First Year Fitness (a whole year of programming!)

You’ve made a resolution.  This is the year you get on track with fitness and stay on track.  Great!  Now, full of enthusiasm and verve, you realize you have no idea where to start.

Allison Daniels

This is the year. Commit to it.

No problem, I’ve got you covered.  Not only with where to start, but with an entire year of programming.  That’s right, a year.  Now to be fair, I’m not writing an entire year’s worth of programming into this article, just plotting out a progression of programs you can use and pointing you in the right direction.  Don’t get greedy.

Before We Get Started, You Will Need

  • A membership at a good gym – that means one with at least one real squat rack (preferably more), free weights, barbells, benches, etc.  No getting around this one.  This isn’t a program for at home.
  • Athletic clothing – at the very least, a pair of sneakers, shorts, and t-shirts.  Preferably, a pair of Chuck Taylors for lifting and a pair of cross trainers or running shoes for track days.
  • Resolve – this is a year worth of effort (and hopefully the start of many more years).  Get your head in the game.  It’s not a huge time commitment, but you do have to commit.
extraordinary resolve

Extraordinary resolve, this guy has it. Do you?

I’ve included recommendations for mobility, strength, and energy systems for each phase of the year (and sometimes nutritional reminders).  This template can easily be used by men or women.  Your needs are similar enough in your first year of training that there’s no need to program differently based on gender.


January – February

MobilityCombating The Effects of Your Desk (sample beginner mobility program at the bottom)

Strength: Exercise Essentials, The Program

  • Yep, I’m turning to my own program to kick things off.  I wrote this one to be an absolute beginner’s program, so it’s great to get you started.  Although it’s not quite perfect, it holds up pretty well and will help you build foundational strength and learn appropriate movement patterns.

Energy Systems: NONE

  • You’re just getting started.  Focus on getting your strength and mobility in order before you worry about any sprints, tabata, circuits, or steady state cardio.

March – April

MobilityCombating The Effects of Your Desk (begin progressing each movement per the article)

Strength: Anti-Bodybuilding Hypertrophy (Part 1 & Part 2) (Chad Waterbury)

  • Chad’s ABBH programs rocked the fitness world when they came out in 2004.  Most people had never thought of using so little volume (only 2 exercises per day in part 1) or such crazy set/rep schemes (10×3 anyone).  Funny thing though – they worked.

Energy Systems:

  • Bike sprints twice a week.  Start with 5 sprints (as hard as you can) for 20 seconds, with 40 seconds of rest in between.  Each week, either add another sprint, increase the length of the sprints (by 5 seconds), or decrease the rest time.  It is spring after all – gotta start getting ready for beach season.

Nutrition: If you haven’t started eating cleaner, now’s the time.  Beach season, remember?  Check it out – Nutritional Habits

June – July

MobilityCombating The Effects of Your Desk (keep progressing each movement per the article – seeing a trend?)

Strength: The Hybrid Bodyweight Program

  • Calling my own number again for this one.  The Hybrid Bodyweight program is a great way to get started with big, heavy lifts, as well as improve mobility and movement quality with bodyweight training.  Plus it’s great for fat loss.

Energy Systems:

  • Follow weight training days with 20 minutes of steady state cardio (cycling or fast, uphill walking are preferred).
  • 1 day per week, have a “track day” like this one.   You wont be able to do all 4 phases on your first time (probably).  Work up to it.

August – December

MobilityCombating The Effects of Your Desk (keep progressing each movement per the article)

Strength: 5/3/1 (Jim Wendler) or buy the book (recommended)

  • Jim Wendler’s masterpiece, 5/3/1, is a magnificently flexible program built around four main lifts: deadlift, squat, bench press, and overhead press.  It’s a 4 week cycle with ascending intensity for 3 weeks followed by a 1 week deload.  Read the article to get a grasp of how it works.  I’ll also share one of my own spreadsheet templates so you can see how I set it up.
  • The reason you can continue to do this program for 5 straight months is that while the main lifts never change, you can switch out the assistance lifts every 1 or 2 cycles to keep it fresh.  You can see how I did it in my spreadsheet.

Energy Systems: Up to you!  Want to keep getting leaner?  Stick to what you were doing last cycle, or mix up the elements on different days.  Want to switch to a more strength/bulk focused system?  Back down on the energy systems.


There you have it – an entire year of programming.  While it’s not going to be as perfect-for-you as what you’d get from a customized program by Chad Waterbury or Eric Cressey (or me), it’s probably much better than what you’d get from a year with your local trainer.  You may thank me with gifts of cash.