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The Complete Fitness Workout Plan and Routine to shape up.

by Matthew Shaw

As you read this you are probably thinking “Oh great! Another article that promises a six pack in six weeks and you only have to work out for 5 minutes a day.”  This isn’t that kind of plan.  If you stick to it you will get results.  Getting a six-pack is another matter though.  Getting a flat stomach is one thing but to get a six-pack you have to get your body fat percentage to 15% or lower, or you won’t see your abs.  There are many good routines on this site and also people who can give you the advice you need.

I used to religiously buy all the magazines and follow the newest routines and never really got the results I wanted.  I was sorting my collection the other day and found that generally only a small portion of these magazines are devoted to exercise with the rest being adverts in one form or another.

I have been working out for 13 years now and tried many different routines.  When I left school I had stopped doing any cardio exercise, used to go out drinking at the weekend and took up a job where the day was spent sitting at a desk.  I was already overweight.  Bodybuilding became a big interest and I thought that if I ate more I would get bigger muscles.  The sandwich vans would come and I’d get egg or tuna sandwiches thinking they were healthy, without realizing that all the bread and mayonnaise were adding large amounts of fat and carbohydrates to the meal.  I started off taking weight gain powder as well and my weight shot up as I got fatter.  The only times that I lost weight were following bouts of illness.

The mistake that most people make is thinking that the time they spend in the gym is what gives you the body you want.  This is wrong.  What you do outside the gym is just as important.  How much you sleep, how much water you drink, and what you eat and when are all contributing factors.  When I first started weight training my friend and I would eat a few chocolate bars to give us energy and would then do our workout but all we were doing was burning off the energy from the sugar and carbs in the bars!

I changed jobs, joined a gym and decided to go for it 100%.  As a father I couldn’t go to the gym before or after work and that left a 30 minute lunch break.  “What can you do in 30 minutes?” you may ask. I decided on the following:

1)      I wouldn’t eat directly before my workout but after it.

2)      I would eat two healthy meals a day and one normal meal for dinner.

3)      I would get at least 8 hours of sleep a night.

4)      I would drink 8 glasses of ice cold water throughout the day at work.

5)      I would drink water between exercises at the gym.

6)      I would drink a cup of green tea once a day.

7)      At the gym I would not rest between sets only between exercises.

8)      I would look at cutting down the time taken to change exercises. 

9)      I would use strict form on the exercises.

1)      Looking at the lessons I have learnt over the years, if you eat directly before your workout this is what is giving you the energy to exercise, in my case it was a sugar rush when eating chocolate.

2)      If you want to lose body fat you need to be burning more calories than you are taking in.  Foods high in sugar or fat are higher in calories.  Foods that claim to be low in fat can still contain sugar and therefore lots of calories.  If you want to lose weight you need to start looking at the labels on what you buy, and checking the fat content/calories.  Or you could prepare your own food so you know what you’re eating. I decided that two of the meals I had during the day would be healthy and give my body what it needed.  Having read the advice on this site, I decided that I didn’t want foods that took a long time to prepare, I didn’t want them to be expensive and I only wanted to eat food that tasted good to me.  Most people new to dieting make this mistake, they go off the deep end and go from eating french-fries to eating salads and then get bored with bland food and start adding mayo and before you know it, your healthy intentions and putting the weight back on.  With regard to weight loss the most important thing you need is willpower.  You need to be able to resist that chocolate bar.  It’s a good idea to find healthier versions of the things you like and to also make gradual changes to your diet.  Your diet should be what you eat and enjoy eating and not a big list of things you crave but can’t have.  For example you like French fries, start having oven cooked fries, which are considerably lower in fat.  You could then move onto baked potatoes.  It’s important not to think “this baked potato is healthy, so I’m ok to load it up with butter and cheese.”  This is where it pays to research what is in your food and how healthy it is for you.  There are some good articles on this site regarding this.  I decided that I would have cheerios for the two meals with semi-skimmed milk and chopped fruit on top.  Cheerios contain iron, vitamins, whole grains and carbohydrates.  I find that mainly bran cereals tend to be a bit bland and go straight through you.  It’s important that you enjoy the food you eat, or you won’t stick to the diet. The fruit added extra taste and other vitamins etc.  A quick meal that is filling, low in fat and calories, quick to prepare and most importantly…tasty.

