How to Create a Home Workout Routine You’ll Actually Stick to

woman working out at home with laptop nearby

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Going into a workout without a routine is like building a piece of furniture without directions. You will probably spend a lot of time spinning your wheels and not making real progress.

The problem is, figuring out how to create a new routine you'll stick to whether in the gym or working out at home, is no easy task. And not everyone has the opportunity to work with a personal trainer. Plus, a quality workout program can cost a bit of money.

But that doesn't mean you can't benefit from building a workout routine. With a little thought you can create your own workouts that you will actually stick to. Here's how.

Why Routines Matter

A well-crafted workout routine can elevate your training and propel you toward your goals. The way your body responds to exercise is directly related to the method of your training. The number of reps, sequence of exercises, rest intervals, time under tension, and even weight of the load are all important for seeing results.

Equally as important is making sure your routine is something you enjoy or have social support for. If you do not like the workout or feel socially isolated, you're not going to participate and it won't work for you. The key to making sure you stick to the plan is creating a routine you like.

Creating Your Workout Routine

Creating your workout routine is largely dependent upon your own goals, lifestyle, schedule, and preferences. If your goal is to build muscle, weight training workouts should be your mainstay.

On the other hand, if your goal is to improve cardiovascular endurance, cardio workouts will be your focus. If your goal is weight management, that will require a combination of cardio and strength training workouts. Below, you will find out how to develop a routine for both cardio and weight workouts.

Cardio Workouts

When it comes to cardio workouts, the key is consistency. And to make that happen you will want to choose a cardio workout (something that keeps your heart up for an extended period of time) that you enjoy. Then choose the number of days you would like to perform the cardio workouts. Typically, people do cardio workouts as little as once per week, to as much as three to four times per week.

When deciding how long you'll workout, look at your availability and fitness level. If you only have 20 minutes to exercise, 20 minutes is your goal. If you can physically only perform 10 minutes, then 10 minutes is your goal. Realistically think about your schedule and time commitments while mapping out a routine.

If you have a goal in mind, like running a marathon or improving your pace time, you will want to sprinkle in some long-duration low-intensity sessions, combined with high-intensity short sessions. This helps allow adequate rest between workouts and calls upon multiple muscle fiber types.

You can also increase the intensity and length of your workouts over the course of several weeks as your fitness level improves. This process is known as periodization. Research suggests that running performance improved after a 6-week periodization program.

It's important to note, though, that once you have reached and completed the peak phase of periodization, you will want to take a 2-week break to rest and recover before beginning another training program. If your goal is fat loss, you can still utilize the principles of a periodized program to improve cardiovascular health and the rate of fat loss.

Weight Workouts

Periodization techniques also can be utilized for weight workouts. The purpose is to increase the workload over the course of several weeks by changing rep ranges, rest periods, and weights. At the end of your peak week (the final week in your program), you will need to schedule two weeks of rest and recovery.

Start by determining how many days you can commit to exercise and create your body part split from there. If you're only able to exercise twice per week, a total body or upper body/lower body split may be ideal for you.

If you have three or more days available to exercise each week, consider grouping body parts together based on muscle groups that work together. For example, chest, triceps, and shoulders, back and biceps, and legs.

The good news is whether you have two days to exercise or four days, you can experience the same results as long as the overall volume (number of sets and reps) is the same.

Once you choose your split, you need to decide your rep range and number of sets per exercise. At the early stages of a periodized program, you may want to do three to four sets with 10 to 12 reps.

The weight you choose is based on your level of fitness. If the final rep of 12 is easy, you should increase the weight. Perform this rep range for two weeks. Then progress to two to three sets of 8 to 10 reps. After two weeks, adjust rep scheme to 6 to 8 reps for two to three sets.

You also need to consider rest intervals between sets. As the weight becomes heavier, you will need more time to rest, while at the beginning of your program you may need less. Start with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets if the rep range is high.

A moderate-level rep range could benefit from 60 to 90 seconds of rest. While a heavier load and rep range requires 2 to 5 minutes of rest between sets. When planning the order of exercises, begin with large muscles and utilize compound exercises. Then program smaller muscles and isolation exercises—think squat vs. leg extensions.

Sample Weekly Workout Schedule

You may be wondering what your workout routine will look like once you put everything together. Below we provide you with an example of a weekly cardio routine and a weekly weight routine.

Cardio Workout

As you put together a cardio workout—or follow this one—remember that adequate rest between high-intensity workouts in the form of full rest days or lighter exercise days is essential for preventing injury and overtraining. Avoid programming two high-intensity workouts for the same reason.

