If you’re like most women beginning a fitness program, you may find yourself scouring the internet for the best workout plan that works for you. To make your research easier, there is no one size fits all training program. Everyone starts their fitness journey at different levels and with different goals.
When starting out, beginning goals tend to be very vague– “lose weight”, “get toned” or “get stronger” – this often leads to not knowing next steps on achieving said goals.
Moving your body is great, moving with a purpose and a plan is even better. When you observe yourself getting faster/ stronger and achieving your goals that's your own motivation! Without a concrete plan, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals or lose productivity during your workout.
So, where do you start? This article will help clear up some common questions and help you build an individualized program for YOUR goals.
Starting a Routine
Before you get to creating a workout program, you first have to develop the goals and habits that will help build a strong foundation of consistency. According to a study published by European Journal of Social Psychology (1), it can take an average of 66 days (eight to nine weeks) to formulate healthy habits. This is equivalent to two periodized workout programs (a training plan that includes different phases and cycles). Once you create this foundation it will lead to not only short-term habits but a life-long routine that aids in long-term results.
As fitness professionals, one of the first things we teach our clients is how to create SMART (Specific, Manageable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. These goals help you define a clear objective, guaranteeing success. Let’s dive into these goals:
Specific: These are goals that you want to specifically obtain. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight” your goal would be “I want to lose 5 pounds,” “I want to walk 2 miles a day” or “I want to lose 2% of body fat.” Now, you have a specific goal in mind. All of your training can support this specific goal.
Measurable: How will you know that you’ve achieved your goal? This is the breakdown of your specific goal into measurable quantified steps. If your goal is to lose 5 pounds then download a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal (2), start a nutrition journal or find a certified dietitian or nutrition specialist to assist. Measure your weight at regular intervals that will be helpful for tracking progress.
Attainable: You want your specific goal to be attainable and achievable. Saying I want to lose 5 pounds in 2 weeks may not be attainable. You may not reach that goal, or you may work past it. Instead, make the goal more realistic to what you know you can do–eliminate night-time snacking. This will contribute to your goal of losing weight.
Realistic: You want to make sure your goals are realistic to your fitness level, abilities, resources, and any other parameters. Start slow and steady. If you jump into a 30-day fitness challenge and you haven’t worked out in years, you will find yourself tired and unmotivated mid-way through. Instead, start with daily and weekly goals that make you feel accomplished and not overwhelmed in the beginning weeks.
Time Bound: This idea is to form your exercise goals around a time frame. When do you want to complete this goal? Remember to make sure this amount of time is realistic and attainable. Continuing with our above example: I want to lose 5 pounds in 5 weeks.
Example of the SMART goal set up: Weight loss
Specific: Lose 5 pounds
Measurable: Track my food, calories, macros (protein, carbs, fats), and weigh myself 2x per week.
Attainable: Eliminate nighttime snacking, drink more water, and add more fruits and veggies to my plate.
Realistic: One cheat meal a week, and don’t eat after 7 pm.
Time Bound: Lose 5 pounds in 5 weeks.
Creating A Workout Program
Once you understand your SMART goals, the next step is building a specific workout program to meet your needs. To create an effective program, there are a few questions you have to answer for yourself first.
Question 1: What type of Program will this be? (i.e., Weight Loss, Strength building, or Event specific (marathon).)
Pro Tip: It’s great to have an idea or an event to build your training around. Just remember, after the goal is met the best thing, you can do is regather and set new goals to continue your exercise and create long-term consistency.
Question 2: How many days a week should I workout?
Pro Tip: beginner 1–2 days, intermediate 2–3 days, and advanced 3–4 days a week
Question 3: How long should my workout be?
Pro Tip: You should aim for your workout to be 30-60 minutes.
Question 4: Should I use an app, trainer, or group fitness class?
Pro Tip: All of these are great resources to use. Try them all and see what works best for you. There no limit to which resources you use and how you use them.
Question 5: Home vs Gym Workout, or both?
Pro Tip: Do what makes you comfortable. Having access to both your home and outside gym provides variety to your week and caters to your mood.
Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, you are one step closer to building an individualized program. Take a moment to answer these questions.
Programming A Workout
Once you’ve answered the above questions, it's time to program your workout. For most beginning female clients, it's best to start with full body workouts. Full body workouts focus on all major muscle groups at once without fatiguing a specific group. If your goal is strength, check out this article on the 6 major muscles to program in a strength program (3). To create a full body workout follow these few simple steps:
Step 1: Select a primary lift
This is the lift that is the most compound. It uses the most major muscle groups and should be done at the beginning of the workout.
Step 2: Select a counteractive or superset movement
This is a movement that counteracts the first movement. For example, if you perform a goblet squat you would follow it with an explosive movement like a box jump or jump squat.
Step 3: Create circuits
This is usually 3-4 exercises paired together that include your primary lift, superset, upper body, and core.
Step 4: End with Cardio
To fatigue the entire body while elevating the heart rate, it's great to end the full body routine with a HIIT (high Intensity exercise) component. This could be sprints or high knee runs.
Sample of Full body workout
|Primary Lift||Squat, Kettlebell Swing, RDL, Front Squat, Bench Press|
Counteractive Movement (SuperSet)
- Plyometric, explosive, core
|Squat jumps, medicine ball slams, box jumps|
|Create Circuits||3-4 exercises performed back-to-back with 30-90 seconds worth of rest at the end|
|Cardio||Mountain Climbers, Sprints, High Knees|
Resources for a Successful Workout Program
If you find yourself still needing assistance when building a successful workout program, there are various resources that you can turn to for more help.
A personal trainer is a great option when deciding to build a workout plan. They can guide you on how to perform exercises correctly, keep you accountable, and are great sources for specific knowledge. Find a trainer who caters to your individual goals. If cost is deterring you, you can always work with a trainer once a week to help you get started. They can build you a program and walk you through what you can do on the other days you’ll be working out alone. Make sure your trainer has up to date certifications.
Apps are a great tool that allow you to workout anywhere. The purpose is to provide the user with instructions, examples, livestream, interactive coaches, and nutritional programs. You can download fitness apps directly to your phone. Try our SunnyFit® app for workouts, plans, and interactive coaching videos.
Group Fitness Classes
If you are someone who needs variety and social interaction during your week, try a local fitness class at your gym or recreation center. Group fitness classes are usually geared towards full body workouts and HIIT training.
Best Beginning Workout Routine for Women Sample
Here is a week of a Beginner Routine:
|Monday- Full Body or Strength Training Workout|
|Tuesday- Rest/Active Rest||This can be a full rest or an active walk you take at lunch.|
|Wednesday- Group Fitness Class/ HIIT Workout|
|Thursday- Rest/ Active Rest||This can be a full rest or an active walk you take at lunch.|
|Friday: Full Body, Strength Training or Class||End your week however you want. Class idea: Zumba is a great and fun way to end your week.|
|Saturday & Sunday: Rest/ Class (Yoga, Pilates)||Relax the stress away and stretch after a long week with a yoga or pilates class. There is no shame in just taking off the weekend!|
1. Lally P, van Jaarsveld CHM, Potts HWW, Wardle J. How are habits formed: Modeling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. 2009;40(6):998-1009. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674. Accessed 3 March, 2023.
2. MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal | MyFitnessPal.com. Myfitnesspal.com. Published 2022. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/. Accessed 6 March, 2023.
3. 6 Key Muscle Groups to Target in a Strength Program. Sunny Health and Fitness. Accessed March 5, 2023. https://sunnyhealthfitness.com/blogs/fitness-programs/key-muscle-groups-strength-workout. Accessed 6 March, 2023.
D’Annette Stephens is the brand owner of D.TerminedFitness, LLC, a Fitness and Consulting entity. She is a certified ISSA personal trainer, NASM sports performance and nutrition coach, philanthropist, and public speaker. D’Annette is pursuing her Masters degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in Strength and Conditioning at Long Island University-Brooklyn.
She is an advocate for education and representation in the Fitness and Sports Performance industries. She specializes in athletic performance enhancement, functional movement, long-term sustained weight loss and sports nutrition