Crush The Gym: Common Templates to Design Your Gym Workouts


I recently received a message from a college friend asking for advice about getting into the gym. She said that she was completely new to working out and was unsure of where to start. While it’s really easy for me to create my own gym workouts at this point, it’s also easy for me to remember moments of confusion in my early workout days. After responding to my friend’s question, I realized that there might be other gym newbies (or aspiring gym newbies) out there who might benefit from this information. This post might also be useful for some of you who are pros at the gym and looking to change things up. Here are different workout “templates” or formats that you can use to challenge yourself at the gym. Just choose some of your favorite (or least favorite) exercise moves, plug them into one of these templates and you’re all set.

Many of these styles are commonly used in Crossfit but even if Crossfit isn’t your thing (I’ve never actually been to a Crossfit gym) these formats are really useful for structuring your workouts.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): I’m a HUGE fan of interval training. Not only is it proven to be super effective for getting in shape, it’s also extremely time efficient. I usually aim for anywhere between 24-30 minutes of work in any gym session and I never leave feeling like I should have done more. To design a HIIT workout, simply choose your exercises and choose how you’d like to time your intervals – how many seconds of work will you perform per seconds of rest. I usually do 30/10 for strength workouts. I alternate between two moves and do each move twice for a total of 8 rounds. 

            Tabata: Tabata is a specific style of HIIT training that’s structured around 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest over 8 rounds.

As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP): When I’m on a time crunch and I want to get the most out of my workout, I usually do an AMRAP. All you have to do is choose your exercises – I usually pick 4-5 different moves – and then how long you’d like work. If I’m doing one big round, I usually do somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes, adjusting according to the number of exercises you’re performing.  

            Mini AMRAPS: Rather than doing one long time frame, you could also do multiple smaller AMRAP sets with less moves. I often do 3 or 4 8-minute AMRAPs with only 2-3 exercises per set.

Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM): This is the style that I probably do the least but I’m planning to start incorporating it more. You simply choose your move(s) and reps and do them as fast as you can at the start of every minute for some allotted period of time. For examples, you might do 5 thrusters and 2 burpees when the clock starts and then rest until the clock gets to minute 2 and continue this for 10 minutes/rounds. 

Ladder: Unlike the other workout styles mentioned here, ladder workouts are not structured around time, but rather by reps. To design a ladder workout, you choose your moves and the highest number of reps you’d like to perform in any given set. This number represents the top of the ladder. Perform each move for the maximum number of reps and then decrease the number of reps and perform each move again. Keep doing this until you reach the bottom of your “ladder.” Some variations of the ladder include reversing the order – starting at the bottom and working your way up. You could also be intense and work your way up your ladder and then come back down. Also note that your ladder doesn’t necessarily have to go up/down one step at a time. You can increase/decrease by 2,3,4 etc. too. To challenge yourself, note how long it takes you to complete your ladder and then try to beat your time the next time you do the workout.

My last bit of advice for designing your own workouts is to buy or download an interval timer. If you’d prefer to have a separate timer, here is one that I like. If you’d like to keep it simple, download a gym timer app and program it with all your preferred intervals. I doesn’t need to be fancy at all. I’ve used the free version of the Interval Timer app and it works great for me. 




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