Two common reasons why people stop exercising are (1) they get bored, or (2) they don’t know what to do.

I can solve these problems, even if you’re the type of person who likes constant variety in your workouts. With a little preparation, you can change your workouts every month, or easily do a different workout every time you workout.

The key to limitless effective workouts is creating a basic exercise template.

How To Make An Effective Workout Template

There are many different templates you can follow, some of which get more complicated in terms of how exercises are categorized, like hip-dominant, or knee-dominant. But there’s no need to get so complicated. Instead, create a template using functional exercises that, when combined, train your entire body as nature intended.

The template I created below is based on 4 categories that are split into 2 muscle groups (legs and core) and 2 movement patterns (push and pull). By performing an exercise from each category, you’ll be working every muscle group in your body (arms, chest, shoulders, back, legs, and core).

From experience, I know this template works very well and is easy to set up.

Workout Template Guidelines:

1. Choose 1 exercise from each category below.

2. Complete 10 reps of each exercise.

3. Complete each exercise as a circuit, going from one to the next.

4. Rest as needed to catch your breath between exercises.

5. Complete for 3 rounds.

Exercise Categories:

Here are the exercise categories to choose from. I included a few exercises under each category to spark some ideas for you. You’re free to come up with your own exercises that fit within each category as well.

1) Leg Exercise
Goblet Squat
Deadlift
Lunge

2) Push
Push Up
Shoulder Press
Incline DB Press

3) Pull
TRX Row
Pull Up
Renegade Row

4) Core
Side Plank
Hanging Abs Raise
Bird Dog

Now, give it a try. Choose one exercise in each category to build your own workout. How long did that take?—Hopefully less than 10-seconds.

Here’s a sample workout using this template:

1. Goblet Squat (leg exercise)
2. Push Up (push)
3. Pull Up (pull)
4. Bird Dog (core)

Complete 10 reps of each exercise back-to-back for 3 rounds, resting as needed between exercises. Done and done.

Here, you’re witnessing the power of templates, which is how every smart trainer I know creates workout routines. It’s like a trade secret. While the exercises and the amount of weight lifted will vary depending on your goals and fitness level, the template itself remains unchanged.

I hope you now feel inspired to create your own workouts and confident that they’ll be effective at helping you achieve your fitness goals.

Full-Body Workout Template FAQ

Can you build muscle, or lose fat with this template?

Yes. Circuit-style workouts are excellent for fat burning because they help maximize calorie burn while minimizing the chance of muscle loss. For muscle building, I would rest longer between each set and complete more rounds, so 4 or 5 total rounds.

Where are the arm exercises?

Biceps exercises should be in the pull category and triceps exercises under push.
While I’m not the biggest fan of arm exercises in general, you can also add a 5th category “Arms” after core and choose an arm exercise like a biceps curl for example. But that’s up to you.

Some exercises can span across more than one category. What then?

That is an astute observation. A deadlift can be added to the pull, leg, and even core categories. This is a more advanced nuance. You have two choices: (1) you can choose an exercise in every category anyways, which is totally cool and probably the best thing to do, or (2) you can just choose a push exercise, which is the remaining category.

For example, your workout could consist of a deadlift and a push-up.

In this case, I would do 5 rounds in instead of 3. And yes, two exercises can be a complete workout.

Can I add more rounds of the circuit?

Yes, you can. I think 3 can work well for most people, but you can also try 4 or 5 rounds as well.

Can I change the reps?

Yes, of course. If you do fewer reps and more weight, then rest more between sets so you can properly recover.

Creating a workout template is a foolproof way to get an awesome workout wherever and whenever. You can use it to create a muscle-building gym workout, or effective bodyweight circuits to stay in shape while you’re on vacation. Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section below.

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12 Comments

  1. profile avatar
    Samir Haddad Dec 31, 2015 - 00:44 #

    Your tips are without any doubt extremely effective. Would you be so kind so as to add tips in as far as the Latissimus Dorsi is concerned.
    The use of TRX would also be great.
    Thanks.

