How to Design a Fitness Training Plan

Three Methods:Determine Your Fitness Program ParametersSelect Specific Physical Activities for Your Fitness ProgramRecord Your Fitness Training Plan in Visual Format

Having a personalized fitness training program can be essential to your success. Follow these steps to build a unique plan to meet your physical fitness goals, needs, and level of expertise.

Method 1
Determine Your Fitness Program Parameters

Each fitness program must be designed to meet the needs of your body, schedule, tastes, and fitness goals. Certain physical limitations, time commitments, preferences, and goals will provide the basic structure of your fitness training program. Once you have identified your needs and goals, you can construct a fitness plan that will be effective and convenient.

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    Get a physical examination to identify any physical limitations. Before beginning any fitness training program, it is important to get examined by a health professional. A doctor or nurse can identify health conditions, joint weaknesses, or contraindications for certain types of exercise and may even be able to recommend specific types of exercise programs that are safe for whatever conditions you may have.
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    Figure out how much time you can devote to workouts. Be realistic about the amount of time you can commit to your fitness regimen. Most adults should aim for about 150 minutes total of physical activity per week, ideally in at least 3 separate sessions. This will vary depending on your fitness goals and current level of physical fitness.
    • Plan the number and duration of fitness training sessions you can reasonably expect to complete in any given week. Consider 5 sessions of 30 minutes with 2 days of rest each week or 3 sessions of 50 minutes each week.
    • Plan the time of day you will work out. Some individuals prefer morning workouts while others prefer evening or weekend sessions. The time of day you will be exercising may dictate where or how you will exercise (indoors versus outdoors, at home versus at the gym, etc.).
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    Think about the types of fitness activities you enjoy. To build an effective fitness training program, it is essential that you enjoy or have a high level of commitment to the activities you will include in your plan.
    • Consider a variety of both cardio and strength training activities, as both will be essential to an effective fitness training program.
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    Determine your fitness goals. Having specific goals will also dictate what types of exercise you should build into your plan, the amount of time you will need to exercise, and whether your fitness plan will need to include significant dietary changes.
    • If your goals include weight loss, you will need to consider dietary changes as well as significant cardio activity. Strength training is also essential to boosting metabolism rates and burning more calories.
    • If your fitness goals are targeted at a contest or event, such as a triathlon or marathon, your program will include interval training, targeted activities, and a significant time commitment.

Method 2
Select Specific Physical Activities for Your Fitness Program

Based on the program parameters you identified, select activities to perform for each workout session. A well-rounded fitness program will consist of both cardio and strength routines, and will vary from week to week. You will occasionally need to alter the type or increase the intensity of workouts to continue to see results.

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    Choose your favorite options for cardio routines. Cardio does not always have to mean jogging; pick a few options for cardio routines that you will enjoy and that fit in your plan’s time, location, and intensity parameters.
    • If you will be exercising at home, consider dance workout videos, a stationary bike or treadmill, running the steps, cardio Pilates routines, or a combination of jumping jacks and jump rope.
    • If you have access to a full gym, consider swimming laps, using an elliptical machine, playing racquetball or basketball, taking an aerobics class, or trying your hand at cardio kickboxing.
    • If you will be exercising outdoors, take advantage of cardio activities such as ultimate Frisbee games, distance biking, racing your children, playing volleyball or soccer, or jogging with your dog.
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    Develop a repertoire of strength-building routines. Strength training should be part of every fitness plan. Having a list of go-to options for building or toning muscle can make it easy to bring variety to your routine and workout multiple muscle groups each week.
    • Consider strength training that uses equipment. Weight machines, dumbbells, exercise balls, and resistance bands are convenient tools for a wide variety of strength-building routines.
    • If you will be working out at home, consider investing in resistance bands or other low-cost strength training equipment to make weight routines affordable and convenient.
    • Make a list of strength routines that do not require equipment. Body resistance can be very effective for building muscle through everything from push-ups to yoga poses. Water bottles or canned goods can be used in place of light dumbbells, and many exercise videos focus entirely on body resistance strength training.
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    Design a weekly combination of cardio and strength routines. Depending on your fitness goals, your routine may be cardio heavy, strength training heavy, or an even combination of the two.
    • If your goal is weight loss, devote the majority of your time to cardio routines. Include strength training about twice each week and be sure that your routine will tone muscles in the upper body and core as well as the lower body for the maximum benefit.
    • If your goal is to tone or build muscle, devote most of your workouts primarily to strength routines. Do not work out the same muscle group 2 days in a row; alternate to allow your muscles time to heal. Consider 5 or 6 days each week of shorter routines, working arms and abs on days 1 and 3, legs and back on days 2 and 4, and performing cardio and your target muscle group exercises again on days 5 and 6.
    • If you are training to complete a physical challenge, consider following a pre-made training plan for a triathlon, marathon, Iron Man, or other program. This will help you scale up your activities appropriately based on the type and amount of exercise you will need to do and the amount of time you have to prepare.

Method 3
Record Your Fitness Training Plan in Visual Format

Once you have taken the time to plan a fitness regimen that is customized to your needs and desires, make a written document to post in your day planner, on your refrigerator, or at your desk so that you have a visual reminder to complete your program and follow your plan. Scheduling exercise into your daily routine will make you more likely to actually complete the exercise.

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    Design a weekly exercise chart. Once you have developed the length of time and type of activities you will complete each day, record it on a piece of paper divided into the days of the week. Be sure to include the expected time and place of your workout in the written plan.
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    Keep a list of substitute options. When you get bored of a particular routine or when results slow (typically within 2 to 3 weeks), replace a cardio or strength routine with an option from your list of substitutes. This will allow you to use your muscles differently and can jumpstart your metabolism if your body has grown accustomed to your prior routine.
    • A list of substitute activities will also be useful for working out while traveling, trying to include friends in occasional workouts, or for inclement weather.
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    Keep a record of your progress. Keeping a fitness journal will allow you to identify trends in your workout habits or fitness accomplishments.
    • Track whether you completed entire or only partial planned workouts and examine how your endurance or ability to complete the activity effectively improves over time.
    • Track running times or distances for each workout, weight loss once per week, and waist or muscle diameter once per month to get an idea of your progress.


  • Combine your fitness training plan with a healthy, balanced diet for the maximum health benefits.
  • Always stretch before and after each workout to reduce the likelihood of injury and soreness.
  • For those training for a game or performance, the training program must be specific to that performance and attempt to replicate it (ie. you wouldn't do continuous running if you're training for a football match, you'd see better results by doing interval training)


  • Always consult a health professional before beginning a new exercise routine, particularly if you have a health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or a prior knee or back injury.

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Categories: Personal Fitness