3)      Sleeping – most people have busy lives and the last thing you want to do after a long day at work is go bed early.  You do need to sleep though.  The body recharges when you’re asleep and it’s hard to fully concentrate on those exercises when you can barely keep you eyes open!

4)      Drinking – Most people don’t drink enough water.  Coffee and tea don’t count as they actually help to dehydrate your body.  Soft drinks are not much good as they can contain either caffeine or sugar.  You’re better off with water really.  If the water you drink is cold your body has to use calories to heat it to your body temperature which again can help a little with weight loss.  If you are dehydrated slightly this can effect your performance leaving you a little tired and sluggish.

5)      I decided that I would drink water between exercises – you lose water when you sweat.  It’s important to replenish the water you’re losing.  Don’t drink too much though, a load of water sloshing around inside you can make you vomit when exercising intensely, much the same as eating a large meal before exercising isn’t a great idea. 

6)      Drink green tea – green tea contains anti-oxidants which are good for you (more info on this site) and has also been shown to increase your metabolism aiding weight loss. 

7)      And 8) How do you work out in 30 minutes? The key is to establish what exercises you are going to do before you enter the gym.  I decided that 4 exercises at 3 sets would be sufficient for me followed by 2-3 exercises for abs.  The key to the program is to perform each exercise without long rests between sets.  This may mean dropping the weight on some exercises, whilst on others you can perform supersets to rest one body-part while you work another.  One example of this is the lat-pulldown.  I do one set for my back and straight away after this I decrease the weight and use a different grip to do seated pull-ups to work my biceps.  I then perform the next set of pull-downs etc.  This is a good way to make the most of a short workout.  Another way is using dumbbells.  Most body-parts can be exercised with dumbbells, making it easy to change between exercises, and if the gym has a dumbbell rack, it’s quick and easy to drop or up the weight.  Time saving is how you can effectively exercise in 30 minutes.

I exercised 3-4 times a week and some typical workouts follow:

Workout 1

1)      3 minutes warm-up, on seated arm cycle machine.  This machine is much like an exercise bike except the pedals are turned by your arms.

2)      Cable crossover – works the chest muscles (3 sets of 8 reps)

3)      Reverse tricep pushdown – this is a tricep pushdown with one arm using a “palm up” grip.  This is carried out on the cable crossover machine, as a superset of exercise 2. (3 sets of 8 reps each arm)

4)      Lat pull-down with a wide grip – works the upper back muscles (3 sets of 8 reps)

5)      Bicep pull-up on the lat pull-down machine – this is where the pull-down bar is used with a pull-up grip to work the biceps.  This exercise is carried out as superset with exercise 4. ( 3 sets of 8 reps)

6)      Ab twists with medicine ball –stand and hold your arms out straight in front of you holding the ball in your hands.  Then keeping your hips stationary slowly twist your body to the right.  If you don’t keep your hips stationary, you won’t get the full range of motion and won’t work your abs to the same degree.  Its important that you use strict form. Then return to the starting position and twist to the left before coming back the starting position. ( 2 sets of 20 twists)

7)      Swiss ball crunches.  Swiss balls are great in that your core muscles have to work to keep you steady throughout the exercise, in a way that is not possible when you lay on the floor and do it.  Remember to curl your body up as you do a crunch, if your body is kept straight you are probably working the lower back instead of your abs.  This is a common mistake that is made. (3 sets of 10 reps.  When you are starting out doing 30 sit ups in one go is not a good idea as again you will end up working your lower back as your body starts to tire).

Workout 2

a)     Shoulder press machine although you could do shoulder press with dumbbells.  Doing the exercise in a seated position prevents you from using your body to jerk the weight up, and also helps you to keep your back straight which helps to prevent injury. (4 sets of 8 repetitions)

b)     Bench press machine – again you could do this with dumbbells. I use the machine as it is quicker to alter the weight between sets.  I wouldn’t advise using a barbell if you are doing continuous sets, as if you go to failure you could get stuck with the bar on your chest and not be able to lift it off.  Also never bounce the weight off your chest, you could fracture your chest bone. The purpose of the workout is not to injure you.(4 sets of 8 repetitions).

