Build Your Exercise Plan

The philosophy of starting an exercise plan should be the same as starting your fitness plan: start small and gain momentum.

Using the calisthenics on the basic exercises page, you can build a substantial exercise routine that will build muscle, raise your metabolism, and tone your body. 

The challenge to keeping up with a successful exercise plan will be the ability to maintain what you start.

Most of us over-estimate our capabilities in this arena. 

It’s much better to start a short routine that you can maintain and build upon, than it is to start a difficult routine that stretches your capabilities.

An exercise plan is as unique to an individual as our personality and looks. What has worked for me may or may not be the right solution for you, but the principle building blocks should be the same.

Components of a successful exercise plan include the following:

Components of a Successful Plan

  • Cardiovascular
    Because of the overwhelming benefits to your heart and lungs from cardio work-outs, these exercises should be the foundation of your exercise plan. This can be walking, running, swimming, rowing, or any activity that raises your heart rate for 20 or more minutes. If 20 minutes seems too long at first, build up to it. You’ll notice that my beginner’s running plan starts off with spurts of running broken up with walking breaks. It’s the workout time that’s important. Taking breaks will help you sustain and build up the strength that you need for longer workouts.
  • Abdominal strength building
    Our abdominal muscles form our core and are used in most activities and sports. Strengthening these core muscles will take some strain of your back and increase your overall strength and agility. There are numerous exercises, balls and machines that help target this muscle group. I’m partial to ‘the crunch’. It’s simple…it doesn’t put strain on the back or hip flexors like sit-ups can…and it can be done just about anywhere. Try doing a quick 2-minute set each morning or evening.
  • Back & Chest Muscles
    I personally like doing push-ups and pull-ups for my chest and back muscles, respectively. I know that body builders have a much more extensive repertoire of exercises, but the goal of my exercise routine is to primarily tone muscle vice building mass. Push-ups can be done anywhere and can be varied to target different muscle groups of the chest. Pull-ups are best done on a bar that’s high enough off the ground where you have to stand on your toes to reach it. You can find pull-up bars at the gym, on fitness trails, or even in some local parks.
  • Arm & Leg Muscles
    As a runner, I focus a bit more on my leg muscles than my arms. I use chin-ups for bicep muscles; push-ups and pull-ups for tricep muscles; and hand-grippers for my forearm muscles. For legs, I would recommend calf raises, leg lifts, squats, hamstring curls and toe curls. I do an evening routine that includes three sets of these exercises and it takes less than 20 minutes while I’m watching TV. You can increase repetitions and use ankle weights to build more strength.

Below is an outline you can use to build your personalized plan. Depending on your ability and goals, modify this to fit you.

Outline of Plan

  • Months 1-3:  Cardio - 3x per week (20 minutes each) 
  • Months 1-3: Calisthenics – 2x per week (cover all muscle groups above) 
  • Months 4-6: Cardio – 4x per week (20-30 minutes each) 
  • Months 4-6: Calisthenics – 3-4x per week (all muscle groups – increase repetitions) 
  • Months 7-9: Cardio – 5x per week (30 minutes each) 
  • Months 7-9: Daily Calisthenics (exercises like crunches can be done every day, while alternating other muscle groups)

An exercise plan should be very unique and flexible. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve printed running plans off the web and followed them religiously only to get burned out or injured in the process.

If you need more time than six months before doing 5 cardio workouts a week, take the extra time and don’t be ashamed to do so. 

Your goal will come to fruition through persistence not one gargantuan effort. It’s far better that you maintain an exercise plan that gradually increases in intensity rather than start a plan that burns you out in two weeks.

Check out the muscle groups and other exercise pages to help you build a plan that’s right for you.

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Elliptical Guide

Treadmill Guide

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