How to build your own workout program: A comprehensive guide to kicking your own butt

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I get asked this question all the time; “I don’t really know where to begin. How should I workout, where do I start?”

I love this question for two reasons.

  1. The person is interested in improving their lifestyle and health. They see that they are not meeting their goals, and want to do something proactive about it.
  2. It means that the sky is the limit. They don’t have something built in their head as the precise way to do something, they are willing to listen to advice.

If you find yourself asking this question, then I am so glad because I have a guide on how to help you answer this depending on what you’re fitness goals are.

The most frequent reasons for someone to start working out are:

  • They want to lose weight
  • They want to get Lean and Strong
  • They want to build muscle and bulk up
  • They are recovering from an injury or a doctor told them to

Whatever your reason is, I can help you.

The Basics

What are you doing right now as an exercise program?

  • Do you have one?
  • Does it work?
  • Do you like it?

If you answered yes, to all three questions, then stick to it.

If you answered no, to any of those questions then let’s figure out what kind of time commitment you have.

I recommend blocking out at least 45 minutes to an hour a day for exercise. If you don’t have that time, then at least a half hour is needed for high-intensity exercise or running.

Next, you need to figure out where you are going to workout.

  • Gym – Learn gym etiquette and how not to overcome gymtimidation
  • Park – Check out the Park Workout
  • Home – Beginner body-weight workout
  • The neighbor’s driveway – Never encountered this sorry, you are on your own

After you have figured those couple things out, which shouldn't take very long, so do it quickly.

Now, we can move onto the meat of this article, which is creating your own workout program.


I want to lose weight

Losing weight is actually the number one reason most people want to start exercising. That's the reason I started. I saw a picture of myself and realized that I looked like I was carrying around a baby alien.


 Yes, it was that scary.

OK, OK, I know that you have probably heard this a million times, but I have to say it again. Losing weight is about 85-90% of what you eat, and about 15% exercise.

In other words, you can't out train a bad diet.

However, with the right exercise plan, you will want to eat healthy, and learn more about nutrition to keep your body strong and healthy.

Since the goal is losing weight, you want to focus on exercising about 3-4 times a week, with a rotating muscle schedule.

What does that look like?

You want to train using what the industry calls the "Big Four", these are primary exercises:

  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press/Push Press

There are other movements that are derived from these, but they are more advanced, and need to be methodically introduced with correct form.

Each of those "Root" movements help us to focus on those specific areas for that day. Then we can also break these out into secondary or assisted exercises involving smaller muscle groups.

The next step is to determine frequency of workouts. This is generally pretty easy to determine based on your goals.

  • Beginner - Not currently training or just beginning
    • 2-3 Days a week
  • Intermediate - Basic Skill
    • 3-4 Days a week
  • Advanced - Advanced Skill
    • 4-7 Days a week

Beginner-Intermediate Weight Loss Workout Program: (Do This For 4-6 Weeks)


Day 1:

5 minute warmup

  • 500m row or 400m run
  • Barbell Squat - 2-3 sets of 8 -15 reps (30-90 sec rest)
  • Dumbbell Lunge - 2-3 sets of 15 each leg (rest 30-90 sec rest)
  • For time 3 rounds of:
    • 25 Air Squats
    • 200 m run
    • 15 box jumps or Step ups
  • Abs (2 rounds):
    • 25 leg levers
    • 25 sit-ups

Day 2:

5 minute warmup

  • 400m run
  • Bench Press - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30-90 sec rest between sets)
  • Dumbbell Press - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30-90 sec rest between sets)
  • Dumbbell Flyes - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30-90 sec rest between sets)
  • For time 3 rounds of:
    • 15 bar dips
    • 15 deep push-ups
    • 15 barbell bench press
  • Abs (2 rounds):
    • 25 V-ups
    • 25 - 3 count-flutter-kicks

Day 3:

5 Minute Warmup

  • 500m row
  • Deadlift - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30 sec rest between sets)
  • Pull-ups - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30 sec rest between sets/***Do Band Pull-ups or Negatives as needed)
  • Barbell/Dumbbell Bent Over Rows - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps
  • For time 3 rounds of:
    • Weight Plate 50m Farmers carry each hand (Go for max weight)
    • Max pull-ups
    • 5 burpees
  • Abs:
    • 25  Ab roller
    • 2 minute plank Hold

Day 4:

5 Minute Warmup

  • 400m run
  • Overhead Press or Push Press - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30 sec rest between sets)
  • Incline Bench press - 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps (30 sec rest between sets)
  • Dumbell Press - 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • For time 3 rounds of:
    • Overhead Weight Plate 50m carry (Go for max weight)
    • Max Handstand Push-ups or Decline Push-ups
    • 10 Barbell Thrusters
  • Abs:
    • 2 minutes max burpees

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Weight Loss Workout Program


I want to get strong and Lean


This is the most desired look for most men.

