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I don’t believe in the idea of ‘fully bespoke’ programmes. There, I said it. The idea that a coach creates a unique, one-off workout regime, for each and every client is a great selling point, sure, but I don’t think that it should ever be the starting point or main aim of creating any workout programme.

A good trainer should be able to create a good programme, not a unique one. And a good programme is built on the bedrock of tried and tested principles. Once the principles that need to be employed – in line with the goal – are established, then the customisation can begin. If it ends up being completely sui generis then so be it, but that can’t be the primary goal. ‘Effective’ has to come before ‘exclusive’. Think of it like a good suit, the top tailors on Savile Row know how to make a quality garment. It’s only the final alterations, the last few cuts and pins, that need to be unique to your body.

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Creating your own training plan is the same. Start from a sturdy foundation, a tested template, then trim, tuck and hem until you have a routine that does the job, fits your life comfortably and feels great.

But if you don’t have years of experience in the weights room, knowing what swaps to make and which substitutions are best can feel like a daunting task. With that in mind, we’ve put together a full-proof template that will allow you to create your own muscle-building workout plan, whether you’re training from home with minimal kit, in a fully stocked out gym, or have nothing but your own bodyweight.

30-Minute Workout Template

This template is just one of many ways to craft your own routine, but it’s an effective and simple one. Each workout you generate will be 30 minutes long, fitting into most schedules, but you can easily scale back the length, three minutes at a time, to create workouts that are 24, 15 or even just 12 minutes in length. However, if you do shorten the template, ensure you up your reps to add some intensity.

Each session will effectively give you a full-body workout, which means even if you can only smash a workout 2 or 3 times per week, you’re still leaving nary a stone unturned.

The Format

You’re going to be working in an ‘EMOM’ format, which stands for ‘every minute on the minute’. After a thorough warm-up you’ll start a running clock and at the top of each new minute you’ll perform 1 of 3 movements, cycling through the movements every minute. After the third minute you’ll return to movement 1 and start the cycle again, repeating in this fashion for 10 rounds; a total of 30 minutes.

For each movement, you’ll begin every workout only performing around 50-60% of the total amount of reps you could perform e.g. if you could perform 25 dumbbell presses at very most with the weights you have, you’ll start off working in sets of 12-15 reps. As the workout wears on and fatigue rises, you should begin to find it difficult to hit the higher end of that rep range, and may even have to drop to sets of 10. This is exactly what we’re gunning for. Stay conservative in the beginning, then push hard as your muscles begin exhausting. By the final 3-4 sets, you should be pushing close to failure on each movement.

If you’re cutting your workout time down, ramp the reps up a little higher from the get-go to increase the intensity and up the total amount of weight you shift across the session and equate for the time reduction. Don’t go crazy though, you don’t want to blow out in the first few rounds and find yourself staring at a barbell, unable to move it. Train hard, but train skilfully.

Important: Make meticulous notes of the weights you use, and the reps you achieve for each movement and each set throughout every workout. These notes will be the key to your future progress.

The Programme and Workouts

Here’s the part where the ‘customisation’ comes in and you make each workout truly your own.

Movement selection should enable you to create a programme that you both can do, with the equipment you have access to, and actually want to do, by picking movements that you find interesting and enjoyable. All of the movements listed below are effective, heavy-hitters when it comes to muscle-building, so don’t worry that playing favourites will result in a lacklustre programme. You might be having fun, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be working hard.

Here’s how this is going to work. You’re going to create for yourself 4 individual sessions using the guidelines below. You’ll then complete all 4 sessions according to your own schedule – it doesn’t matter if you spread them across 10 days or 5, so long as you get them done, and you’re resting for a minimum of 2 days each week. Once you’ve completed all 4, start again from the beginning and aim to ‘beat’ the reps you achieved for each movement, across the entire workout. Carry on in this fashion of ‘repeat and beat’ for 6 total cycles. This might take 6 weeks, it might take 8-9, just keep aiming for marginal increases every time you tackle a session again. If you manage to improve your ‘score’ from session 1 by 20%, add weight/ extra resistance in the following session if you can.

Once you’ve completed 6 cycles, pick a whole batch of new movements (keeping in some favourites, if you like) and start again. Then again, and again.

There are thousands of possible workout combinations here, enough to keep you seeing improvements, 30 minutes at a time, forever.

It’s that simple.

The Movements

Below is a library of exercises separated by ‘movement patterns’, covering the entire body, from A to I. Build your four sessions by choosing movements from each category using this template, depending on your kit availability and preference:

Session 1: A, D, E

Session 2: B, C, F

Session 3: A, D, G

Session 4: C, H, I

When you ‘cycle back round’ simply pick new movements from each category (or don’t) and repeat. Make sense?

Movement ‘A’: Vertical Pushing

  • Seated strict overhead press with dumbbell, barbell, sandbag or kettlebell.

