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How to Build Your Own Workout Routine

Building your own workout program can be fun, but it can also be very daunting. Whether you’ve worked with a personal trainer at your local gym before or want to branch out on your own, creating your own routine isn’t unheard of.

Read on to know how to create a template that’s specifically designed for you and your goals.

Is It Ok to Make Your Own Workout Routines?

Absolutely! Let’s face it: hiring a personal trainer can be very expensive and not everybody has the resources or time to do it. This is where making your own workout routine comes in. If there are fitness goals that you want to achieve, you can start by creating your own workout plan.

Research and figure out the best exercises that you’ll need to include in your routine to reach your fitness goals. Furthermore, by engaging in a program that you created yourself, you’re more likely to be consistent and follow through as you know what you want to do and how you’ll want to progress as you reach new levels.

Build Your Custom Workout Program

Creating your own exercise routine doesn’t mean you can just throw in a bunch of movements and hope for the best. There are several factors that you need to know, and each step is important to ensure that you’re making the routine that’s best for you and your body. 

Establish a Workout Goal

Before making your own workout plan, it’s important to figure out what your goals are. Whether you’re a seasoned exercise enthusiast or a newbie to working out, establishing your workout goals will help you choose the exercises that you’ll need to do to reach them.

For example, do you want to improve your body composition, strength, and muscle mass? You’ll need to have a resistance training routine and a healthy diet. 

Your goals will shape your workout routines. Keep in mind as well that your goals should be specific, measurable, and attainable. Specific means that when your exercise goals are clear and easy to understand.

Your goals must be measurable so that you can tell whether your workout plan is helping you progress or not. Attainable goals will also aid you with your workout routine.

Select a Workout Split

A workout split means deciding to break your workout program day by day. A workout split routine is a great way to emphasize certain aspects of your workout and manage your energy. You wouldn’t want to do super heavy squats two days in a row since your central nervous system and the muscles involved will be strained. 

Going about your workout schedule day-to-day will help you focus on what goal you’re emphasizing. Let’s say you want to gain muscle mass; if that is your goal, then you wouldn’t want to design your workout routine around running. 

There are numerous ways to organize a workout split. One of the most important variables in designing your workout program is training frequency. You can look at how often you’re working out in a week or see how often you’re hitting or lifting a muscle group per week.

Choosing a frequency that is realistic for your time and energy is ideal as your muscles need adequate rest periods to recover. Three, four, and five-day splits are common.

After knowing your frequency, it’s time to figure out what you will be doing each day, and these will be according to your goals. Looking to build muscle? You might want to consider focusing on particular muscle groups for each workout.

You can train your back and biceps one day, chest and triceps on another, and legs and shoulders on the final day. You may also program an optional core exercises day into your routine.

Trying to increase your muscle strength? Then you can design a split program around compound exercises. For example, you can do a bench press, a squat variation, a deadlift, and an overhead press in one day. You should build all of your accessory workouts around those exercises.

Another method is to do something called the push-pull-leg split, which is when you do an upper-body push day, a lower-body day, and an upper-body pull day. This means you’ll perform the bench press on the push day, deadlift on the pull day, and squat on the leg day. 

No matter how you split up your training program, it’s vital to rotate through the major muscle groups. This is so you don’t tire and injure the same muscles over and over. It is vital to ensure that your split is balanced, realistic, and conducive to your goals.

Choose Your Exercises

Now that you have your split worked out, it’s time to pick out which exercises you’ll do each day. Remember to choose exercises that should reflect your primary workout goals.

Assuming you are working out for muscle strength, muscle gain, and general fitness, your program should be built around key movements that will give you a strong foundation. 

Here’s another example: athletes who want to build muscle can benefit from performing basic compound movements and need variety in their exercises. A bodybuilder’s training program isn’t meant to target a specific movement. Instead, it’s meant to elicit muscle growth which often requires high-volume sets of specific isolation exercises. 

With that said, here’s a quick rundown of exercises that you can include in your own workout program:

Bodyweight Movements

Mastering bodyweight exercises such as the push-up, pull-up, single-leg squat, and the like can help you with muscle endurance. The basic bodyweight exercises can also help you gain a firm grasp with other lifts, such as the barbell bench press and squats.

Compound Exercises

A compound exercise is a multi-joint movement that requires coordination, technique, and muscle recruitment. This is the opposite of isolation exercises where you only focus on a single body part.

Deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses are examples of compound movements. These movements should be done at the beginning of your workout as they need to be done with a lot of focus and energy. 

Choosing compound exercises can help increase muscle growth, muscle strength, and muscular fitness. They also set the tone for successful muscle-gaining and strength-training programs as you progress.

