Everything You Need To Know To Create Your Own Killer Workouts

Nothing is worse than getting yourself up and out to the gym only to arrive with no idea of what you're actually going to do.

If you're not signed up for a class, it can be hard to put together your own workout. Do you want to focus on a specific body part? Do you want to do cardio? Total body? HIIT?

A lot of people are overwhelmed by the idea of working out with no structure - no instructor telling them what to do. But it really isn't that difficult to come up with your own killer workout.

Knowing some general workout formats can be a big game changer - once you have some go-tos in your back pocket, it's easy to mix and match exercises and plug them into the formula.

Once you pick the workout format, you can populate it with exercises for a certain muscle group, total body, body-weight exercises or weighted exercises. You can gear the workout towards a certain piece of equipment, like the TRX straps or kettlebells.

This summary of some standard workout formats is the first step to self-reliance at the gym. No more depending on class schedules or suffering through dull instructors. No more feeling overwhelmed when you aren't taking a class. You can get in a sweaty workout all on your own, I promise.

Make Your Own Workouts

Simple Rep-Based Circuit 

Pick 4 Exercises
Pick a Number of Reps
Repeat 4 Times Through

A simple circuit is what I usually use for strength training a certain muscle group. Because it's based on reps, I like to use weighted exercises. Depending on the number of reps you decide on, make sure you keep the weight challenging - you should justttt be able to finish the reps with proper form - it shouldn't be easy! 

Example of a Shoulder Circuit

10 Reps Dumbbell Shoulder Press
10 Reps Front Plate Raise
10 Reps Lateral Dumbbell Raises
10 Reps Front Plate Pull

Repeat 4X 

Example of a Leg Circuit 

12 Reps Side Lunges with Dumbbell
12 Reps Sumo Squat and Press with Kettlebell
12 Reps Jump Squats
12 Reps Glute Bridges with Plate

Repat 4X

Simple Workout Circuit Format

Simple Time-Based Circuit 

Pick 4 Exercises
ick a Length of Time To Perform Each Exercise
Repeat 4 Times Through

While I tend to use a simple circuit for strength-training, there's no saying you can't throw together a timed circuit as well - this is a great option to get in some quick cardio using body-weight exercises if you don't feel like using the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike. 

Example of a Cardio Focused Timed Circuit 

:30 High Knees
:30 Butt Kicks
:30 Mountain Climbers
:30 Burpees

Repeat 4X

You can always challenge yourself to repeat the circuit more than 4 times if you're up for it! OR string together a few different circuit. You might do a cardio timed circuit in combination with a shoulder simple circuit and a tricep simple circuit to incorporate more muscle groups into your workout. 

Tip: When you're strength training, try to pair chest exercises with tricep exercises and back exercises with bicep exercises! 


Choose 1 Exercise
Perform the Exercise Hard for :20
Rest for :10
Repeat 8 Times

Tabata workouts don't sound too difficult on paper, but I promise they'll get your heart rate up! They're a way to create a High Intensity Interval Training workout - otherwise known as HIIT! 

While 1 in the tabata format takes 4 minutes and ensures sweat - you can also string together a few different exercises, completing each as a tabata, to create a killer workout. Again, you can choose to do this based on a specific body part or total body depending on what exercises you choose.

Tabata workouts tend to work best with little to no equipment - body weight exercises are best! Pick 5 different exercises and you've got yourself a super-sweaty 20 minute HIIT workout. 

Tabata Exercise Format

Example of an Ab-Focused Tabata Workout: 

Exercise 1: Plank Ups 
Complete :20 on, :10 rest 8X Through (4 Minutes Total)

Exercise 2: Russian Twists (Weighted or Unweighted) 
Complete :20 on, :10 rest 8X Through (4 Minutes Total)

Exercise 3: Diamond Sit Ups
Complete :20 on, :10 rest 8X Through (4 Minutes Total)

Exercise 4: Leg Lowers
Complete :20 on, :10 rest 8X Through (4 Minutes Total)

Exercise 5: Mountain Climbers
Complete :20 on, :10 rest 8X Through (4 Minutes Total)


Pick Around 5 Exercises
Assign Reps To Each Exercise
Choose a Total Workout Time
Complete As Many Rounds of the Exercises As Possible in the  Designated Total WorkoutTime

I'll be honest, this isn't one of my favorite formats - but it is super effective and great if you're looking for a benchmark workout that you can use to track your progress in the gym. 

AMRAP workouts are used in Metabolic Conditioning training (MetCon). It's basically a way to get in your cardio quickly by going reallllly hard for a short period of time. It's high intensity all the way through, but it's over fairly quickly! A typical length of time for an AMRAP is anywhere from 10-20 minutes. 

How To Create an AMRAP Workout


Example of a Total Body AMRAP 

10 Burpees
10 Push-Ups
20 Sit Ups
20 Mountain Climbers
Complete the Above Circuit As Many Times Through As Possible in 16 Minutes

You can also complete an AMRAP workout by choosing just 1 exercise and completing as many repetitions as possible in a given period of time. 

Example of a 1 Exercise AMRAP 

Complete As  Many Burpees As Possible In 10 Minutes

Using the same AMRAP routine once a week and tracking how many rounds or reps you're able to finish in the given period of time is a great way to measure progress. AMRAPs are also nice because they allow you to rest as necessary. 


Choose 3-4 Exercises
Set A Number of Reps Per Exercise
Pick A Total Length of Time
Start a New Round of The Series of Exercises At The Top Of Every Minute For the Designated Length of Time

This one's a little harder to explain as a specific formula, but it's quickly become one of my all-time favorite workout formats! It's very popular in the world of crossfit, but I promise it's not that intimidating once you get the hang of it! 