Cardio Workout
Day Type  Duration  Activity 
1 Low Intensity 30 min.  Light Jog or Walk 
2 Moderate Intensity 30 min.  Running or Bike Ride 
3 Rest     
High Intensity  10 min.  HIIT (jumping rope) 
Rest     
Moderate Intensity 30 min.  Running or Bike Ride 
Rest     

Weight Workout

The following workout utilizes compound exercises before single-joint movements to allow for more energy during more difficult, larger muscle compound exercises. To avoid injury and overtraining, utilize a warm-up set at the beginning of each exercise comprised of 40% to 60% of the training load for 10 to 12 reps. That means if you plan to a 30-pound dumbbell for your first set, a 12-pound dumbbell is needed for the warmup set.

Weight Workout
Day  Type  Duration  Activities 
Chest/Shoulders/Triceps  3 Sets x 10-12 Reps (30-60 second rest between sets)  Bench press, inclined dumbbell fly, seated shoulder press, standing dumbbell raises, triceps dips, dumbbell kickback 
Rest Day     
Back/Biceps  3 Sets x 10-12 Reps (30-60 second rest between sets)   Lat pulldown, seated cable row, single arm dumbbell row, standing barbell curl, seated preacher curl, single arm hammer curl 
Rest Day     
Legs  3 Sets x 10-12 Reps (30-60 second rest between sets)   Squat, lunges, seated leg extension, good mornings, glute bridge, lying hamstring curl 
Rest Day     
Rest Day     

Helpful Tools & Tips for Sticking to Your Routine

The best workout routine is one you will actually stick to. Studies find that participating in an exercise that you enjoy—and having a support system along with it—means you are more likely to continue your routine for the long haul.

In fact, a workout partner or support system can do wonders for your exercise goals. So, if you do not have someone to workout with or a support system, consider getting a buddy to train with or join an online community.

Consistency also is essential for making gains on your goals, sticking to the routine is necessary. And so is being realistic with your commitments and goals.

If you schedule yourself six workouts this week but realistically can only exercise three days, you're setting yourself up for failure. Create goals based on what you can actually commit to and adjust from there. You are better off reaching your goal of three days per week, feeling good about your success, and continuing from there.

Finding ways to help you keep your exercise commitment is a smart way to stick to your routine. Utilizing modern conveniences like streaming apps and fitness planners can make your life easier and more likely to reach your goals.

Streaming Apps

There's an app for everything these days including workout planners. You can find anything from complete workout routines for your fitness goal and body type, to live classes, pre-recorded workouts, and in depth video libraries demonstrating how to perform various movements and exercises. Many apps also let you easily track your progress and view past workouts.

For those looking for a support system, dozens of fitness apps offer ways to link with your friends, share with your community, and set up challenges for yourself and your friends. There's no shortage of motivation and accountability. Whether you go for the free version or upgrade to paid, streaming apps are a great tool for sticking to your workout routine.

Fitness Planners

There's nothing like holding paper in your hands and having a plan mapped out in front of you. For those who prefer a more tangible planner, fitness planners may be your answer to sticking to your routine.

The best part of a fitness planner is you get to create your plan however you would like and the planner keeps it organized. Most planners offer a place to jot down your goals and map out your plan. Others include a calendar, a place to log your nutrition and hydration, cardio workouts, and even motivational mantras.

When shopping for a fitness planner, take into account size, format, price, and other preferences. That way, you're more likely to use it. Making fitness fun, including the use of novelty items like a fitness planner, has been shown to lead to engagement and adherence to a workout routine over time.

A Word From Verywell

Creating a workout plan is worth the time it takes you to create—especially if it will help you stick to the program and reach your goals. But, remember there's no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. Personalizing your routine to your lifestyle, skill level, and personal preferences means you're less likely to skip a workout.

What's more, using modern conveniences like streaming apps and fitness journals to make your life easier is a great way to help you along your journey. But if you're still not sure how to create a plan that's appropriate for you, talk to a healthcare professional about what is right for you given your medical history and fitness level.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long should workouts be?

    Current recommendations for physical activity in adults is 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity workouts, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity workouts, and two days of strength training workouts. You can split this up however you'd like. If you only have 10 minutes to exercise, that would suffice as something is always better than nothing.

  • How many days a week should I workout?

    The number of days you exercise each week does not matter as long as the overall volume is accomplished. It's also important to note that rest between workouts is essential for preventing injury and to avoid overtraining. For that reason, exercising two to four days per week would work well for most people.

  • Is one rest day a week enough?

    If your workouts are shorter in duration and focus on fewer muscle groups, then one rest day each week will suffice. It's important to note that each muscle group requires one to three days of exercise for optimal muscle-building potential. That means training frequency really boils down to personal preference.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN
Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is a sports and pediatric dietitian, the owner of Nutrition by Shoshana, and is the author of "Carb Cycling for Weight Loss." Shoshana received her B.S in dietetics and nutrition from Florida International University. She's been writing and creating content in the health, nutrition, and fitness space for over 15 years and is regularly featured in Oxygen Magazine, JennyCraig.com, and more.