The mistake many people make when they try to get back into training is to go too hard too soon, obliterating their motivation and leaving their body broken after a couple of intense sessions.

“When easing back into a fitness regime your enthusiasm needs to be balanced with remaining sensible,” says Richard Scrivener, product development manager and practising health and performance coach at TrainFitness.

“An all-guns-blazing approach is more than likely to end your programme before it starts, because you’ll be reminded that your fitness isn’t where you think it is – and you’ll have to wait as much as a week before the soreness subsides and you can train productively again.”

Taking the right approach at the start of your fitness journey is key to making sure the journey continues. There are two important aspects to your early training schedule.

“You need to ensure your body is equipped for any workout you throw at it,” says Scrivener, “and allow time to progress.

“Use what is known as progressive overload. So even if you can lift that extra 10kg, it’s better to split it into two 5kg increments and add these over two training sessions. This way, improvement is bite-sized and continuous, and it represents an appropriate amount of stress per workout.”

Follow this six-week training plan and it will help to build the foundations for the future. There are four main areas you will improve over the six weeks.

1. Movement Control And Awareness

A crucial aspect of every workout is ensuring that you are performing the exercises correctly, which takes a little learning.

“Performing exercises with good technique – which includes effective timing, tempo and range of movement – means that it will be far easier to build muscle, strength and power in the following months,” says Scrivener.

2. Joint Mobility

“Another way to look at mobility is to view it as having access to an exercise,” says Scrivener.

“For example, if you cannot flex at the hips and sit deep enough into a squat, then you’ll never be able to tap into the full potential of that exercise.”

3. Joint Stability

Knowing the technique for an exercise is one thing, but having the ability to do it correctly requires stability in your joints, especially if you want to avoid injuries.

Follow the instructions carefully and ensure your body is in the right position to perform the moves, especially your back. If your body’s not aligned as the move requires, you increase your risk of injury.

4. Aerobic Conditioning

Whatever your long-term fitness targets are, you will require stamina to achieve them, so building this in to the first weeks of a training plan is vital.

“All fitness goals depend on steadily being able to do more over time,” says Scrivener.

“Even strength and power development depend on the ability to recover quickly between sets and build volume.”

Six-Week Beginner Fitness Plan

This six week plan from Scrivener involves four workouts a week – two focused on aerobic conditioning and two on resistance training. Each week you will tackle the same four workouts, but with additional reps or sets to make them more challenging as you become fitter. Even if you’re feeling great and want to do more on a particular day, stick to the guidelines to ensure you don’t put yourself out of the commission for the rest of the week.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of some of the exercises before, there are instructions for each and the workouts are aimed at people looking to get fit from near-enough scratch.

Do the workouts in the following pattern each week:

Monday – Resistance Training 1
Tuesday – Aerobic Conditioning 1
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Resistance Training 2
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Aerobic Conditioning 2
Sunday – Rest

Monday – Resistance Training 1

Before you start the workout, foam roll your calves, hip flexors and lats for 30sec each, to a maximum discomfort level of around 7/10.

1 Clock squat

Sets 1 Reps 3 on each leg

Stand on one leg and move the non-standing leg out in front of you, but don’t ground it. Squat on one leg, then move your non-standing leg out to the side, and squat again. Move your non-standing leg behind you, squat again, then – and this is the tricky one – take your non-standing leg behind your other leg to the opposite side for one last squat. That’s one rep.

Progression: Add one rep each week until you reach five reps, then add an extra set in the sixth week.

2 Lunge

Sets 2 Reps 12 each leg Rest 30sec

Standing with your feet together, step forward and lower until both your knees are bent at 90°. Push through your heels to return to the starting position.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

3 Quadruped T-spine rotation

Sets 2 Reps 12 each arm Rest 30sec

Get on your hands and knees (the “box position”) and place one hand behind your head. Rotate your torso to drop the raised elbow towards the opposite hand, and then rotate in the opposite direction to take the elbow up towards the ceiling. Your eyes should always be looking at the point of your elbow. Do all the reps on one arm, then switch.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

4 Plank with straight-arm press-up

Sets 2 Reps 12 Rest 30sec

Adopt a press-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Tense your glutes and abs and press hard into the floor to spread your shoulder blades apart. Keeping your elbows straight, drop your chest towards the ground so that your shoulder blades come together. Then press back up. Don’t bend your arms – it’s not a full press up.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

5 Resistance band lateral walking squat

Sets 2 Reps 12 each side Rest 30sec

Loop a resistance band around your ankles and move your feet apart so there is some tension in the band. Then take a step to one side and squat. Keep moving until you hit the number of reps on that side, then go back in the opposite direction.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

6 Pull-ups

Sets 2 Reps 12 Rest 30sec

Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and drop until your arms are fully extended, then pull back up until your chin is over the bar. If you can’t hit 12 reps, and it’s a pretty big ask, then use an assisted pull-up machine or do fewer reps.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

7 One-arm one-leg deadlift

Sets 2 Reps 12 each side Rest 30sec

Select a kettlebell that’s heavy enough to challenge you but not so heavy that it distorts your posture during the exercise. Grasp it in your right hand and lift your left leg just off the floor. Bending at the hips, lower your torso towards the floor. Raise your left leg behind you as you lower the kettlebell straight towards the floor. Then return to the starting position. Do all your reps one one side, then switch to the other arm and leg.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

8 Face-down wall angel

Sets 2 Reps 12 Rest 30sec

Lie on the ground face down with your chin tucked in. Bring your arms up into the “surrender” position (hands past your head, with your elbows bent at 90°) and hold them just above the ground. Slowly extend your arms forwards until they are straight and then bring them back to the surrender position, keeping them just off the ground, without changing your body position.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