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Dec 31, 2015 - 14:21 #

      Hey Samir, thanks for your questions. The Latissimus Dorsi muscle (aka Lat muscle) is a huge muscle in your back that is involved in nearly every upper body movement. The lat muscle stabilizes your shoulder (it actually is attached to your upper arm bone called the humurus) and spreads across your back to your lower and middle spine and the top of your hips. Because at BuiltLean we do not advocate targeting specific muscles, I would say you can activate your lats during any pushing, pulling, or rotational movements (see See: 7 Primal Movement Patterns. A TRX row for example will help activate the lats along with a TRX push up.

      1. profile avatar
        Samir Haddad Jan 05, 2016 - 11:51 #

        Dear Marc,
        Thank you, I appreciate the contents of your reply.
        Best regards.

  2. profile avatar
    Scott Reynolds Nov 04, 2016 - 16:55 #

    How often can one do one of these exercise groups in the 3-5 rep range, e.g. Bench heavy every 4th workout?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Nov 08, 2016 - 08:32 #

      Hey Scott – you can lift heavy every day, it really depends. I’ve been on programs where I’ve even deadlifted every day in low rep ranges, but I wasn’t 100% pushing myself. Powerlifters lift every day in the 1 to 5 rep range. In general, you can consider structuring your workouts as light / medium / heavy each week, which is a time-tested approach. There are tons of different ways to structure workouts of course, but this is a simple, proven method that works.

  3. profile avatar
    Akhi Nov 07, 2016 - 12:23 #

    Hey Marc,
    I was wondering what would happen if I did all 3 sets of one exercise before moving onto the next, instead of doing it in a circuit.

    How would the results change?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Nov 08, 2016 - 08:28 #

      Hi Akhi, you could do 3 sets of the same exercise, then move on to the next, but it would not be as time efficient. If you go from one exercise to the next, each exercise challenges your body / muscles in a different way, which allows you to recover faster so you can do more exercise in less time.

  4. profile avatar
    Marc Perry Nov 08, 2016 - 08:27 #

    Hi Akhi, you could do 3 sets of the same exercise, then move on to the next, but it would not be as time efficient. If you go from one exercise to the next, each exercise challenges your body / muscles in a different way, which allows you to recover faster so you can do more exercise in less time.

  5. profile avatar
    Akhileshwar Nov 29, 2016 - 16:57 #

    Hey Marc,
    I have been doing this routine (3 sets circuit with 10 reps each exercise) and have also been jogging/walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes after the weight training session.

    I was wondering if this method is effective at all at burning fat?

    I was also considering switching it to 5 sets of each exercise and then just jogging on the treadmill for 10 minutes. I’m a little confused as to which of these two methods I should use for optimum fat loss and muscle gain.

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Nov 29, 2016 - 18:42 #

      Great questions, Akhileshwar. First, it’s awesome that you’re routinely working out and following the strength circuits method. Since your goal is fat loss, you’ll want to focus first and foremost on your nutrition. Losing fat requires you to eat fewer calories than you burn. Strength training helps you burn some calories and maintain lean muscle so you’re primarily losing fat. I would recommend tracking your food in an app like MyFitnessPal for a few days to find out your average daily calorie intake. Then, decrease your daily calories by about 250-500 per day.

      If you continue to strength train 3x per week while eating a deficit of calories, you should start the see the results you want. For the time being, I think you should continue to do 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise with 30 minutes of walking-jogging on the treadmill, and every week try to increase the weights you use during each exercise. After 4-6 weeks, increase it to 5 sets of each exercise.

      I hope that helps. If you have more questions, feel free to ask. And keep up the great work!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  6. profile avatar
    Akhileshwar Nov 29, 2016 - 20:12 #

    Kristin,

    Thank you so much for you help. I have been maintaining a calorie deficit fro 2 weeks and am also using MyFitnessPal to assist me in this.

    I do this circuit on MWF and was wondering what do I do on Tuesday and Thursday? As of now i run for 30 mins and then do some core exercises. But its not all that intense. I also do not do any form of exercise on the weekends, I just play golf.

    1. profile avatar
      Kristin Rooke, CPT Nov 30, 2016 - 13:14 #

      If you want to do something more intense on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would recommend adding some interval training at the end of your 30-minute run. If you run outdoors, you can finish by doing 5 sets of 10-15 second sprints, where you rest for 45-60 seconds between sets. Alternatively, you could try a sprint workout on a treadmill, a bike, or a row machine. Give those suggestions a try, and let me know how it goes.

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

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