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"A Beginner's Guide to Creating the Perfect Training Program"

Updated: Jun 6

Ground Up Training client performing chest supported dumbbell

OK, so if you’ve been keeping up with our blogs so far, you’ve already started ticking off a few boxes for getting yourself either back on track or on a more guided path to building a stronger, healthier you. We’ve talked about outlining your goals, getting more active, and warming up for your workouts. Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

This is where we start creating a training routine. Don't worry if you’re not sure where to begin—I’ve got your back, literally and figuratively. That joke will make sense in a minute, just hang on. In this article, I want to break down all the basics you need to know about building your ideal training plan so you can walk into the gym with a confident swagger, ready to build those arms, sculpt those glutes, and strengthen that back. (See, I told you it would make sense.)

Understanding Your Goals: Why Are You Working Out?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of crafting your workout routine, let's take a moment to think about your goals. Understanding what you want to achieve will guide every decision you make in designing your workouts. Here are some common fitness goals and the types of workouts that align with them:

Strength and Power

If you're aiming to build dense muscle and increase your overall strength, focus on heavy lifting with lower reps and higher weights.

Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy)

If your goal is to increase muscle size and definition, incorporate moderate weights with higher reps to create muscle fatigue and stimulate growth.

Endurance and Cardiovascular Health

If you're looking to improve your stamina and overall cardiovascular fitness, focus on higher reps with shorter rest periods to keep your heart rate up and challenge your muscles' endurance.

You’ll notice that I left out some other common goals like weight management, “muscle toning,” and overall better health. This is because those goals are covered in every type of strength training no matter how many sets, reps, or splits you do. So, in the overall design of the training plan, we want to stick to those three as our guide.

Choosing Your Workout Split: Full Body, Upper-Lower, or Push/Pull/Legs?

Once you've identified your goals, it's time to choose a workout split that aligns with them. Here are three common workout splits and the types of goals they're best suited for:

Full Body Workouts

Ideal for beginners or those looking to maintain overall fitness. Full body workouts target all major muscle groups in each session, providing a balanced approach to strength and conditioning. Typically, you perform multiple sets (2-4 sets) of each exercise to ensure adequate stimulation for each muscle group.

Upper-Lower Split

Great for intermediate to advanced lifters. This split alternates between upper body and lower body workouts, allowing for greater volume and specificity in targeting muscle groups. You can increase the number of sets (3-5 sets) for each exercise to provide a higher training volume.

Push/Pull/Legs Split

Perfect for those looking to focus on specific muscle groups and increase overall volume. This split separates pushing movements (e.g., chest, shoulders, triceps), pulling movements (e.g., back, biceps), and leg exercises into separate workouts. Customize the number of sets (3-5 sets) for each exercise based on your training volume preferences and recovery capacity.

Using Foundational Movement Patterns to Anchor Your Workouts

OK, we figured out which split you want to use to help build the overall program. Now, let’s get into the actual individual workouts. Foundational movement patterns, also known as compound lifts, should become the foundation of your workout structure. These exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups, providing the most bang for your buck in terms of strength and muscle gains.

Key Foundational Movements:

  • Squat: Works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Crucial for building lower body strength and overall stability.

  • Hinge: Includes exercises like deadlifts that target the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

  • Push: Involves pushing movements such as bench presses and overhead presses, which work the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

  • Pull: Includes pulling movements like pull-ups and rows that target the back, biceps, and rear deltoids.

  • Lunge: Works similar muscles as the squat but also emphasizes balance and unilateral strength, helping to correct muscle imbalances.

  • Core: Don't just think ab crunches here. You're core is meant to be able to flex, extend, rotate and stabilize. So exercises like planks, farmer’s carries, leg lifts, chops, etc should be used to build a well rounded core. Not to mention, if you are hitting your compounds correctly, you will be working your core then as well.

Depending on your workout split, pick one (or more) foundational exercises to start as the foundation of your workout. Then, add auxiliary or complementary exercises around them.

