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Exercise Programming for Beginners


Understand the basics of exercise programming for beginners. This is an excellent introduction to exercise programming for beginners and you would find this article useful in particular anyone interested in following a rehabilitation plan post-injury. Other times that one might find this interesting would be when creating a specific workout plan to address different components of training and Healthcare practitioners interested in prescribing evidence-based rehab programs.

How do you get the most out of your exercise programming for beginners?

Just about any training program will work to improve your fitness to some extent. If you perform a training program in which there is an increased load placed on the body, the body will adapt to the higher load, and you will become stronger, faster, and fitter. However, a program tailored specifically for you and your needs can maximise and accelerate the benefits to your health and fitness.

Principles of strength and conditioning exercise programming for beginners

The human body can be broken down into different physiological categories. All of these categories working efficiently, together will keep you functioning at an optimal level. This is important for people considering the principles of exercise programming for strength and conditioning. Listed below are some of the main considerations for writing programs so that you are able to create your own.

Motor Control

Your body works in a way where, when you think that I want to lift my arm up, that message gets transmitted to the arm via your neural system. Then the muscles will perform the required action. This can be performed the opposite way too. Imagine when you accidentally touch a hot surface with your hand, the hand will immediately send a warning signal to your brain via your nervous system to tell that the heat will cause damage. Therefore the brain sends a signal back to the arm instructing it to move away from the hot surface. So exercise that trains this system is part of an effective rehab plan and should be included at an early stage of your rehabilitation. 

Maximal Strength

Strength is the maximal force you can apply against a load. Training to improve muscle strength includes lifting weights or otherwise increasing the resistance against which you work. Without appropriate levels of strength in your muscles, you will be predisposed to injuries. A post-injury rehabilitation plan will include strength training at a mid-stage of your rehab plan.


Explosive Power is the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible, as in jumping and throwing implements. Most athletic activities involve far faster movements and far higher power outputs than are found in maximal strength exercises. An athlete can be exceptionally strong but lack significant explosive power if they are unable to apply their strength rapidly. An effective rehab/training program should include power training after the strength training element is completed.


When considering exercise programming for beginners plyometric drills are often terms that confuse people. Plyometric drills involve a quick, powerful movement using a pre-stretch or counter-movement that involves the stretch-shortening cycle, which acts as an elastic spring, absorbs and recoils the energy to create movement. Classical plyometric exercises include various types of jump training and upper body drills using medicine balls.

Plyometrics is a suitable form of power training for many team and individual sports. While many might see it simply as jumping up and down, there are important guidelines and program design protocols that need to be followed if plyometrics is to be as safe and effective as possible. See plyometrics section to read further about how to design a safe and effective plyometric session.


Muscle hypertrophy is a term for the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells. It is important to understand this if you are creating exercise programming for beginners. The most common type of muscular hypertrophy occurs as a result of physical exercise such as weightlifting, and the term is often associated with weight training. Muscles are made up of permanent cells called ‘muscle fibres’. As adults, we cannot produce new muscle fibres, and when they are gone their gone for good. Whilst we can’t produce new muscle cells, we can, however, change the size of the cells we’ve got. Therefore when you train your muscles and they get bigger, you are not actually growing new muscle cells (hyperplasia), instead, each individual muscle cell grows in size (hypertrophy) to help your body cope with increases in muscle loading.


Endurance is the muscles’ ability to work repeatedly without fatiguing. In strength training, muscular endurance refers to the number of repetitions of a single exercise you can do without needing to stop and rest. Examples include how many times you can do a full squat, a sit-up, or a bicep curl with a light-to-moderate weight before breaking form.

Muscle endurance is especially important in endurance sports such as long-distance running or cycling but is also important in sports such as football and rugby which involve repeated bursts of exercise (called interval exercise). Muscle endurance is also important for the body’s core muscles which support the pelvis and spine and as their name suggests, they provide core strength whilst performing various exercises.

