Beginners! Use This 30-Day Workout Challenge to Get Fit

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Beginners! Use This 30-Day Workout Challenge to Get Fit
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Building habits can be tricky. After all, who among us hasn’t started off a week, year, or month with the best intentions of starting a daily meditation practice or running routine, only to fall quickly off the wagon when something interrupts us? What’s more, many of the 30-day workout challenges available online are overly ambitious, not well-balanced, or too rigid to work well. 

As a certified personal trainer, I often get questions about 30-day challenges. I’ll answer some of the most common in this article. I’ll also provide a simple but effective 30-day challenge for beginners who want to build sustainable fitness habits, and I’ll review what you can do once the challenge is over to keep you going.

What I want you to know about 30-day challenges is that they can work well, especially for beginners, to push you into establishing an exercise habit. But, they’re not ideal for helping you reach every health and fitness goal you have. I’ll explain why below. 

Do 30-Day Challenges Work?

While 30-day workout challenges can help you initiate healthy habits and work toward your goals, they’re not tailored to you specifically. They also leave you hanging once the challenge is done.

As a trainer, I see many people start these challenges with high motivation levels, only to lose focus and drive gradually. While I can spot this and counteract it with careful behavior change and motivational techniques now, earlier in my career, this wasn’t as easy because I had less experience. 

Now imagine the personal trainer (or worse, someone who isn’t a certified fitness expert) who designed the workout challenge. He, she, or they created a 30-day workout template for the masses — it may be for a certain “level” of fitness, but it doesn’t take into account where you’re starting from. Maybe you recently had a baby. Maybe you got injured and took many months off from exercise. Maybe you’ve never had a workout routine and this is your in.  

That’s why I don’t usually encourage people to try the average 30-day challenge they find online. Instead, I encourage individualized habit and skill building that works with a person’s temperament, lifestyle, and goals. 

But 30-day challenges certainly have their place. When designed correctly (such as by an experienced coach or trainer), they can significantly impact habit formation. And building internal (aka intrinsic) motivation lasts much longer than the month of the challenge. 

Can a 30-Day Challenge Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals?

For most fitness and body recomposition goals, more than 30 days are typically needed to achieve the best results. Depending on the nature of the challenge, you may see significant changes, but if you don’t continue to practice what you started it’s unlikely you’ll keep your results.

What’s more, fitness goals should not be static, but constantly shifting and adapting. For instance, if you start a 30-day push-up challenge, you may be able to do 100 push-ups by the end, but if you don’t keep push-ups in your workout routine consistently or you stop altogether, you’ll lose what you worked so hard for. Instead, it’s best to use challenges to instill sustainable habits that will last long after the 30 days are up.

As a note of warning: 30-day challenges that promise a lot of weight loss or dramatic body composition changes are likely too extreme and may even be detrimental to your health. It’s better to take your time and ensure the measures you take to achieve your goals will not be risky for your health and wellbeing. This means no super-intense daily cardio, no cutting out food groups, and no large calorie deficits or crash diets.

Our 30-Day Workout Challenge: What to Expect

In the 30-day workout challenge I’ve designed below, you’ll create sustainable habits and build on them throughout the challenge. Each week, you’ll take what you’ve accomplished and add to it, incorporating some new micro-habits or expanding on workouts and activities you did the week before.

Getting Started 

During week one, you’ll begin four weekly workouts that will hit each major muscle group twice per week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and sports science experts as a minimum. Each muscle group will have four sets per week, which is the minimum recommended by sports medicine experts.

Although this may seem like a lot if you haven’t been working out at all, to see results, it’s best to split your training over multiple days rather than try to address each body part on fewer days (for instance, two days per week). The higher frequency of training will also help you build a consistent habit of strength training.

During week one, you’ll also track your steps. Don’t worry about aiming for a certain number. This week is meant to help you figure out an average baseline of what you’re doing for the week. From here, we’ll add steps and build on your habits over the coming weeks.

Progressing Your Workouts and Habits

In the following weeks, you’ll still complete four weekly strength training workouts, but you can add more volume (sets and reps) to each training session based on your available time, energy, and goals. 

It’s vital to note that you may have a limited amount of time to devote to your workouts, and recovery is necessary to complete the workouts while still feeling good. This is especially true for beginners, as your body may need extra time to adapt to the consistent training stimulus. To ensure you don’t get hurt, burned out, or lose steam, it’s OK to customize the workout plan to suit your needs. I recommend focusing on one or two areas of your body that you want to improve first, then adding more muscle groups over time as you get more comfortable with a consistent workout routine.

