Step 4: Design Your Fitness Plan

Designing a Resistance Training Program

  • Preplan your workouts. Know what you want to accomplish upon entering the Fitness Center.
  • Include a complete warm-up and cool-down in your program.
  • Beginners should design a total body circuit consisting of 8–12 exercises. The program should take no longer than one hour to complete.
  • Start the workout with large muscle groups first (legs, chest and back), followed by small muscle groups (arms, shoulders and calves). Finish the workout with exercises that target the core (abdominal and lower back).
  • Perform heavy lifts first.
  • Execute compound exercises (multiple joint movements) first.
  • Balance the workout with opposing Muscle Groups.
  • Perform 1–3 exercises with each muscle group.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that novice and intermediate students train each muscle group 2–3 times per week on non-consecutive days. Allow 48–72 hours recovery time between workout sessions.
  • Only experienced athletes under the supervision of a coach should train with weight so heavy that 4 or less repetitions can be performed.
  • Training with weight so light that 16 or more repetitions can be performed does not produce a toning or fat burning effect.
  • Perform 1–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions. Inexperienced students - choose to start with 1–2 sets of 12–15 repetitions. Use a weight that produces fatigue by the last repetitions for each set, or about 60–80% of your one repetition maximum.
  • Increase the resistance when you are able to perform each repetition of the last set with good form, and without unreasonable muscle fatigue.
  • The length of a program must be 8–12 weeks in order to achieve significant strength or size gains.
Example Programs—Strength Training

Designing a Cardiorespiratory Fitness Program

Many fitness experts consider cardiorespiratory fitness to be the most important component of good fitness and health.

The benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness include:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Better body composition measurements
  • Better muscle tone
  • More energy
  • More endurance
  • Increased bone density
  • Better sleep
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Lower the risk of Type II Diabetes
  • Better quality of life

Cardiorespiratory Program Guidelines

  • Beginners should start slowly. If the workout is too difficult, the dropout rate is much higher. Health benefits are obtained at low intensity rates. Beginners or students who have not exercised in the previous six months should work at about 60% of max heart rate or at conversational pace. If you cannot hold a conversation with your workout partner, you are training too hard.
  • Consistancy is the most important factor of a cardiorespiratory program. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the health benefits of three 20 minute workouts per week are far better than one 60 minute workout. In the beginning, 48 hours recovery time between aerobic workouts lowers the risk of injury.
  • Increase the intensity or volume by no more 10% every other week. Increasing the intensity or volume of workouts too quickly will lead to injury and the discontinuation of exercise.
  • Change the type of aerobic activity regularly. By changing the type of aerobic activity on a regular basis beginners can find an activity that they enjoy, lessen the risk of injury, and increase the likelihood of continuing exercise.
  • Use common sense. Increase the intensity or volume of the workout only after you feel comfortable with current workout levels. Stop the workout if you feel pain or extraordinary discomfort. Immediately notify Fitness Center staff member.
  • Male students 35 years of age or older and female students 45 years of age or older should receive a clearance from their physician before starting any exercise program.

Example Programs—Cardiorespiratory Fitness