  • Standing overhead press with dumbbell, barbell, sandbag or kettlebell.

  • Single arm variations of above (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Push press if the weights you have are too heavy.

  • Z-press if the weights you have are too light

  • Alternating hang dumbbell/ kettlebell snatch

  • Pike push-up

  • Pike push-up with feet on box/ bench

  • Handstand push-up

  • Machine overhead press

  • Landmine shoulder press (perform both sides in same minute, or two handed)

  • Plate press

You can access our full exercise video library on the Men’s Health app!

Movement ‘B’: Horizontal Pushing

Movement ‘C’: Vertical Pulling

  • Chin-up (palms facing you)

  • Pull-up (palms away, various grip width)

  • Neutral grip pull-ups

  • Band assisted/ assisted pull-ups or chin-ups

  • Lat pulldowns

  • Machine pulldowns

  • Resistance band pulldowns

Movement ‘D’: Horizontal Pulling

  • Bent-over dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell rows

  • Pendlay row

  • Chest support dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell rows

  • Single arm dumbbell/ kettlebell rows (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Renegade rows

  • Low cable rows

  • Machine rows

  • Inverted bodyweight rows

  • Ring rows

Movement ‘E’: Squatting

  • Air squats

  • Jumping squats

  • Goblet squats

  • Barbell front squats

  • Dumbbell/kettlebell front squats

  • Box squats

  • Cyclist squats (heels elevated, close stance)

  • Sandbag squats

  • Pistol squats (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Weighted pistol squats (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Split squat (with or without weight)

  • Rear foot elevated split squat (with or without weight)

  • Zercher squat

Movement ‘F’: Hinging

  • Bodyweight hip thrust (back against bench/box/ couch)

  • Single legged bodyweight hip thrust (perform both legs in same minute)

  • Kettlebell swing

  • Dumbbell/ Kettlebell deadlift (single or double)

  • Single armed dumbbell/kettlebell deadlift (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Barbell deadlift (vary stances and grip)

  • Sandbag deadlift

  • Weighted hip thrust

  • Back extensions on GHD/ Roman chair

  • Bodyweight back extensions off of box/ bench with partner holding legs

Movement ‘G’: Lunging

  • Bodyweight forward lunge (alternating legs)

  • Bodyweight reverse lunge (alternating legs)

  • Bodyweight forward lunge (perform both legs in same minute but don’t alternate)

  • Bodyweight reverse lunge (perform both legs in same minute but don’t alternate)

  • Dumbbell or kettlebell forward or reverse lunge (dumbbells at sides)

  • Dumbbell or kettlebell front rack forward or reverse lunge

  • Goblet forward or reverse lunge

  • Walking lunge

  • Weighted walking lunge

  • Front foot elevated reverse lunge

  • Rear foot elevated forward lunge

  • Box step-ups

  • Weighted box step-ups

Movement ‘H’: Carry/ Locomotion

  • Bear crawl

  • Reverse bear crawl

  • Table top crawl

  • Backwards running shuttles

  • Burpee broad jumps

  • Sprint shuttles

  • Farmers carry

  • Suitcase carry

  • Overhead carry

  • Yoke carry

  • Bear hug carry

  • Front rack carry

  • Mixed front rack/ overhead carry (switch sides in same minute)

  • Zercher carry

  • Sled push

  • Sled drag

  • Rope climbs

Movement ‘I’: Trunk flexion/ rotation

  • Sit-ups/sit-up variations

  • Lying leg raises

  • Hanging knee raises

  • Hanging leg raises

  • Toes-to-bar

  • Weighted sit-ups

  • Heavy weighted side bends (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Cable rotations (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Resistance band rotations (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Russian twists

  • Rotating sled drags (perform both sides in same minute)

  • Plank drag throughs

  • Half turkish get-ups (perform both sides in same minute)

Example 30 Minute Workout Plan

You can find an entire 4-week plan built using this template, named ‘Full Body 30’ in the training section of Men’s Health app, but here’s an example week for a trainee who only has access to a few sets of dumbbells.

Session 1: 30 minute EMOM

Minute 1: 8-12 x Dumbbell push press

Minute 2: 10-12 x Bent over rows

Minute 3: 12-15 x Dumbbell front squats

Session 2: 30 minute EMOM

Minute 1: 12-15 x Dumbbell bench press

Minute 2: 8-10 x Chin-ups

Minute 3: 12-15 x Dumbbell deadlifts

Session 3: 30 minute EMOM

Minute 1: 12-18 x Alternating hang dumbbell snatch

Minute 2: 12-18 x Renegade rows

Minute 3: 16-20 x Alternating (double) dumbbell reverse lunge

Session 4: 30 minute EMOM

Minute 1: 6-10 x Pull-ups

Minute 2: 30m x Mixed front rack/ overhead carry

Minute 3: 12-15 x Hanging leg raises

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