If you want to use this challenge to build muscle, adding sets is a good idea, as long as you feel recovered. If you’re aiming to improve overall wellbeing and health, or lose weight, try adding more steps, mobility work, or some cardio to your active rest days. Tips are provided in the 30-day challenge outline below.

Upper Body Workouts

Beginners! Use This 30-Day Workout Challenge to Get Fit
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Upper body workouts work your chest, back, biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Choose two exercises for each of the following body parts; do one during upper body workout 1 and the other during upper body workout 2:






Lower Body Workouts

Beginners! Use This 30-Day Workout Challenge to Get Fit
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Lower body workouts target your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Due to how your lower body muscles work, you don’t need to do separate exercises for your glutes or calves since they’ll also work when you exercise your legs. Of course, in the future, you can isolate these muscles if you choose to, but for beginners, it’s unnecessary. Choose two exercises for each of the following body parts; do one during lower body workout 1 and the other during lower body workout 2:

Quadriceps (front of thighs)

Hamstrings (back of thighs)

Active Rest

Active rest days are essential — don’t skip them! You’ll need the days off from more intense training to recover. This doesn’t mean you’ll be sitting around catching up on Netflix. Incorporate other forms of movement that will increase blood flow, reduce stress, and keep the mojo of daily habit formation going each and every day.

For one or two of your active rest days, add a form of activity that’s more challenging, depending on your fitness level, such as a steady-state run, cycling, swimming, or a hike. For the other designated active rest days, choose something more soothing, such as gentle yoga, mobility work, a long walk (preferably in nature), or some house cleaning or gardening.

Feel free to switch around your workout days and active rest days to best fit your schedule.

Sunday Reflection

Beginners! Use This 30-Day Workout Challenge to Get Fit
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Each Sunday (or whichever is the final day of your week), reflect on the training and habits you’ve built. Write down your successes and note if anything isn’t working well for you, or any areas you want to work on. Maybe you need more mobility work to improve your range of motion. Note this and adjust your upcoming week to reflect these needs, such as doing mobility work on one of your active rest days.

You can also decide whether and by how much to increase the volume of your workouts or daily steps, or whether you want to add a day of steady-state cardio to your week. The idea of this challenge is to build gradually in a way that serves your individual goals and needs, adjusting and learning to get more in tune with what you like and do well with so you can stick to it. This is the path to seeing progress over time.

30-Day Workout Challenge

Week One


  • Upper body workout 1

  • Track daily steps


  • Lower body workout 1

  • Track daily steps


  • Active rest activity of choice

  • Track daily steps


  • Upper body workout 2

  • Track daily steps


  • Lower body workout 2

  • Track daily steps


  • Active rest activity of choice


  • Active rest activity of choice

  • 30-minute reflection

  • Track daily steps

Weeks Two to End of 30 Days

After week one, take a tally of your total daily steps and divide them by seven. Aim to add 1,000 to 2,000 steps daily, increasing weekly, if you’re recovering well. Try to beat last week’s total steps each week. If you already get a lot of steps (10–11K), you don’t have to keep adding to them. Just stick to a number that works for your schedule and allows you to recover well. 

Repeat the same workout schedule as last week, making any adjustments you decide to incorporate based on your reflections. While it’s best to stick to the same exercises for at least four weeks to improve them and see strength and muscle gains, you can switch up your upper and lower body exercises after the halfway mark if you’re bored or dislike any of the exercises you chose. 

What to Do When the Challenge Ends

After the challenge ends, spend some solid time evaluating how it worked for you by asking yourself these questions:

  • What did I accomplish in terms of strength or muscle gains?

  • How do I feel in terms of energy, confidence, wellbeing, etc.?

  • Has my mental health improved? For instance, less anxiety, more happiness?

  • Has my sleep improved due to increased activity?

  • Has my body composition or weight improved? For example, are clothes fitting better, do I look better in the mirror, have I reduced body fat percentage or reduced waist circumference, do I weigh less?

  • Is the volume of my workouts enough, or should I add more going forward? (Use this handy guide on sets and reps.)

  • What would I like to accomplish going forward?

  • Was there anything about the challenge I wanted to change or something that did not serve me well?

Go over your responses and decide what you want to do next. Let the experience and new habit formation guide you on your journey to sustainable fitness and health. And if you need a customized plan for what to do after this 30-day challenge, sign up for a free consultation with a certified personal trainer today.