Three Sample Workout Schedules for a Complete Exercise Program

Plans for Every Fitness Level

Sports woman lifting weights at the gym
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If you're a new exerciser or you're trying to get back to 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 issues you may have.

Start with the basics. Whether your goal is to lose weight, get healthy, get in better shape, or all of the above, there are three main components to your program:

  • Cardio exercise: This can be any activity that gets your heart rate up, from walking or jogging to cycling or taking a fitness class.
  • 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. That helps with losing weight.
  • Flexibility training: You also need to have the flexibility to go through a full range of motion of each exercise. Stretching increases your flexibility and helps your body recover after exercise.

Your schedule will 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, from beginning exercisers to 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.

Guidelines For Beginners

If you're new to exercise think about these things before you start:

  • 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.
  • A typical beginner program will include about two to three days of cardio and two days of strength training.
  • Learn how to monitor your intensityMost beginners will start working out at a moderate intensity. That means you're at about a Level 5 on this perceived exertion scale from 1 to 10, 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 schedule would look like for someone just getting started, or getting back to, exercise.

MondayCardio: 10 to 30 minutes. You can choose from one of the following sample cardio workouts:
TuesdayTotal body strength and core training. You can choose from one of the following sample strength workouts:
WednesdayRest or gentle yoga/stretching
ThursdayCardio: 10 to 30 minutes. You can do the same workout you did on Monday or a new one.
FridayTotal 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.
SaturdayRest or, optional, cardio: This is a great time to do something less structured like take a walk or a leisurely bike ride.

Guidelines for Intermediate Exercisers

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 buck.
  • 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, 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 for Upper and Lower Body

    ThursdayRest or gentle yoga/stretching
    FridayTotal Body Strength or Circuit Training
    SaturdayCardio Endurance Workout


    Guidelines For Advanced Exercisers

    If you've been exercising regularly for several months and do a variety of activities, you fall into this category.

    • 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 by, incorporating high-intensity interval training, high-intensity circuit training, or other advanced techniques to burn calories and build endurance. 
    • The real focus should be on allowing your body to rest between high-intensity workouts. Too much intensity can cause injury, overtraining, and burnout.

    Sample Split Routing for Advanced Exercisers


    Lower Body and Core

    ThursdayRest or gentle yoga/stretching
    FridayTotal Body Blast
    SaturdayHIIT Tabata Cardio Workout

    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 workout program for everyone.