Are you new to the gym and don’t have any idea of where to start? Are you confused of what exercises to do or how many sets and repetitions to perform? Look no further! In this article I will breakdown the basics of program building for an individual looking to build general fitness. Note that the principles below are designed to build a program to target the beginner gym-goer to jumpstart their fitness journey. If you are looking to develop a powerlifting or Crossfit program, this is not the article for you. When you advance and progress your skills, you will grow out of these principles and use a variety of different techniques. A personal trainer in Richmond can also build you a program.

There are four sections to build the ultimate program: warm-up, main move, accessory work and the finisher. Each section will have a specific purpose and effect on the body. The program should take approximately 1.5 hour to complete.


This section will cover three components: stretch, activate and movement. Stretch – specifically targeting dynamic stretching. In a controlled tempo, move through the stretch in order to increase functional range of motion. Focus on movement in the hips, shoulders, knees, ankles and wrists. A personal trainer in Richmond will provide an overall warm-up.

Next is to activate appropriate muscles. For an example, with a leg focused day it is important to activate the gluteus maximus and medius, hamstrings and small muscles in the ankles. This is to prevent injuries and maximize performance.

Lastly is general movement. This component is to elevate the heart rate and to warm the body. Weight training works much better on a warm body. This is to ensure blood movement in the muscles and neuromuscular activation and connection. Movements can include jumping jacks, battle ropes or skipping.

Time to complete: 15 minutes.


This is your first weighted exercise of the program. Here is where you can choose one or two compound exercises to focus on. Lifts can include squat, bench press, deadlift, shoulder press or pull-ups. The theme here is strength. The intensity (weight) is kept high and repetitions are kept low. Sets are kept between 3 – 5 sets and repetitions are kept between 6 – 10 repetitions.

Example: Bench press: 4 sets of 8 repetitions. Squats: 4 sets of 8 repetitions.

We are working to develop strength in the overall body so it’s best to choose an upper and a lower body movement.

Time to complete: 25 minutes.


Here the weight of the movement is decreased and the repetitions are increased. The theme here is to further develop strength in the body but in a slightly fatigued state from the main lift. Hypertrophy (muscle building) work can be performed here as well. In our example, we worked on a chest exercise and a leg exercise so our accessory work should target similar areas. Three to five movements should do. Sets should be kept between 3 – 4 and repetitions should be kept between 10 – 15.

Example: Chest flys: 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Hamstring curls: 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Tricep extensions: 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Form quality is KEY to all movements so remember to have good form throughout.

Time to complete: 20 minutes.


This last section is to target our cardiovascular systems. High-intensity training is the theme in this section and it is important to keep the heart rate elevated until this section is completed. Choose one to two movements that you can complete quickly or explosively that incorporates almost the entire body. It is a good idea to keep the movements body weight or use very light weights because the body is at a near-fatigue state. The sets and repetitions may range depending on the exercise you choose.

Example: Burpees: 10 repetitions. Treadmill running: 1 minute. Repeat for 3 rounds.

Time to complete: 15 minutes.

And there you have it. A basic template of a weight training program that targets overall health and strength. Again I would like to emphasize form quality trumps all else. If you need to decrease weight to ensure quality, do so. Reach out to a personal trainer in Richmond or Cloverdale to experience the ultimate program.


Until next time,

Coach Marco