A 7-day plan for all levels

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Courtney Black cemented herself a cult-like following during lockdown when tens of thousands of people tuned in to her daily home workouts, but the PT also knows her stuff when it comes to gym workouts. Combined, you’ll find an impressive 2000+ (all filmed in real-time) on the Courtney Black Fitness App, and for the four out of five of you who said (in a Fitness First study) you’d missed the gym during lockdown but were struggling to find your feet with the endless equipment after using nothing more than a yoga mat and pair of dumbbells, we’ve recruited her to put together a full 7-day gym workout plan.

Because we know how overwhelming all those gym machines can be, Courtney’s plan uses just a barbell, weight plates, dumbbells, a kettlebell and a bench.

‘Free weights like these activate more muscle mass than most machines and work your muscles harder, as they encourage you to think about the positioning and movement of your entire body, rather than just one area. They also allow you to incorporate more than one movement in each exercise, therefore activating more than one muscle, like doing a bicep curl with dumbbells while lunging,’ Courtney says.

‘Gym workouts are also ideal for improving your technique, since most have big mirrors on the walls, and you can always ask the staff for help.’

The convenience of using free weights at the gym is also a big plus. According to reports, people are hitting the gym more frequently now than they were pre-pandemic, meaning you’re more likely to have to endure the dreaded machine queues. Set up your own station with Courtney’s prescribed kit and you’re good to go.

Courtney has created three exclusive workouts for you and advises on LISS/active recovery/rest on non-workout days. The workouts are for all levels, with plenty of progression and regression options available.

So, without further ado, let Courtney coach you through the next week and help you get the most out of your gym workouts.

The schedule

Your workout week is comprised of three workouts:

  • Full-body and core workout
  • Lower-body workout
  • Upper-body workout

    Each workout includes a warm-up and cool-down, and lasts just 15-20 mins each.

    On non-workout days, you’ll be doing either LISS (low-intensity steady-state cardio) on a treadmill – a 30-45 minute incline walk, an active rest day – a 30-60 min outdoor walk, a treadmill sprint session (more details below) or a complete rest day.

    ‘I’ve structured my plan like this to ensure specific body parts are targeted within each of my workouts, then bolstering the results with treadmill walks, outdoor walks and sprints, all of which boost metabolism and fat burn,’ Courtney says.

    How to do treadmill sprints:

    • 10 mins low-intensity incline walk
    • 30 secs full-intensity sprint, 45 secs light jog x 10

      courtney black gym workout plan

      As mentioned, Courtney’s plan can be scaled to suit every level. Here’s how.

      How to make the plan easier

      • Double up on the prescribed rest periods (for example, on workout 1, take 1 min rest instead of 30 secs)
      • Take an extra rest day (and skip the treadmill sprints)
      • Perform the workouts as bodyweight where necessary (these can then be done at home, for days when you’re not feeling the gym)

        How to make the plan harder

        • Add a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees, to lower body moves such as a squat, hip thrust or Romanian deadlift to increase intensity
        • Perform two sets of each exercise to double the length of the workout
        • Add pause and pulse reps. For example, with a goblet squat, add two pulses at the bottom of the squat to increase intensity

          Equipment you’ll need

          For all free weights, choose a weight that’s challenging, but that you’ll be able to complete the whole workout with. Weight plate recommendation: 5-10kg. Dumbbell recommendation: 4-8kg. Kettlebell recommendation: 6-12kg.

          For workout 1:

          • 1x weight plate
          • 1x pair of dumbbells
          • 1x bench

            For workout 2:

            • 1x kettlebell
            • 1x weight plate
            • 1x pair of dumbbells
            • 1x barbell (15 or 20kg, depending on availability of equipment and/or your fitness level)
            • 1x bench

              For workout 3:

              • 1x barbell
              • 1x bench
              • 1x pair of dumbbells

                Optional to increase intensity: resistance band

                Workout 1: Full-body and core

                The formula: 2-min warm-up + 1 round of the workout (45 secs on, 15 secs rest per exercise) + 2 min 30 sec cool-down.

                Warm-up:

                • Jog on spot, 30 secs
                • Walk-outs, 30 secs
                • Squat to stand, 30 secs

                  Workout:

                  Perform the following exercises once through, for 45 secs, with 15 secs rest between each exercise

                  • Thrusters
                  • Deadlifts with bent-over row
                  • Devil press
                  • Single-arm reverse lunge with shoulder press (left)
                  • Single-arm reverse lunge with shoulder press (right)
                  • Weight plate squat with halos
                  • Bulgarian split squat, using bench (left)
                  • Bulgarian split squat, using bench (right)
                  • Renegade rows
                  • Plank
                  • Chest press to sit-ups
                  • Leg raises
                  • Single-arm thruster with windmill (left)
                  • Single-arm thruster with windmill (right)

                    Cool-down:

                    • Lizard lunge with rotation, 30 secs
                    • Hamstring stretch (left), 30 secs
                    • Hamstring stretch (right), 30 secs
                    • Lower back rotation (left), 30 secs
                    • Lower back rotation (right), 30 secs

                      Workout 2: Lower-body

                      The formula: 2-min warm-up + 1 round of circuit 1 (1 min on, 30 secs rest per exercise) + 1 round of circuit 2 (20 secs on, 5 secs rest per exercise) + 3 min cool-down.