Examples of lower-body compounds are the back squat, front squat, leg press, deadlift, and trap bar deadlift. For upper-body exercises, you can look into a bench press, pull-up, or push-press.

Accessory Exercises

An accessory movement is a less-demanding movement that helps create balance in the body and complements the compound workouts. These movements typically involve one joint.

Most athletes use accessory movements to improve muscular imbalances. Examples include incline and decline dumbbell bench press, pull-up, dumbbell shoulder press, lunges, calf raise, hip thrust, Romanian deadlift, leg extension, and leg curl.

Choose Your Sets and Reps

Repetitions, more commonly known as reps, are the number of times you perform a certain exercise. A set is how many times you do those repetitions. If a program asks you to do a leg press and recommends that you do it in three sets of 10 reps, then this means you’ll have to do leg presses 10 times, rest, and repeat them two more times. 

Your training volume or how many reps you’ll do for an exercise depends on your goals. Certain goals require specific rep ranges.

If you’re strength training, a lower rep range allows you to lift heavy weights. If you’re looking into building muscle, a 7-10 rep range yields you enough time under tension to grow your muscles. Anything higher than that is pure muscle endurance.

You should also take note of rest intervals between sets. You will have to train hard if you want to build muscle but you also need to allow your body to recover. Not giving yourself enough rest intervals will make you lose muscle and increase your risk of injury.

Let’s say your goal is to progress your muscular endurance. To reach that, you’ll need to set a rest period to hit a certain weight in a certain time frame so that you can track gains in a calculated way.

Your rest intervals depend on your workouts but if you’re doing compound exercise, your complete rest time in general should be 2 to 4 minutes in between. As for accessory movements, a good rest period is 45 to 90 seconds. 

Learn How to Progress

You have your goals, you have your split plan worked out, and you’ve chosen your exercises. Aside from those things, you’ll also need to ensure that you’re progressing from workout to workout. Doing the same workout when you’re already past your previous fitness level will not help you in any way.

It’s important to work towards progressions to reach and surpass your goals. There are two key concepts that you should be aware of when developing and progressing your workouts: periodization and progressive overload.


Thinking about training in 4-week increments is ideal. Each 4-week block allows you to progress and prepares you for the next one. For many beginners, it’s recommended to train at a moderate intensity with a moderate load.

Beginners should also work toward progressions in weeks 2 to 4. In the next workout program, make slight modifications but do not completely change things as this will lose the transferability of the previous plan. 

Progressive Overload

This happens when you add training volume, load, or both over a period of time in a systematic manner, allowing for physiological adaptation of the muscle tissues and nervous systems.

Let’s use weight training as an example. If you’re a beginner, you won’t have the best idea of what your maximum is. As a result, you can start with light weights.

In week two, you can keep the same weights from the previous week but add 1-2 more reps. In the next week, you can keep the additional reps from the week before but use a heavy weight instead of your lighter weights. Over time, this overload effect will result in great progress and help minimize injury.

Putting It Together

Now that you understand the different concepts and variables in constructing a program, it’s time to actually build your routine. Here’s a sample workout: say you want to enhance your strength, increase your muscles, and lose weight as your goals but you’re a newbie to exercising.

A general split for beginners is 2 to 3 times per week. If you’re on an intermediate level, you can do 3 times per week for total body training or 4 times per week for split routines. If you’re at an advanced level, 4 to 6 times per week should do you good. 

Based on the goals of weight loss and increasing strength, let’s say that you’ve chosen strength training and cardio as your starting workouts. You’ll need a couple of pieces of equipment such as free weights, resistance bands, and the like. In your plan, you can include compound lift movements, such as a barbell bench press and a deadlift. After that, you can plan on a running workout at the end of the week. 

If you’ve decided to train a muscle group 2 to 3 times a week, then you work on a total of 12 to 18 sets per week, as that is the most optimal range. For example, small muscle groups can be trained with 6 to 8 sets but if you’re working the larger muscle groups, 10 to 12 working sets should be good. Remember to not hammer your muscles into submission. 

To progress, during the next part of your program, you can repeat the same routine, but leave one rep and ramp up the intensity of your main set. By the final week, you can reduce the load and drop the intensity to let your body recover from the previous weeks by repeating your week 1 loads.

Final Note

Weight loss, strength training, and bodybuilding, no matter what you want to achieve by exercising, it’s important to have a proper workout plan designed to attain those goals. Try these tips now and create the best workout routine for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there an app that lets you create your own workout?

There are several apps in the market that allow you to create your own full-body routine.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.