What a Complete Workout Schedule Looks Like

Workout Schedules: Weekly Samples for Each Fitness Level

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Knowing where to start is a challenge if you're a new exerciser or trying to get back into exercise. The best workout schedule for you will depend on various factors like your age, fitness level, goals, and any physical restrictions you may have.

Having a properly planned workout schedule will provide structure to your workouts and ensure you incorporate strategies that help you see the results you want. Workout plans also help you know exactly what to do so you aren't left guessing.

Depending on your goals, a workout schedule will likely include resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, active rest, and flexibility or mobility work. Some of these workouts can be combined or done on separate days. Active rest is essential on the days you are not completing more intense training.

Types of Exercise You Need

Whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your health, 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, helping with daily functioning, and more muscle mass will boost your metabolism.
  • Flexibility training: You also need to have the flexibility to go through a full range of motion for each exercise you do. Stretching increases your flexibility and helps your body recover after exercise. 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) so long as you are physically fit enough and leave time for recovery.

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 includes all the workouts you need, whether you're a beginning exerciser or more advanced or experienced.

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, remember these basics and give yourself time to get used to regular workouts.

  • Ease into exercise. Start with a simple cardio program and a full-body strength training routine. If that's too much, start with strength training and let that be enough. Most strength training workouts will also increase your heart rate, working your cardiovascular system.
  • 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.
  • Make it work for you. A typical beginner program will include two to three days of cardio and two days of strength training. You can also combine these workouts 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. 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 Weekly Workout Plan

This sample program is appropriate for someone just getting started with—or getting back to—exercise. Remember that it is just a suggestion and you may find that different workouts work better for you (for example, swimming instead of cycling).

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, such as:
- Beginner Stationary Bike Workout
- Beginner Walking Workout
- Beginner Elliptical Workout
Tuesday Total body strength and core training, such as:
- 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; do the same workout you did on Monday or a new one
Friday Total body strength and core training; repeat Tuesday's workout to practice the exercises and build the strength and endurance to do more
Saturday Rest or optional cardio: Do something less structured, like taking a walk or a leisurely bike ride
Sunday Rest

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.

  • This is a great time to try interval training once or twice a week, which will give you more bang for your workout buck.
  • Don't skimp on strength training. It builds muscle and boosts metabolism. Your strength training schedule will depend on what type of workouts you're doing (e.g., total-body training or a split routine).
  • You can do cardio and weight training on the same day. It is best to do the workout that best matches your goals first. If your goal is to improve muscular strength or size, perform your strength training routine first. If your goal is to work on cardiovascular health, do cardio first. If you will be doing an intense or demanding weight training session, always perform it first so reduce the risks of injury from fatigue leading to form mistakes.

The following schedule includes a split routine for your upper and lower body, allowing you to focus more attention on each muscle group.

It is not necessary to do split routines, and other types of weight lifting routines may be better for you, such as full-body, body part splits, push-pull-leg workouts, and more.

Weekly Split Workout Plan

Advanced Workout Schedule

If you've been exercising regularly for several months and do a variety of activities, you fall into this category. To continue making progress and beat plateaus, you'll need to add intensity and variety.

  • 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.

Weekly Split Workout Plan

Monday Chest Shoulders, and Triceps + HIIT Cardio
Tuesday Lower Body and Core
Wednesday Back and Biceps + Boredom Buster Cardio
Thursday Rest or gentle yoga/stretching
Friday Total Body Blast
Saturday HIIT Tabata Cardio Workout
Sunday Rest

A Word From Verywell

These are just examples and won't fit every exerciser. The most important thing to keep in mind is to 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 workout program for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many days per week should you work out?

    How many days per week you work out is a personal choice, but it is wise to get in some activity every day. Strength training should be performed two to three days per week. You can also perform cardio on those days or alternate days. Active recovery work such as walking, swimming, cycling, etc., can be performed every day.

  • Which is the best way to split your workout?

    There is no optimal way to split your workout. You can perform full-body routines, or split them between upper and lower body. There are other types of splits such as push-pull-legs or specific small body part splits as well. Choose what works best for you and your schedule. Monitor your progress and change your routine if you aren't seeing results.

  • What body parts should you work out each day?

    You do not have to work out particular body parts each day, but it is wise to work each muscle group at least two times per week. This could mean full body workouts two days per week, or upper and lower body splits four days per week, for instance.

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6 Sources
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