If you’re a beginner that has made the decision to train at home, but are not really sure where to start, you’re in the right place. This article will walk you through how to build your beginner workout programme for at home training.
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This article doesn’t provide you with a quick 10 minute at home workout that you can do. Because although those are a great way to start and a much more effective than not moving at all, I want to provide you with a framework that you can use and build upon going forward. As a beginner who has made the decision to train at home you’re going to need to ensure you have an actual plan to approach your training sessions. Building your beginner workout plan should take some time and should be based on you individually.
Think of individual sessions as a block that makes up part of a plan to build a healthier and stronger you, but without the plan you cannot pick which sessions you would want to perform. So you need to make a more broader plan for yourself and from here you can fill this plan in with individual sessions. I always plan on a monthly and weekly basis as this is the easiest way to fit training into a professional and household timetable. When building a weekly plan I am essentially choosing the adaptation I would like to create.
Thinking about the goals of your workout plan are a very important process for building your beginner workout plan. If your goal is to build muscle mass, then your sessions will be based on solely resistance training, if your goal is to work towards a healthy and capable body then you might want to use a mixture of resistance training and cardiovascular training as both are essential parts of building health and wellness. For this example of a beginner workout programme I am going to use the example of someone trying to build a workout plan based on health more so than muscle mass.
For beginners, understanding exercise selection is a very important part of building a successful training regime. When applying a stress through an exercise we want the stress to be enough to create adaptation whilst maintaining good positions. So for beginners it’s important to find exercises that can be used to create stress with good positions. If the exercise is too challenging, often times a beginner will not be able to maintain good positions, and if the exercise is way to challenging then it can be too hard to produce a stimulus as the beginner will not be able to perform any repetitions.
Let’s take an example of a female client that is unable to perform 1 press up and you programme press ups to work the horizontal press movement pattern. This will mean that the exercise was too difficult to perform one repetition meaning no stimulus was created. Or you set a Press Ups on Bench, but she is only able to perform 1-2 with good technique, her hips drop and form gets very poor. Here she was able to perform repetitions but with poor form. Finally you set a top of press up hold as a way to work the muscle in the upper body. She is able to perform a 60 second top of press up hold with good technique but found it challenging. So in this scenario the Top of Press Up Hold was by far the best selection.
Full Body Resistance Training x 2
Low Intensity Steady State x 1
High Intensity Interval Training x 1
Full body resistance training is such an effective way for a beginner to take their first steps towards getting strong and healthy. The goal here is to work a broad spectrum of movement patterns using just your bodyweight. Different people will have different set ups at home, some will have no equipment, others will have a pull up bar and a couples of free weights available. These sessions will be written for those who have no equipment, but if you do have some, feel free to swap out some of the exercises for ones where you have weights.
These sessions are just examples of resistance training sessions you can do at home, remember that many different styles of training session can be effective, the most important factor is that they are challenging for you and performed consistently.
LISS is one of the most under appreciated forms of exercise. This style of training requires you to keep a slightly elevated heart rate for a sustained period of time. It’s important that the difficulty of the exercise doesn’t become to strenuous, otherwise you’re shifting more towards the higher intensity efforts.
To help gauge intensity, it can be useful to see if you’re able to maintain a conversation, if so you likely still in the lower intensity state. To be more accurate you may want to use a heart rate monitor, but this isn’t really necessary, just getting used to assessing the difficulty of the exercise subjectively can work very well. If you are using a heart rate monitor, you will want to keep your LISS training between 50-70% of your heart rate max and no higher.
The best ways to work your cardiovascular system are walking / hiking, running, erg machines like rowers and assault bikes and cycling or rowing outdoors. Anything that can be repeated for a long time whilst maintaining a slightly elevated heart rate.
For beginners this is a crucial part of your training plan, building the basis of a cardiovascular system is one of the most important steps towards health. I recommend most of my beginner clients to pick an activity they enjoy most and perform it for between 30-60 minutes. This depends on the individual as some will have ran before, others will finding walking challenging, so make the decision based upon your current capabilities. If you cant run without feeling relaxed, then walk and make your walks progressively more challenging until they turn into hikes.
This is the least important part of a beginners training programme. I say that not because of the effectiveness of HIIT training, but because it is the hardest to do safely as a beginner without a coach for guidance. If your a beginner, then your positions are usually in need a lot of work, your body is less able to deal with high amounts of repetitions through the same movement categories and you have less of a cardiovascular base to deal with the intensity of HIIT training. All these three aspects make HIIT training more challenging for beginners. However it is a very effective and efficient way at improving the cardiovascular system, so if your capable of performing more high intensity activities then it could be a great addition to your week.
Using things like sprints and running intervals is a great options for beginners that are comfortable on their feet as these activities can get the heart rate very high very quickly. For those who arn’t comfortable running at a high intensity, using a stationary bike is a perfect alternative and a much better option for beginners in general as it is not load bearing, meaning we can raise the heart rate very high without generating fatigue from repetitive strain as we might when using running intervals.
Mixed model HIIT training is the worst option for beginners and I try avoid using it with my clients. Mixed model HIIT involves performing a series of exercises for a set period of time or repetitions. Think CrossFit but with only bodyweight exercises. HIIT for beginners with a variety of movements can be difficult, because beginners are often low skilled and therefore when you mix low skill and high levels of fatigue we often see very poor positions. This form of training is excellent for more intermediate and advanced individuals but if your a beginner and can avoid it and replace it with low skill movements like a stationary bike then do so. If you’re convinced you would like to do mixed model HIIT then stick to movements that you can confidently perform under fatigue.
Session 1 - Bodyweight Full Body Resistance Training
Session 2 - Low Intensity Steady State
Session 3 - Bodyweight Full Body Resistance Training
Session 4 - High Intensity Interval Training
Once you have outlined your weekly plan you need to fill in the specifics of your workouts. This can be challenging to do on an article like this, because although this is for beginners, that can mean a large variety of abilities making it difficult too programme for.
When building your full body resistance training sessions, I suggest you use our extensive exercise library as this will give you a wide variety of ideas of exercises to use in your sessions.
If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.
This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.