Exercise takes planning and commitment — you can't simply go to the gym, do some random movements and expect to get results. A 10-day workout routine is a good starting point, as you can repeat it three times over the course of a month. Consistency is the key.
Set Realistic Expectations
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recommends 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week, 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise a week or an equivalent combination of the two. As far as strength training goes, you should aim for at least two weekly workouts.
As the HHS points out, doing more exercise than recommended yields additional health benefits. Depending on your schedule and fitness level, you may work out every other day or two days in a row followed by a rest day. Another option is to incorporate active recovery days into your routine. For example, you can take long walks, practice yoga or do balance and flexibility exercises on your off days to improve your overall fitness.
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More isn't always better when it comes to exercise. If you're planning to work out daily, try to balance heavier training days with lighter days. This way, it's easier to avoid overtraining, which is often the culprit behind fatigue, diminished athletic performance, anxiety, depression and insomnia, according to a March 2012 review published in Sports Health.
Consider your schedule when creating a 10-day workout routine. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. If, say, you're working two jobs, you're unlikely to stick to a workout program that requires hitting the gym six times per week.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center recommends those who are pretty fit and get enough sleep to take one or two days off training each week. If you barely get six hours of sleep per night, you may need more time to recover from training.
Consider Your Fitness Goals
Whether you want to get leaner, build lean mass or enjoy better health, a 10-day exercise program can bring you closer to your goals. Beware, though — it takes longer than 10 days to see major changes in your health and physical performance. Start with a basic routine, track your progress and make adjustments along the way.
Consider your health and fitness goals before making a plan. Training for strength is different from training for size. A person who is trying to lose weight will use a different approach than someone looking to build mass. Also, if you want to get better at your sport of choice, you may need to incorporate sport-specific exercises into your 10-day workout plan.
Bodybuilders, for example, train differently than powerlifters, points out the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS). Endurance athletes perform different exercises than strength athletes. Therefore, your 10-day workout plan should be customized according to your goals.
Want to build mass? Then you might need to cut back on cardio and increase your energy intake. If you're trying to get leaner, add more cardio to the mix and cut calories to create an energy deficit. Consider incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your workouts to speed up fat loss.
10-Day Workout Plan Recommendations
As you see, there's no one-size-fits-all exercise plan. Before getting started, consider your schedule, fitness level and health or training goals.
Beginners, for example, may start with full-body circuits to build muscle strength. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends performing 10 to 15 reps per set and combining three or more exercises with short breaks between sets.
Choose a load that fatigues your muscles in 10 to 15 reps. Increase it gradually to keep your body guessing and prevent plateaus. Aim for two weekly workouts and progress to three as your strength and endurance improve.
Another option is to work one or two muscle groups during the same session (such as the chest or another major muscle group and a smaller one — like the biceps) and finish your workout with cardio or HIIT. New Mexico State University (NMSU) recommends doing eight to 12 reps per set to build size and strength or 15 to 20 reps per set for improved muscular endurance. Aim for two to four sets per exercise.
For example, you can train your chest and abs on Mondays, your legs on Tuesdays, your arms (biceps and triceps) on Thursdays and so on. Generally, it's not recommended to work the same muscle groups on consecutive days, as it may lead to overtraining. If you prefer whole body workout sessions, get 48 to 72 hours of rest after each workout, advises the NMSU.
A third option is to split your workouts into upper and lower body sessions. For example, you can perform one or two exercises for each major muscle group on Mondays, take a day or two off and then work your lower body. Take one or two days off and repeat. Try different exercises every time, perform more reps or increase your workout intensity to keep your routine varied.
How to Get Started
Not sure where to start with your 10-day workout plan? Consider alternating between strength training workouts and interval training. If you intend to work out daily, aim for 30 to 40 minutes per session, recommends the ACE. Plan an active recovery day every now and then if necessary.
For example, you can structure your workout as follows:
- Day 1: Full-body circuits consisting of strength and plyometric exercises
- Day 2: Interval training (use the treadmill, elliptical trainer or stair climber)
- Day 3: Full-body circuits (choose different exercises than those performed on Day 1)
- Day 4: Interval training
- Day 5: Full-body circuits (repeat Day 1)
- Day 6: Yoga, Pilates, brisk walking or other forms of active recovery
- Day 7: Full-body circuits (repeat Day 2)
- Day 8: Interval training
- Day 9: Full-body circuits (repeat Day 1)
- Day 10: Interval training
Depending on the gym machine used, you may alternate between flat and incline intervals during each session. If, say, you do incline intervals on Day 2, go for flat intervals on Day 4 to keep your body guessing. Likewise, you may reduce or increase the resistance from one workout to the next.
- HHS: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Sports Health: "Overtraining Syndrome"
- Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: "Should You Take a Break From Exercise?"
- NIFS: "Powerbuilding: The Middle Ground Between Powerlifting and Bodybuilding"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Balancing Diet and Activity to Lose and Maintain Weight"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- American Council on Exercise: "Strength Training Workout for Beginners"
- NMSU: "The Benefits of Strength Training and Tips for Getting Started"
- American Council on Exercise: "10-Day Workout Plan"