Five of the best free workout plans for beginners

Working out at home
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Fitness isn’t easy, and certainly not when you’re just starting out, and it's helpful to have some guidance in the early stages of your fitness journey. There are a plethora of online resources available for you, whether you want to start running, lifting weights, doing yoga, or just working out at home for 10 minutes a day.

If you want to hit your activity goal on your best fitness tracker or close your Movement ring on your best Apple Watch, we have done the boring work of going through these and shortlisting five of the best free workout plans especially targeted at beginners. 

Whether you’re looking to get into running, familiarize yourself with weight training, or explore yoga, we have an excellent compilation ready for you.  

Home workout

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1. The best home workout plan for beginners

If you’re so new to working out that you’ve never done a squat in your life, MadFit is a good starting point. MadFit is a fitness YouTube channel featuring content aimed at beginner exercisers who are looking to do a little bit of everything. If you don’t know what to start with or wish to explore different kinds of workouts, this channel's follow-along content plans are a good place to start, as it can all be done in your front room.

According to founder, Canadian fitness blogger Maddie Lymburner, the goal of the channel is to “help inspire everyone at all fitness levels to get up, get moving and reach their goals”. 

The channel features playlists such as upper-body, lower-body, or full-body workouts. There is also a dedicated category for no-equipment and structured monthly beginner workout plans for folks who are just starting out as well as dumbbell-only workouts for people looking to level up. 

Lastly, but crucially, MadFit also features guided warmups and cooldowns, which a lot of competitor channels don't bother with. It's a good idea to get into the habit of doing these in order to continue your fitness journey safely. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a warmup gradually revs up your cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles, hence, warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury. Similarly, cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure.”

Man running on roads

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2. The best workout plan for beginner runners

Couch to 5K aims to get you to run 5km, or 30 minutes, in just nine weeks. Developed by Josh Clark, it’s aimed at absolute beginners and consists of three runs a week. The ultimate aim is to advance your running capacity from 5K to 10K, half marathons, marathons, and eventually, ultra-marathons.

The way Couch to 5K works is because it alternates running with walking and works on gradually building your stamina over the weeks. There’s a different schedule for each week. For example, the first week of the plan involves running for a minute at a time, in between walking intervals.

All you have to do is put on the free-of-cost Couch to 5K podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music or download the app and get a pair of decent running shoes. The podcasts feature a narrator who guides you through the session and tells you when to run and when to walk. The podcasts also feature music to keep you entertained and motivated. 

Research says that running can “reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.” If this isn’t motivating enough to get up and start running, what is? 

Woman doing a barbell squat

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The best workout plan for beginner weightlifters

More people ought to lift weights. It develops strength, flexibility, endurance, and muscle. It decreases your cholesterol as well as keeping your blood pressure and stress levels in check. It also improves your glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and bone density. Compound lifts (deadlifts, overhead presses and so on) build muscle, spike your metabolism and provide a temporary increase in hormone production.

If you’re new to the world of weightlifting, the Stronglifts 5x5 workout plan is ideal for you. It’s a strength and muscle-building program that has gained popularity due to how easy, time-efficient, and effective it is. 

The program requires you to do workouts such as the squat, bench, and deadlift for five sets of five reps. The aim is to gradually increase the weight to build endurance and strength over time. 

Under the 5x5, you work out three times a week with at least one rest day in between. To get started, download their iOS or Android app. You can also just sign up for their daily email tips to get detailed spreadsheets on your workouts.  

Man and woman at home stretching on yoga mats

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The best workout plan for beginner yogis

My personal favorite. Yoga with Adriene is a YouTube channel that features videos for yogis of all levels. Her videos are very easy to follow, and she makes sure to provide alternatives for the poses that some folks might have difficulty doing. Not only does she offer incredible leniency within the practice, but she also comes up with great alternatives for the equipment required for the practice, such as yoga blocks. All in all, if you’re just starting out as a yogi, you’re going to feel extremely comfortable in the hands of Adriene. 

The best way to get started with Yoga with Adriene is with one of her 30-day programs, or 'journeys'. With one video for each day, these help you stay consistent while making sure you’ve got a prescribed plan to follow. 

Each of these journeys has a different focus.  Center, for instance, focuses on whole-body strengthening with core-centered practices, while Breath is centered on, you guessed it, conscious breathing. Just pick an area that resonates with you and get started! 

Senior exercising

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The best workout plan for seniors

It’s very important for seniors to make sure they’re not living sedentary lifestyles. Mobility is extremely important for your joints to stay functional and healthy. The National Institute on Aging, or NIA, is one of the most comprehensive resources for seniors. 

It offers tons of free fitness-related information on everything an older adult could possibly be curious about. There’s an embedded link that takes you to their YouTube playlist on exercises for older adults as well as helpful info on the benefits of working out, tips to stay motivated, learning how to prevent falls, and so on. There are also tracker tools designed to keep seniors on track with their practice. These include activity plans and exercise logs among other tools. 

The YouTube playlist features comprehensive workout and flexibility videos lasting anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, along with deep dives focusing on improving performance and maintaining strength in one specific area. For instance, there are videos on ankle stretching, strengthening hand grip, and improving balance

Dua is a freelance technology writer who's contributed to TechRadar, PCMag and ScreenRant. She's been a technology fan since she was young, and used to pore over the latest product reviews. When not playing with or researching some new piece of tech, you might find her reading, working out or playing the ukelele.