“Morning Starter” Exercise Program

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series Training Programs

This article outlines a morning exercise program that you can customize. It’s something you can do while the coffee or tea is brewing to improve general fitness, energize yourself for the day, and maximize calorie burn.

Originally published 2006

Morning exercise is a great way to burn calories and maintain general fitness. After a night of sleeping, your body has no choice but to burn fat for energy, so morning exercise is a good way to stay slim. And if you do just the right amount of exercise (the amount that’s right for you — not too much, and not too little), you energize yourself for the day.

Another advantage of a morning program is that it’s time-efficient. Instead of driving to a gym, changing clothes, exercising, showering, changing clothes, and driving home, you just get up, do some exercises, and hop in the shower. Time saved: Enormous.

The Morning Program

It will take some experimenting to find the right amount of exercise, of course. The best way to do that is to start with a small number of exercises, doing the easy variations. As long as you’re feeling good, add additional exercises day by day, choosing harder variations. (You’ll do that naturally. If you don’t feel like doing more today, then you did too much yesterday. Back off.)

When there comes a day that you feel fatigued after exercising, rather than energized, take a day or two of rest, then back off the exercises when you resume, slowing building back up to the point you were before (and going beyond it, in all liklihood). The same goes if you feel too fatigued to exercise. It’s a sign that you’re doing too much. Back off!

A Possible Program

One possible set of exercises is shown in the table below. They were chosen to build strength, burn calories, and work all of the muscles you need to exercise for general fitness. Choose your level according to your level of fitness and the amount of time you have available. Add exercises and adjust the sequence in any way that works for you:

Level 1
Level 2Level 3Level 4Level 5
Good Morning
Ab Curl
Traps & Lats
Overhead Press

Oblique Twist
Oblique Shift

Kicks & Calves
Calf Raise
Delts & Wrists
Delt Raise

Exercise Variations

There are multiple ways to do most of the exercises. In the descriptions below, the easiest methods are shown first. Choose the method that gives you a decent morning workout — not too hard, not to easy. Vary your choices depending on how you feel. If a muscle is strong and you’re energetic, choose a harder variation. If a muscle feels sore, choose an easier variation.

For a more intense workout for a given muscle, do multiple variations, starting with the easier ones. (For example, I generally do both variations of the Oblique Twist exercise below.)

When adding weight, choose an amount that lets you do 15-20 reps. The idea is to burn calories, exercising the muscle in a way that lets you recover in less than 24 hours, so you’re ready to do it again the next day. (Using more weight builds muscle, but it requires additional days for recovery, and it isn’t as good as daily exercise for raising your fat-burning metabolism.)


  • Standard Squat: Arms forward as you go down, until tops of thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • One-Leg Squat (do variation #1, then move to #2 as you build towards the “pistol”):
    1. Slide one foot forward, keeping it flat on the ground. Squat on the other.
    2. Slide one foot forward, resting on the heel. Work to lift it off the ground as you come up.
  • Pistol: Hold one leg in the air as you squat with the other, both arms out in front for balance.
  • Plyometric: Drop down and come back up as fast as you can. (Start by learning to drop.)
  • Weighted: Hold weights while you squat. (Kettlebell is great for the pistol.)

Good Morning

Keep a straight back as you do these exercises. Never bend your back when doing these (or when lifting things, for that matter.) Instead, fold your upper body forward at the hips. Go only as far as you can go without bending your back. When your back starts to bend, that establishes your range of motion. It will increase over time as you do these exercises, but know that feeling. That’s as far as you can safely go to lift something without bending your legs. (If you need to go any lower than that, then bend your legs — but keep your back straight as you lift! It is entirely possible to use your legs and still bend your back, which raises the potential for injury.)

  • Standard: Fingers touch head behind ears.
  • Weighted: (i.e. deadlift) Hold a pair of dumbells.
    Shrug your shoulders at the top of the move, rotating them backwards.

Ab Curl

Lie o n your back, legs bent, feet flat on the floor.

  • Arms at sides
  • Arms across chest
  • Fingertips on forehead
  • Fingertips behind ears
  • Weighted: Hold a weight on your chest.


  • Knee pushups: Puts very little weight on your arms. Everyone can do these.
  • Standard: Feet spread shoulder width apart for balance.
  • Ankles Crossed: Arms and shoulders work a little harder to stabilize the body.
  • One armed: Mostly a balance move.

Overhead Press

  • Dumbells: One side, then other side (quadratus lumborum & lats), then both (trapezius).
  • Inverted Dips: Do a handstand against a wall, dip down and back up.


  • Feet on chair: Reduces weight significantly
  • Normal: If you can do 10 or 20 of these, you’re in great shape, with a terrific body-weight to muscle-mass ratio. (That’s what it’s all about.)

Oblique Twist

These exercises and the ones that follow come from the ___ video, in which martial artist _____ jumped into the program long enough to demonstrate the exercises he uses to build speed and power in the all important abdominal obliques. They’re terrific.

  • Center-side: Horse-riding stance, shifting to front stance first on side, then the other.
  • Side-side: Front stance on one side to front stance on the other side.

Oblique Shift

  • Straight Shift: Tiny jump and shift feet so the one that was in front is now behind.
  • Shuffle and Shift: Grab the carpet with your toes, shuffle forward quickly, then shift feet. To go back, shuffle backwards and then shift your feet back to their original position.

Front Kick and Side Kick

  • Front leg: Lift your front leg and kick forward or in a roundhouse motion.
  • Back leg: Same kick with the rear leg.
  • Jumping: Add a jump for extra intensity.

Calf Raise

  • Floor: Come straight off the floor.
  • Platform/Stair: Stand at the edge to increase range of motion, Touch something for balance.
  • Plyometric: Raise to top. Drop down and bounce back up.
  • One legged: Do any of the variations above, one leg at a time.
  • Weighted: Hold a dumbell for added resistance.

Delt Raise

Alternate these exercises on successive days, or do both for greater intensity.

  • Side raise: Lift dumbells to the side, up to shoulder height, arms bent.
  • Front raise: Lift dumbells straight ahead to shoulder height, arms straight.

Wrist Exercises

  • Twist: Hold a bar with weight at one end. Twist wrist left and right.
  • Curl: Twist a bar that has a rope in the center, with a weight at the end.
  • Hammer: Hold a bar with weight at one end, so the weight is in front. Lift forward. Reverse grip and lift backward.
  • Squeeze: Squeeze hand grip, tennis ball, gel ball, or squeeze bag.

Copyright © 2006-2017, TreeLight PenWorks

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