Understanding Reps, Sets, and Rest Periods: How Many and Why?

Next up, reps, sets, and rest periods. It all comes down to volume and how much of it you need per exercise. In general, you want enough volume to challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system to get stronger, leaner, and healthier. But, how much volume you need will depend on your goals. Let’s break it down:


  • Strength and Power: Lower reps (4-6) with heavier weights.

  • Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy): Moderate reps (8-12) with moderate weights.

  • Endurance and Cardiovascular Health: Higher reps (15-20) with lighter weights.


  • Beginners: Start with 2-3 sets per exercise to build a solid foundation.

  • Intermediate/Advanced: Increase to 3-5 sets per exercise to maximize muscle stimulation and adaptation.

Rest Periods

  • Strength and Power: Longer rest periods (2-3 minutes) between sets for adequate recovery.

  • Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy): Shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes) to maintain metabolic stress.

  • Endurance Training: Even shorter rest periods (30-60 seconds) to keep the heart rate elevated.

Crafting Your Workout Plan: Putting It All Together

Now that you understand the why behind each component of your workout routine, let's put it all together to create your personalized plan. Here's how:

  1. Identify Your Goals: Are you aiming to build strength, increase muscle size, improve endurance, or all of the above?

  2. Choose Your Workout Split: Based on your goals and schedule, decide whether a full body, upper-lower, or push/pull/legs split is right for you.

  3. Select Your Foundational Exercises: Choose one or more foundational exercises for each major muscle group, focusing on compound movements that target multiple muscles simultaneously.

  4. Determine Your Sets, Reps, and Rest Periods: Based on your goals and the type of workout you're doing, decide on the number of sets, reps, and rest periods for each exercise.

  5. Add Auxiliary Exercises: Supplement your main lifts with auxiliary exercises to target smaller muscle groups and address any imbalances.

  6. Schedule Your Workouts: Plan out which days you'll be working out and what each session will entail.

Example Workout Plan

Goal: Let's say you are a beginner who wants to build muscle and improve overall strength.

Workout Split: You decide on a full body workout performed three days a week with a rest day in between.

Foundational Exercises: Since we are doing full body workouts three days a week, let’s split up our foundations over the three days.

  • Day 1: Squat + Horizontal Push & Pull

  • Day 2: Hinge + Vertical Push & Pull

  • Day 3: Lunge + Horizontal Push & Pull

Sets, Reps, and Rest Periods: Since the goal is to build muscle and overall strength, we want a fair amount of volume pushing medium to heavy loads. So we would want to stick with 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

Add Auxiliary Exercises: Pick exercises that will help support our main foundational movements, but at a different level of intensity with lighter loads at higher reps.

Example Workout:

Day 1

  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching, joint activations, and movement prep

  • Barbell Squat: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Dumbbell Incline Bench Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Seated Cable Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Seated Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Push-Ups: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Leg Lifts: 3 sets of 12 reps

Day 2

  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching, joint activations, and movement prep

  • Trap or Hex Bar Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Cable Lat Pull Down: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Barbell Hip Thrust: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Seated Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Seated Dumbbell Curls: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Plank: 3 sets of 30-45 seconds

Day 3

  • Warm up: 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching, joint activations, and movement prep

  • Dumbbell Stationary Lunge (Split Squat): 4 sets of 8-10 reps per leg

  • Dumbbell Flat Bench Press: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Chest Supported Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

  • Single Leg Glute Bridge: 3 sets of 12 reps per leg

  • Dumbbell Fly: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Dumbbell Bent Over Back Fly: 3 sets of 12 reps

  • Cable Chops: 3 Sets of 10-12 reps each side

Wrapping It Up: Taking the Next Step

Congratulations, you've created your personalized workout plan! Now it's time to put it into action. Remember, consistency is key, so stick to your plan, listen to your body, and make adjustments as needed. With dedication and determination, you'll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals. Good luck, and enjoy the journey! 🏋️‍♂️💪

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