, not where you want to be.
It often takes weeks, even months, of experimenting with different types of exercise and schedules to find something that fits your goals, schedule, and fitness level.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to follow the same schedule every week. In fact, most people have to change each week depending on how they are feeling or what’s going on in their lives. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay flexible and remember there’s no perfect