It makes you look ripped and muscular even though you might not be as big as the power lifters or the guys who are bulking up.

It's tricky to get this look right?, because you don't want to sacrifice strength by doing higher rep schemes, and you don't want to look too skinny.

This is where my body tends to stay, but I have learned that in order to get stronger while staying lean, you have to lift heavy on the important movements.

When performing  Squats, Dead-lifts, Push Press, and Bench Press, it's better to go higher weight for smaller reps.

  • Try 6-10 reps when doing sets
  • If you can do 10 then increase weight until you can only do 6 (Then rest 1-2 minutes)
  • This is where you will see the most strength gains

For keeping the lean look, that is when Chipper workouts or, Cross fit Workouts will come in handy. I used to run a lot, and all that did was make me lose weight and strength.

So, if you like to run a lot, it's best to cut that down to maybe once or twice a week.

  • Try 8 x 400 m sprints one day (3 min rest in between)
  • 2 mile run one day (moderate Pace)

For the Cross Fit workouts, well, you can choose any one you want. There are a million of them, so just pick a couple a week and do them.

My favorites are:

  • 20-15-10-5 of Thrusters (75-95#) and Burpees
  • Fran - 21-15-9 of Thrusters and Pull-ups
  • Try this one:
    • Run 1600m
    • Bench-Press Body-weight x 21 reps
    • Run 800m
    • Bench-Press Body-weight x 15 reps
    • Run 400m
    • Bench Press Body-weight x 9 reps
    • Run 200m
  • Mix these in with your Strength Training Two Days a Week and you will reap the benefits.

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Lean and Strong Workout Program


I want to Build muscle and bulk up

Bulking up and putting on mass is the most difficult thing to do.

Especially if you are a hard gainer like myself.

A lot of people will tell you just to eat like a garbage disposal and keep your calories up to gain weight, then when you are ready to cut, you take away the calories.

While this seems like a good idea, I don't think its good to eat like garbage. It's better to add weight by clean bulking, then you don't necessarily have to "cut" after you have put on all the weight. 

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Here are the Basic Rules to Clean Bulking:

  • Increase Calories (You can't be in caloric deficit) Take your body-weight and multiply by 16. That number is how many calories you should be consuming. If you don't see any gain in 2 weeks, increase by an extra 100-200 calories.
  • Fuel Your Body Right - Understand your macros (Nutrition 101)make sure you are dividing your diet so it looks like 40/40/30 (Protein/Carbs/Fat). Don't overload on the carbs though. You have to burn carbs before you add more.
  • Eat Protein at every meal - Steak, Protein Shakes, Chicken, Eggs, Cottage Cheese.  Try to get .5-1 g of protein per lb of body-weight.
  • Don't eat like garbage - You know what's bad for you
  • Lift Weights Like a Beast - Make sure you are in the gym at least 4-5 times a week. Lift Heavy but keep reps a little higher for clean bulking.
  • Try doing burnout sets - For example: On your last set of Bench press,  immediately do push ups to failure
  • Track Your Progress - Write down what you are eating and Lifting
  • Add These movements in - Push-ups, Pull-ups, Bar Dips, Ring Dips, Ring Pull-ups, Rope Climbs
  • Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night - I need to take my own advice on this one.

Some things I Have done that helped me

This is very difficult for me, but I have made progress. So if you are a naturally small and skinny guy like I am, then there is hope.

When I was running and lifting for Strength, I lost 15 lbs. Sure, I had endurance for years, but I had no strength or size.

Now, I don't do nearly as much running, and I lift heavier but mix in Cross fit Exercises and Burnouts or max sets of curls and dips and pull-ups inside my workouts. I also eat more calories with the foods mentioned above. 

Typically Cottage Cheese and protein Shakes help me to achieve my daily calorie Target.


10 Days of Skill




  1. Have you struggled with Getting started exercising or finding a routine?
  2. What successes have you had?
  3. Are you a hard gainer like me? What has worked for you when bulking?


- Stephen

Barbell Photo credit: Runar Eilertsen on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND
Alien Photo credit: Glamhag on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA
Crossfit Strong Photo on VisualHunt
Runner Photo on Visual hunt