Proprioception/Balance in exercise programming for beginners

Proprioception is the sense of knowing where your body part is in space. This can be a difficult concept to grasp until you lose it because so much proprioception occurs subconsciously. Proprioception allows you to scratch your head without looking in the mirror or walk up a flight of stairs without having to peer at each stair. The most common symptom of reduced proprioception is poor balance. In this respect, most people can understand the concept that poor balance can be a result of poor proprioception.

Taken as a whole, proprioception includes balance, coordination, and agility because of the body’s proprioceptors control all these factors. By improving their proprioception, patients can gain the balance skills necessary to maintain stability; hone their agility so they can quickly change direction when necessary, and fine-tune coordination skills so they can perform physical activities accurately and consistently.

Sports Specific considerations in exercise programming for beginners

To get the most from your training sessions, you must adapt to the specific needs and goals of your program. For those training for sport, your program must be aimed at the specific requirements of that sport. First, you need to create a needs analysis to determine the demands of the chosen sport and then create a Rehabilitation/Prehabilitation to address these demands of the sport. This includes training the muscles that are predominantly used, and with the right methods to achieve strength, power, or endurance, whatever is the need. Most effective rehabilitation plans following injury will always have a sports specific stage before you get discharged to participate in sporting/fitness activity.

How to choose the right exercise when writing exercise programming for beginners

Exercise prescription commonly refers to the specific plan of health/fitness-related activities that are designed for a specified purpose, which is often developed by a fitness or rehabilitation specialist for the client or patient. Due to the specific and unique needs and interests of the client/patient, the goal of exercise prescription should be the successful integration of exercise principles, thus achieving their goals. It is recommended that you consult a specialist to assess your condition/ state of fitness and then prescribe a rehabilitation/rehabilitation programme to suit your needs.

How to choose the correct exercise order in your exercise program

There are 3 key principles that you should follow before attempting to try strength and conditioning training when you are writing or constructing exercise programming for beginners

  • Large muscle groups before training smaller muscle groups.
  • Multi-joint exercise before single-joint exercises.
  • Higher intensity exercise before lower intensity exercise.

Key variables in strength and conditioning

A training program is a schedule of exercise types, frequency, intensity, rest, and volume, whether for weight training or any other fitness training. Below is a list of variables that can be adjusted in any weight training program. Almost unlimited combinations are possible, most of which will be functional at some level but not necessarily ideal for your immediate goals.

  • Weight or resistance (load) – Starting on a low weight and progressing until the weight challenges you.
  • Number of repetitions – A repetition, also known as a rep for short, is one completion of an exercise: one deadlift, one bench press, one arm curl.
  • Number of sets – A set is a series of repetitions. For example, eight repetitions can be one set of bench presses.
  • Velocity of movement – Contraction velocity is the speed at which an exercise is performed. This has an effect on training goals and results.
  • Time between sets – This is your rest period. It can determine which energy systems are used to perform the exercises.
  • Time between sessions (training days/week) – This is the frequency of your training week

The table below explains exact sets, reps, rest, load, repetition velocity, and frequency in detail. Please refer to the table if needed

1 RM- A 1RM, or repetition maximum, is your personal best or the most you can lift once in a single repetition of an exercise. Therefore, a 12RM is the most you can lift and successfully perform 12 repetitions with proper form.

A full article on how to test your 1RM is available on our website.

Key concepts that you might come across when training or researching exercise programming for beginners would be the following.

SPORT Acronym

Specificity – sport and individual needs
Progression – start at your level and gradually increase
Overload – work harder than normal
Reversibly – train regularly
Rest – Don’t forget recovery
Tedium – keep it interesting

FITT Acronym

Frequency – how often
Intensity – how hard
Time – how long
Type – what methods of training

For more information about Exercise Programming for Beginners

If you would like additional information about exercise programming or to discuss how we may be able to help with your training programme, please contact us using the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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