                      Warm-up:

                      • Lizard lunge rocks, 30 secs
                      • Deep squat, 30 secs
                      • Squat to stand, 30 secs
                      • Lateral lunges, 30 secs

                        Workout:

                        Circuit 1:

                        Perform each of the following exercises once through for 1 min each, with 30 secs rest between each exercise.

                        • Goblet squats
                        • Romanian deadlifts (barbell)
                        • Dumbbell hip thrusts
                        • Bulgarian split squat with pulse (left)
                        • Bulgarian split squat with pulse (right)
                        • Kettlebell swings
                        • Deficit lunge (using weight plate and dumbbells) with knee drive (alternating)
                        • Lateral lunge/sumo squat combination
                        • Dumbbell squat to swings
                        • Dumbbell hip thrust with three pulses

                          Circuit 2:

                          Perform each of the following exercises once through for 20 secs each, with 5 secs rest between each exercise.

                          • Squat jumps
                          • Jump lunges
                          • Squat jumps with heel clicks
                          • Skater lunges
                          • Reverse lunge with kick (left)
                          • Reverse lunge with kick (right)

                            Cool-down:

                            • Pigeon pose, 30 secs (left)
                            • Pigeon pose, 30 secs (right)
                            • Lying figure four, 30 secs (left)
                            • Lying figure four, 30 secs (right)
                            • Standing hamstring stretch, 30 secs (left)
                            • Standing hamstring stretch, 30 secs (right)

                              Workout 3: Upper-body

                              The formula: 2-min warm-up + 1 round of circuit 1 (1 min on, 30 secs rest per exercise) + 1 round of circuit 2 (20 secs on, 5 secs rest per exercise) + 2 min cool-down.

                              Warm-up:

                              • Arm circles, 30 secs
                              • Walk-outs, 30 secs
                              • Upward-facing dog to downward-facing dog, 30 secs
                              • Wall ball slams, 30 secs

                                Workout:

                                Circuit 1:

                                Perform each of the following exercises once through for 1 min each, with 30 secs rest between each exercise.

                                • Press-ups
                                • Bicep curl to shoulder press (with dumbbells)
                                • Barbell bent-over rows
                                • Bench incline chest press with a pulse
                                • Bench narrow chest press into chest flys
                                • Renegade rows with narrow press-ups
                                • Lateral raises with hammer curl
                                • Dumbbell bent-over rows (alternating)
                                • Seated dumbbell overhead tricep extensions
                                • Walk-outs with press-ups

                                  Circuit 2:

                                  Perform each of the following exercises once through for 20 secs each, with 5 secs rest between each exercise.

                                  • Burpees
                                  • Mountain climbers
                                  • Woodchops
                                  • Star jumps
                                  • Burpee mountain climbers
                                  • Scissor lunges with punches

                                    Cool-down:

                                    • Cobra stretch, 30 secs
                                    • Lower back stretch, 30 secs
                                    • Thread-the-needle stretch, 30 secs (left)
                                    • Thread-the-needle stretch, 30 secs (right)

                                      What is LISS?

                                      On day two, Courtney recommends LISS. This stands for low-intensity steady-state exercise, and Courtney advises a 30-45 minute incline walk on a treadmill. Choose an incline that works for you – something that will get your heart rate up, but won’t be so challenging that you won’t be able to last the full duration.

                                      Walking not for you? Check out our full LISS guide for other options.

                                      What is active rest?

                                      Courtney has also prescribed an ‘active rest’ day on day four. She recommends a 30-60 minute outdoor walk at a ‘light intensity’. The idea with active rest is that, rather than taking total rest, you’re still encouraging blood flow to your muscles, which provides them with oxygen and other nutrients to assist in muscle repair and preventing fatigue.

                                      Bookmark our guide on active recovery for more ideas on how to spend your active rest days.

                                      What is HIIT?

                                      As you probably all know, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT workouts are a proven way to burn fat and boost metabolism, and it’s for this reason that Courtney incorporates one within day six of her plan. Here, she recommends a HIIT sprint session on a treadmill. The formula: 10 minutes of a low-intensity incline walk + 30 secs full-intensity sprint, 45 secs light jog x 10.

                                      What can I do once I’ve finished the 7-day gym workout plan with Courtney Black?

                                      ‘Continue with the same structure,’ Courtney says. ‘But try doing the workouts twice through as a form of progressive overload – the only way you’ll get fitter and stronger over time. Once you’re confident with gym workouts, you could try adding or swapping out some exercises for your own, to make sure they stay interesting, but make sure that you replace any of my exercises with ones that target the same muscle groups.’

                                      Read our guide on workout splits to discover why dedicating workouts to specific muscle groups could help you.