c)       Seated bicep curl machine – although you could do this with dumbbells.  Again being seated prevents you from using your leg to knock the weight up.  Do the exercise in a slow manner on the upward movement as you don’t want to swing the weight up. (4 sets of eight repetitions)

d)      Dips – dips are quite an advanced exercise as you are using your body weight as the weight.  You could do dips between two benches if you are not strong enough to do them normally and switch to the other type when you are stronger.  Do you what works for you. (4 sets of eight repetitions)

e)       Leg raises – I do these on the dipping bar as a superset with exercise (d).  try to get your legs above the level of the groin to ensure the lower abs are worked. (4 sets of ten repetitions)

f)        Side bends – I do these holding two dumbbells and in a slow manner.  If your core muscles are strong it will help prevent injury.  If you try to lift a weight that is too heavy it will generally be your abs of lower back that will be damaged first so it pays to strengthen these muscles in your workout.  An injury in these areas can set you back a long way. (4 sets of ten repetitions, as you get stronger you could try 2 sets of twenty)

Workout three

a)      Upright Row – I do these with a barbell as I find that dumbbells are a bit awkward and the weight is further away from your body than with a barbell.  You could also do this exercise with a pulley or a smith machine.  The idea of the workout is to make use of whatever equipment is available.  I find that this exercise works the muscles in a better way than doing shrugs. (4 sets of 8 repetitions)

b)      Bent over row – I generally use a dumbbell for these as again is it quicker to change between weights and you get more range of motion than with a barbell.  Keep your back straight so as to prevent injury. (3 sets of eight repetitions)

c)       Good morning exercise – to do this I stand up straight grab a weight plate, clutch it to my chest and then bend forward at the waist to roughly parallel with the floor.  Keep your legs and back straight and do the exercise in a slow controlled manner, or your may injure your lower back.  As with all the exercises use strict form and perform the exercises in a controlled manner to prevent cheating. (3 sets of ten repetitions).

d)      Shoulder dumbbell front raise – using dumbbells is quicker with regards to changing weights.  Lift and lower the weight in a slow controlled manner.  Don’t swing the weight up or you won’t be working the muscle correctly.  (3 sets of ten repetitions)

e)      Shoulder dumbbell side raise – using dumbbells is quicker with regards to changing weights.  Lift and lower the weight in a slow controlled manner.  Don’t swing the weight up or you won’t be working the muscle correctly. (3 sets of ten repetitions) 

f)        Bent over shoulder dumbbell rear raise – sit on a bench with your knees together and then bend at the waist, keeping your back straight, so your chest is resting on your knees.  Then grasping the dumbbells slowly raise them to each side as far as you can then lower them back to the floor.  Again don’t swing the weight up. (3 sets of ten repetitions)

g)      Plank – an abdominal exercise, hold for 30 seconds or as long as is comfortable.

h)      Side plank – as above but works the obliques, hold for 30 seconds or as long as is comfortable.  Then repeat for the other side.

Workout four

      On leg day I do a lot of different exercises to fully work my legs.  Again you could do less exercises with more sets or what works best for you.

a)      Calf raise (on leg press machine) – some gyms have calf raise machines, others use a block of wood on the leg press machine, or a few large weight plates under the smith machines.  Make the most of whatever equipment is available, and start off using a light weight until you get the feel of the exercise.  Another way of doing this exercise is to on a set of stairs (on the bottom step) grasp a dumbbell in one hand, the banister in the other to support you then standing on the edge of the step, raise yourself up and down using just your calves.  You really need something to stand on so that you can fully stretch your calf.  (4 sets of ten repetitions).

b)      Leg press machine – or your could do squats, however if you do I would suggest starting with lower weights than you normally do as you won’t have time to rest between sets, and don’t want to get stuck in the squat position with a large weight on your shoulders.  (4 sets of 8 repetitions)

c)       Leg extension – try to lift and lower the weight in a controlled manner to avoid injuring the knee joint.  Also keep your back straight. (3 sets of eight) repetitions

d)      Leg curl – the machine at my gym is a seated leg curl although some gyms have them wear you lay on your front throughout the exercise.  You could do stiff legged deadlifts is neither of these machines are available at your gym.  Again use correct form and if doing deadlifts keep your back straight and remember to bend your legs when you first pick up the barbell and when you put it back on the floor.  (3 sets of 8 repetitions)

