How to write your own training program


Learn how to customise your own workout program with our workout guide.

Firstly, you need to decide on how many sessions you can manage each week. From that we can look at intensity, the type of training and how much time you’re going to spend working out. Check out the guide below:

How frequent should I train?

Training type: RESISTANCE

DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) usually occurs 48 hours after a workout. To indemnify against days on the sideline, try splitting workouts between body parts. “Doing lower body and abs one session and upper body the next is a good split for beginners,” says Fitness Enhancement Personal Training CEO Scott Hunt. If you’re intermediate, try legs one session, ‘push’ muscles the next (chest and triceps) and pull muscles (back and biceps) the next.


Unlike heavy weights, you can return to cardio within hours. A recent study of elite athletes, published in Sports Medicine journal, recommended just three hours of recovery after high-intensity endurance training. “Steady-state cardio doesn’t place too much strain on the muscles, therefore they don’t need time to repair like they do with heavy weights,” says exercise physiologist Leah Rowan. “The recovery time would depend more on how long you exercise for. If you only did 30 minutes in the morning, another 30 minutes in the evening is fine, but if you did 60 minutes in the morning, that’s probably enough for the day.”

Training type: HIIT

If you’re training at the intensity demanded by HIIT, you’ll need 48 hours between sessions, says Rowan. On off days, try low-intensity exercise such as yoga, Pilates or walking.


Intensity is integral to considerations of duration. If time is of the essence, higher intensity training is the most efficient method. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, HIIT training results in the same 24-hour energy expenditure as moderate intensity exercise, despite taking half the time. “If you are doing HIIT training, 20 minutes max is ideal,” says Rowan, “If you are doing weights or steady cardio, about 60 minutes is enough.”

What type of training should I do?

Your goals and attention span will guide exercise selection. Chasing weight loss? “Include both cardio and strength or bodyweight resistance exercise in all days of the program, and include some aspect of high-intensity training on at least one day,” says Menlove. The muscle maintenance merits of resistance help to maximise fat free mass (FFM), which keeps metabolism buoyant according to a 2006 study in Sports Medicine. As well as combining resistance training and cardio, a high-protein diet optimises results, the study found. In another study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, HIIT was found to burn around four calories more per minute than aerobic or resistance training.

Intervals can be as simple as sprinting on a treadmill. “A circuit will improve cardio fitness, burn fat and help develop lean muscle,” says Menlove. “By interspersing cardio exercises such as burpees and box jumps with bodyweight exercises like 

push ups, squats and lunges, it ensures a high heart rate is maintained, all body areas are worked and the sweat is flying!” In a study at the University of Eastern Washington, HIIT was shown to produce similar aerobic capacity results as constant endurance with about 2.5 times less training volume.

An interval session could include 30 to 40 minutes of three-minute intervals, running at 80 per cent effort and then 60 per cent, Menlove suggests. When it starts to feel easy, increase to four- and then five-minute intervals. If you’ve only got three sessions a week, add another HIIT session or a long run. Using lighter weights and higher reps can also serve this purpose. “Do 30 or 40 reps and no breaks in between sets,” says Hunt.

How much time should I spend training each session?

The quality over quantity adage applies. Even if you are training for a marathon, one hour is enough to get “amazing” results, Hunt says. For non-endurance goals, favour working hard for a shorter time over making yourself stay for an hour, during which you might spend 50 minutes in a heart rate no-man’s land and 10 at optimum intensity. Phone-checker, beware. To guard against time wasting and undermining workout results, time yourself for 30-second breaks.

For scheduling, consider blocking workouts into hours per week and aim to hit your target in the way that works best with your plans rather just ditching a workout. “Three one-hour sessions split into six half-hour sessions will have comparable results,” says Hunt. If working out six times for 30 minutes means you spend longer working at high intensity, a shorter workout will out-perform a longer one.