To put together an EMOM workout, choose 3 or 4 exercises with a set number of reps and completing each mini-circuit one time through within 60 seconds. The trick is, you need to start over at the top of each new minute. So if you manage to finish in :45, you've earned yourself :15 before starting from the top. If you finish in :55, you'll only have 5 seconds to rest!

It's up to you to decide how many minutes you'd like to do an EMOM workout for, but for ones where I'm repeating a mini-circuit, I tend to go for 10 minutes. It's hard! 

EMOM Workout Format

Example of Total Body EMOM

For 10 Minutes:

8 Medicine Ball Slams
6 Burpees
4 Diamond Sit-Ups

Complete all three exercises in succession at the top of every minute for 10 minutes.

Make sure you're challenging yourself. You shouldn't be finishing the exercises within :30 circuits. If you find that's the case, up the number of reps or add another exercise to the succession. 

Pyramid Workout 

Increasing Weight, Length of Time or Reps Per Exercise
Followed by Decreasing Weight, Length of Time or Reps Per Exercise

There are a ton of different ways to put together a "pyramid" workout that can work for either HIIT or strength/weight training. 

For strength/weight training, you work your way up the pyramid by raising the weight while lowering the number of reps you're performing. 

Pyramid Workout


Example of a Bicep Curl Pyramid

Round 1: 15 Reps With 5 lb dumbbells
Round 2: 12 Reps With 7.5 lb dumbbells
Round 3: 10 Reps with 10 lb dumbbells
Round 4: 8 Reps with 12.5 lb dumbbells
Round 5: 6 Reps with 15 lb dumbbells
Round 6: 4 Reps with 20 lb dumbbells

You can also set up a pyramid workout by performing bodyweight (or weighted) exercises for increasing, and then decreasing, lengths of time. 

Example of a Timed Pyramid 

:15 Rest Between Each Set

Set 1 :10 Squats
Set 2 :20 Squats
Set 3 :30 Squats
Set 4 :40 Squats
Set 5 :30 Squats
Set 6 :20 Squats
Set 7 :10 Squats

Yet another option is to make up your pyramid workout with an assortment of exercises. 

Example of Multi-Exercise Pyramid 

55 Jumps Lunges
45 In & Out Crunches
35 Push-Ups
25 Star Jumps
15 Burpees
15 Burpees
25 Star Jumps
35 Push-Ups
45 In & Out Crunches
55 Jump Lunges

You can either rest as necessary, or for :15 in between each exercise. 


Decreasing The Length of Time or Number of Reps for Each Exercise Every Round

Unlike a pyramid workout, a ladder workout just goes in one direction. You can either work up the ladder or down the ladder. It's up to you how many different exercises you choose to include in your ladder. 

Ladder Workout How To


Example of an Upper Body Ladder

10 Dips
10 Push-Ups
10 Plank Shoulder Taps
10 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

9 Dips
9 Push-Ups
9 Plank Shoulder Taps
9 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

8 Dips
8 Push-Ups
8 Plank Shoulder Taps
8 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

7 Dips
7 Push-Ups
7 Plank Shoulder Taps
7 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

6 Dips
6 Push-Ups
6 Plank Shoulder Taps
6 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

5 Dips
5 Push-Ups
5 Plank Shoulder Taps
5 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

4 Dips
4 Push-Ups
4 Plank Shoulder Taps
4 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

3 Dips
3 Push-Ups
3 Plank Shoulder Taps
3 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

2 Dips
2 Push-Ups
2 Plank Shoulder Taps
2 Inch Worms

:15 Rest

1 Dip
1 Push-Up
1 Plank Shoulder Tap
1 Inch Worm

You can also do a ladder workout based on time. 

Example of a Time-Based Lower Body Ladder 

:60 Squats
:60 Left Leg Lunges
:60 Right Leg Lunches
:60 Glute Bridges

:30 Rest

:50 Squats
:50 Left Leg Lunges
:50 Right leg Lunges
:50 Glute Bridges

:30 Rest

:30 Squats
:30 Left Leg Lunges
:30 Right Leg Lunges
:30 Glute Bridges

:15 Rest 

:20 Squats
:20 Left Leg Lunges
:20 Right Leg Lunges
:20 Glute Bridges

:15 Rest 

:10 Squats
:10 Left Leg Lunges
:10 Right Leg Lunges
:10 Glute Bridges

Deck of Cards Workout 

Assign An Exercise to Each Suit
Go Through The Deck, Performing Each Exercise For the Amount of Reps Specific By The Card Number
(Jacks = 11 Reps, Queens = 12 Reps, Kings = 13 Reps and Aces = 15 Reps) 

This is such a great workout format, and one that I continually use when I'm feeling uninspired. It's so easy to cater a deck of cards workout to a specific body part, though abs is one of my favorite body parts to target with this format. 

This keeps you moving and the time flies by! 

Deck Of Cards Workout


Example of an Abs Deck of Cards Workout 

Diamonds: Diamond Sit-Ups
Hearts: Bicycle Crunches
Spades: Toe Touches
Clubs: Leg Lowers
Jokers: :30 Plank

Say you pull an Ace of Spades: Perform 15 Toe Touches
If you pull a 7 of Hearts: Perform 7 Diamond Sit Ups

Go through the deck until you've completed all 52 cards. 

*In case you're wondering, you'll perform each exercise a total of 106 times!

 *There's also an app you can download so that you don't need to use an actual deck of cards! 

Happy workout creating! Let me know your favorite workout format - I'm always looking for a way to mix things up and keep things interesting at the gym. There's nothing worse than a workout that is boring!