Putting together a programme

Ok guys and gals, let’s review what we have learnt so far.


First was the whole body workout and why it is so recommended for beginners and for those who took over a year’s break from the gym. It’s a good way to wake up sleeping muscles in as short a workout as possible.

Then came the exercises you can perform in whole body workouts. Lengthy description for squats, the back row and the bench press followed.

I also talked briefly about your first visit to the gym if you are a total newbie. Just take it easy the first time and try out all the machines so you get a feel for them. Just be sure not to put any weights to the machines!

What’s next? It’s putting together a programme around the 3 core exercises I so lengthily described.


A repetition, rep for short, is a full movement for an exercise. So for the squat, a rep is moving into the squat position and then pushing with your legs until you stand again.

A set is a series of reps. It can be from as low as one rep to as many as you can past exhaustion (100?, 200?) for the crazy ones out there. It is hard to put a number of reps to a set. It will depend on your goal – whether you wish to build muscle. It also depends on the muscles worked – legs require more reps than the back muscles. But for a beginner, a set  normally ranges from 6-15.

Now that you have the reps and the sets, you can perform the exercise. You need to do several sets for each exercise to properly target the muscles. Start by doing a high-rep set or two as warm-up. If you’re going for high reps, the weight consequently needs to be lower!

Number game

Once the warm-up sets are over, perform 2 sets with the second set being with the heaviest weight you can lift. So you could be doing 3 sets in all: 1 warm-up, 1 with moderate weight and 1 set at your heaviest.

How many reps should you do? Warm-up sets can be about 15 reps and for legs 20 reps or more. Moderate reps are in the area of 12 while for very heavy lifting, beginners can do 8 reps. For legs, work around 15 reps and no less than 12. Legs always need higher reps as they are used all the time to support the body so are more responsive to long reps. So do 20, 15, 15 reps in that order for legs and 15, 12, 10 reps for other bodyparts.

The programme finally

How can you put all this information together into a programme? You can do your 3 sets of squats, followed by 3 sets of back row and 3 sets of bench press. Simple and straightforward.  Or you can do 1 set of squats, followed by 1 set of back row and 1 set of bench press then move on again to squats and so on until you do 3 sets of each exercise. You can mix and match the exercises and the sets to break the routine, keep your muscles guessing and increase the tempo.

There’s lots more to write about sets, reps and programmes but for now, we’ll stick to the basics and that’s what was described here.

Enjoy your workout!


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