9 Plank with alternating step-in

Sets 2 Reps 12 each leg Rest 30sec

Adopt a press-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Bring one foot forwards so it’s next to the hand on the same side, and then raise your chest and look forwards. Lower your chest, return your foot to the starting position and then step forward on the other side. Alternate legs until all reps are done.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

10 Dead bug

Sets 2 Reps 12 each side Rest 30sec

Lie on your back and raise your legs, bending your knees to form a 90° angle, and raise your arms so they’re pointing at the ceiling. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg until they are just off the floor, then bring them back to the starting position. Then repeat that movement with the opposite arm and leg. Alternate which limbs you lower until you complete all the reps.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

Tuesday – Aerobic Conditioning 1

This session lasts around an hour in total (a third of that is rest time, though) and involves rotating between a treadmill, rowing machine and exercise bike.

Round 1

Time 4min Rest 2min Intensity Moderate (5/10)

Start with 4min on the the treadmill, then the rower, then the exercise bike, with 2min breaks in between. After you’ve done all three, take a 3min rest, then move on to round 2.

Round 2

Time 7min Rest 1min Intensity Easy (3/10)

Scale back your effort level for this round. Again hit the treadmill, then the rower, then the bike. Then take a 3min break and move on to round 3.

Round 3

Time 2min Rest 3min Intensity Hard (8/10)

One big last effort on each machine, with plenty of rest.

Progression: Record all the distances you cover in each interval, then try to add small amounts every time you do the workout.

Thursday – Resistance Training 2

Before you start the workout, foam roll your hamstrings, quads, pecs and thoracic spine (your upper and middle back) for 30sec each, to a maximum discomfort level of around 7/10.

1 Alternating active leg lowering

Sets 2 Reps 12 each side Rest 30sec

Lie on your back with both legs straight, resting your heels on a foam roller. Push down with one heel while you raise the opposite leg as high as you can without bending your knee. Return the leg to the start, then swap sides and alternate.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

2 Split kneeling wall arm circle

Sets 1 Reps 5 each arm, each direction Rest 30sec

Kneel next to a wall sideways-on so that there is only a couple of centimetres of space between your shoulder/hip and the wall. Keep your body facing forwards while you attempt to move your arm in a circle without touching the wall. Do five reps forwards and backwards on each arm.

Progression: Add one rep each week until you reach 8 reps.

3 Heel raise deep squat with tensed arms

Sets 1 Reps 12 Rest 30sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your heels raised 5cm. Reach your arms straight forwards and clench your fists. Then slowly sit into a deep squat, with your knees open and your chest up. Sit for 2sec, then stand up fully.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

4 Cable Pallof press

Sets 2 Reps 12 each direction Rest 30sec

Stand side on to a cable machine. Select a weight that makes the last few reps of the set are challenging, but doesn’t ruin your form. Hold the handle attachment with both hands, elbows tucked in to the sides of your body. Brace your core, stand tall and maintain soft knees throughout. Press the handle out in front at chest height and resist the pull/rotation towards the machine. Then bring it back in to your chest.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

5 Side step-up

Sets 2 Reps 12 each leg Rest 30sec

Stand side on to a bench, then side-step up onto it. Then step back down again. Do all the reps on one leg, then switch to the other.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

6 Bear crawl and crab walk

Sets 2 Distance 10m Rest 30sec

Start by bear crawling forward, moving your right arm at the same time as your left leg, and vice versa, never letting anything but your feet and hands touch the ground. Then crab walk back by flipping over so your stomach faces the ceiling, keeping your hips raised, and walking on your hands and feet.

Progression: Reduce the rest time by 5sec per week until both sets are performed back-to-back.

7 Cable face pull

Sets 2 Reps 12 Rest 30sec

Use a rope attachment and face a cable machine. Stand tall, holding the attachment in front of you with straight arms, then pull the rope towards your neck/face. Keep your elbows up and out as you pull the rope.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

8 Gym ball kneeling roll-out

Sets 2 Reps 8 Rest 30sec

Kneel in front of a gym ball. Rest your arms on the ball and slowly roll it away from you, keeping your back straight and core braced as you go. Your knees should stay grounded throughout. Extend as far as you can without your hips dropping, then slowly roll back to the starting position.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 16 reps.

9 One-arm overhead press

Sets 2 Reps 12 each side Rest 30sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand. Choose a weight that is a challenge but that allows you maintain correct form throughout – this move gets tiring very quickly. Hold the dumbbell by your shoulder with your elbow bent at 90°, then press it up straight above your head. Do all the reps on one side, then swap arms.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 20 reps.

10 Jump in place

Sets 2 Reps 8 Rest 30sec

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Sink into a half squat and swing your arms back. Drive upwards into a jump and then stick the landing by pushing your hips back and flexing your knees forward to decelerate the body. Your chest should stay up and your knees should not cave in as you land.

Progression: Add two reps each week until you reach 16 reps.

Saturday – Aerobic Conditioning 2

You get to pick your poison for this 30-minute cardio session – you can run, row, cycle, use a cross-trainer or swim.

Round 1

Time 10min Intensity Easy (3/10)

Use this round as a warm-up.

Round 2

Time 1min Rest 30sec Reps 5 Intensity Hard (8/10)

Rattle through five 1min bursts of hard work, taking 30sec breaks.

Round 3

Time 10min Intensity Easy (3/10)

Warm down.

Progression: Add 10sec to the work intervals in round 2 each week until you end up working for 2min at a time in week 6. The rest periods, unfortunately, do not get any longer.

TrainFitness is a UK personal trainer course provider. For more info visit train.fitness