e)      Rear Leg Raise machine  - I do this as it works the glutes, and as I don’t do squats in this routine.  (2 sets of ten repetitions each leg)

f)        Hip abductor machine (inner) – this machine works the inner thigh (3 sets of ten repetitions)

g)      Hip abductor machine (outer) – this machine works the outer thigh (3 sets of 10 repetitions)

h)      Flags – with this exercise you lay on your back with your arms out to the sides to support your body.  Then raise your legs up as if you were doing a leg raise.  With your legs at 90 degrees to the floor, lower them to one side without touching the floor raise them back up.  Then lower them to the other side without touching the floor and raise them back up. Then lower them as if you were finishing your leg raise.  That is one repetition.  (one set of ten repetitions)


The above are my typical workouts although I do alter the order of the exercises on some workouts, depending on which machines are free at the time.  Also try to alter the ab exercises you do each workout.  They will respond better this way.  The 30 minute workout doesn’t allow for standing around waiting, so you should do another exercise on the list if the apparatus you need is being used by someone else.  Typically though, the gym isn’t too busy first thing in the morning or at lunchtime, so these are ideal times to go.  The workout may take a lot longer in the evening when the gym is full, but its really down to personal preference so go at the time that suits you.  Don’t feel you have to do these exercises though.  The exercises that work for one person may not work for another, so alter the program to suit you.  The above are a list of what I do.

The workout is fairly intense and as such is a cardio workout in some respects.  If you can also use the cardio workouts on this site you will drop weight faster.  I’ve been doing this workout for two months and have seen a notable difference with my body.  I would have lost body-fat more quickly if I also did cardio work as well, but the workout is catered to suit the time I have available.  At the weekends I still stick to the eating plan even though I’m not working out.  Try and not get in the habit of blowing all your hard work at the weekend by eating lots of junk food and drinking a lot of alcohol.  That doesn’t mean you have live like a monk and stay home on a Saturday night though!  Moderation is the key as having 3-4 drinks is better than having 10-12.  That’s where the willpower comes into it.  As I have said earlier you could be doing all the right things in the gym but not seeing the changes in your body that you want because of the choices you are making outside the gym with regard to diet etc.

With regard to the meal that I have in the evening, its generally traditional home cooked meals that I have.  I allow myself one or two meals a week that are takeaways as I feel that having the odd treat makes it easier to stick to the eating plan.  That is the odd treat though.  The other meals are things like salad with boiled potatoes and quiche, or spaghetti Bolognese, or boiled vegetables with a meat pie.  I have found that I cant eat large portions though, and if you cant move after the meal you have eaten too much!  Again moderation is the key, just because the one meal a day has all your favorites you shouldn’t have a mountainous portion.

With regard to progress, let the mirror be your guide rather than the scales.  If you have access to a body fat percentage measuring device, this will give a more accurate guide to what your body-fat percentage is.  If this isn’t low enough, say below 15% you’ll never see your abs no matter how many crunches you do.  This is a mistake people make, they think doing sit-ups alone gives you a six pack.  If you don’t lose the body fat the abs will grow, but push out what fat you have making you even look fatter around the stomach! Again if you aren’t doing them properly you would be working your lower back instead of your abs.

I found that after two months, my waist size had gone down two inches and I could fit in trousers I haven’t been able to wear for two years.  When I stepped on a set of scales though my weight was exactly the same as when I started the program.  This can be dis-heartening for people on weight loss plans, as after a certain point your weight loss appears to slow down, as you are losing fat and putting on muscle.  That is why the mirror gives a better indication of your progress.

The program is quite intense, but then it’s making the most of the time available.  I look at it this way, if a guy runs half a mile and another guy walks the half mile, who has used the most energy? They have both covered the same distance, except the guy who ran did it quicker and used more energy doing it.  If you use more calories than you take in you will lose weight – it’s that simple.  Adding more protein to your diet will help with muscle growth but again it depends on your goals and looking at what calories you’re consuming.  There are many good supplements available through this site that can aid with increasing muscle size, weight loss, or speeding up the recuperation process.  It really is down to your personal goals.  This routine may not give you the body of a Mr. Universe, but it does go to show that even if you only have a small amount of time available you can still have a productive workout.

What can you do in 30 minutes? Try the above and see how you get on.

Best of luck with your goals

Matthew Shaw













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