Choosing exercises for a workout can be confusing.
If you follow the advice of social media “experts” and “trainers,” you could quickly find yourself doing a superset of high-intensity kettlebell flows while only eating meat once a day.
But you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Your workouts and the exercises within them don’t need to be complicated to get results. In fact, for most of us, simple workouts are the most effective.
Whether you’re new to fitness or a fitness coach, this blog will teach you how many exercises you should do in a workout, plus the specific types of exercises.
Before we dive in, let’s reframe how you think about exercises. Instead of immediately thinking about the exercises when designing workouts, we challenge you to think of the movement patterns.
All exercises fall within six movement patterns: squat, lunge, bend, push, pull, and core. First, choose what movement patterns you are going to include in your workout. More about this later.
Once you have created a framework using the movement patterns, you can then select an exercise for each pattern.
(Looking for at-home workouts? Download our free guide to bodyweight training here.)
Click on a movement pattern to view our exercise library playlist on Youtube. This is a great resource to have for creating workouts.
Sample Exercises for Each Movement Pattern:
Now, let’s talk about how many exercises you should do in a workout based on your ability.
If you are new to exercise or haven’t trained consistently for more than one year, you are a beginner.
Beginners should do full-body workouts and include 4-6 movement patterns, with one exercise per pattern in each workout.
(You can learn more about why full-body workouts are great for beginners here.)
If you want to include aerobic training in your program, alternate between one day of resistance training and aerobic training. Repeat this for the whole week.
If you have been training consistently for more than one year and up to four years, you are likely an intermediate trainee.
Intermediates should do 1-3 movement patterns per workout, with 1-3 exercises per pattern.
The amount of volume and intensity in a training session will determine how many exercises are in the workout. You can learn more about volume and intensity here.
For a training split, do an upper-body training day, followed by a lower-body day, and then an aerobic day. Repeat this cycle based on your desired number of workout days.
Monday (Upper + Core):
Tuesday (Lower + Core):
Row 500m x 10 @ 2k pace
You are advanced if you have been training consistently for more than four years.
Advanced clients should do one pattern per workout. Inside of that workout can be 1-6 different exercises in that pattern.
Again, the specific number of exercises depends on how much volume and intensity is in each session.
For example, if you are testing a back squat one-rep max, you might do that one exercise that day because it is very intense. But if the goal is to build volume in the push pattern, you may choose six push exercises for one workout.
For an advanced training split, devote one day a week to each movement pattern.
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