Every so often I get a message on Facebook that goes something like this…

“Yo J, I wanna get my ass into tip top shape bro. Can you point me in the right direction? Figured I’d hit up the best in the game (They always add a variation of this in an effort to stroke my ego so maybe they’ll have more of a chance in me helping them.). Hope all is well. Hit me back.”

A lot of the time, these are old high school friends of mine who have taken notice of my accomplishments and decided to reach out. Instead of answering their long-winded question with, “I do this for a living and since this is what my income is dependent on, my best advice would be to find a way to get down to my gym so we can talk“, (Editors note: Which is perfectly reasonable), I try to be a bit more compassionate. After all, these are old friends of mine. Couple that with the fact that most live 50+ miles away and you’ll soon realize that simply getting their ass to my gym may be unrealistic.

So instead of being a total dick, my response goes like this… “I’d love to point you in the right direction, but in order for me to do so you must first tell me what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.  Give me as much information as possible pertaining to what you’re currently doing to achieve these goals.”  I make sure to emphasize, “The more info you give me the better”. 

It's bad enough that they’re expecting me to provide them with a“one size fits all” type of program (which doesn’t even exist) but I absolutely refuse to give them ANYTHING if they are unable to provide me with the info I requested. When this happens, this shows me that …

A.) They’re lazy and just wanted a handout
B.) They’re not serious about making a change

With that being said, the response I get typically looks something like this. “I’m just trying to lose some weight, put on some muscle yada yada yada. I’ve been going to the gym and running a half hour on the treadmill and doing some arms, abs, and a circuit on the machines in my gym a couple times a week. My next reply is “how much time do you have available to train?” Once I get their response I am usually able to give them a simple program, which won’t be the end all be all of programs (since a one size fits all program doesn’t exist), but whatever I could provide them with will certainly be an improvement of what they were doing to begin with. 

So here it is: a basic program for beginners based on anywhere from 3-6 training days. I'm going to give you the training portions first, and then show you how to lay it out over a week based on your own personal needs and schedule. 

 Resistance Training (AKA Lifting weights)

[*1 & 2. means it is a superset. Complete movement 1 followed immediately by movement 2 without resting. Rest after exercise B and repeat. This is to get more work completed in less time.]

Day A

Walking Lunge 4 x 8-10 each leg
DB Overhead Press 4 x 8-12

Hamstring Curl 4 x 10-12
Pullups 4 Even Sets

Seated Cable Row 4 x 8-12
DB Lateral Raise 4 x 10-16

Abs and or Arms optional. Finisher required. 

Day B

Single Leg Squat (Rear Foot Elevated) 4 x 8-10e
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 x 8-12

Kettlebell or DB Swing 4 x 15-20
Single Arm DB Row 4 x8-10e

Dips 4 Even Sets
Leg Raises 4 x15-20

Abs and or Arms optional. Finisher required. 

Day C

Barbell Overhead Press 4 x 8-12
Alternating Reverse Lunge 4 x 8-10

Chinups 4 even Sets
Flat DB Press 4 x 8-12

Back Extension 4 x 15-20
DB Front Raise 4 x 10-16

Abs and or Arms optional. Finisher required. 

*One of the reasons I am hesitant to provide online programs is due to the fact that most people do not know how to properly execute the movements I prescribe. If done improperly you are limiting what you are actually getting out the movement. It is easy to do an exercise completely wrong ( i.e. lacking proper range of motion) and then saying it didn’t work.  

Because of this, I choose exercises that you could easily find videos of online and aren’t as technical as some of the exercises I use with the people I train. This is why squats, deadlifts, and the bench press are not included. If you are proficient at these movements feel free to add them in each workout at the beginning of your session. If you are going to do so you might want to take out the exercise that most closely resembles the one that you have added.

Conditioning (AKA Cardio)

 Choose 1:

“Straights and Curves” @ the track. Run the Straightaways (approx. 80% of max speed) and walk the curves. Repeat for 6-8 Laps
Uphill Sprints 10 x 30” (Rest= Walk Down)
Treadmill Sprints. 10 x 1’ with 1’ Rest. As fast as you can handle for all reps.

Planning Your Week

As I mentioned earlier, the amount of time you have available to train will ultimately determine how many workouts you will be completing per week. Instead of arranging your week for you, I am simply going to lay out guidelines which help you to plan accordingly.

·      Days A, B, & C (lifting days) are always to be done on non-consecutive days

·      If your time is limited you may be only be able to complete 2 lifting days per week. This is fine but should be the minimum. If that were the case you could cycle A,B,C over a 2 weeks period. Ex.) Wk 1-A,B Wk 2-C,A, Wk 3-B,C Wk 4-A,B…… Lifting days always take priority over your conditioning days.

·      1,2,or 3 (conditioning days) are always to be done on non-consecutive days.  Typically these conditioning sessions should be done the day after A,B,C.

·      You may choose/cycle between 1,2 and 3 or do the same conditioning workout each time if needed (this may be due to seasonal weather issues, daylight savings, or facility availability).

There are a ton of ways to set things up based on the guidelines I stated above. I'll show you a few examples to get you started.

This example is resistance-training dominant, with three days of lifting weights, two of cardio, and an optional two of either rest or light cardio:

Monday - “A”
Tuesday - “1”
Wednesday - “B”
Thursday - “2”
Friday - “C”

Sat - Rest or 30 min. easy “cardio”
Sunday - Rest or 30 min. easy “cardio”

Here's an example of the previous week with a midday rest day thrown in, midweek, for those with slightly more hectic work schedules:

Monday - “A”
Tuesday - “1”
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - “B”
Friday - “2”
Sat - “C”

Sunday - Rest or 30 min. easy “cardio”

Here's a "Limited Time" example (three days of training with an optional fourth):

Monday - “A”
Tuesday - Rest
Wednesday - “1”
Thursday - Rest
Friday - “B”
Sat - “3”

Sunday - Rest or 30 min. easy “cardio”

So this is the basic program I'd send to you if you messaged me on Facebook (which means now you'll just get a link), and how I'd set it up based on your goals and schedule.