Workouts for each fitness goal, from weight loss to finding your abs

Getting fit is easy, they said. All you have to do is work out, they said.

But what am I supposed to do when I get to the gym? Do I pick up a barbell or do I run? I should just get on the treadmill, right?

There are so many questions when it comes to getting fit and working out. Did you know that there are different workout programs for different goals? Like if you want to build muscle mass, you can't do the same program as someone whose primary goal is to lose weight.

And apparently you can't just work out, you have to eat right, too. Nutrition is crucial when it comes to seeing the results of the work you're putting in.

And according to US News & World Report, this is the time when a majority of people are starting to fail on their New Year's resolutions, which often includes "exercising more."

But breathe: It's going to be OK. We've spoken to fitness experts who gave us their best tips on which workout routines to do for your specific goals. Want to lose weight? We got you. Want to build your endurance? No problem.

Workouts for weight loss

Almost half of Americans said they've tried to lose weight in the past 12 months, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Losing weight can be hard to do, especially with Doughnut Thursdays at the office (I'm looking at you, USA TODAY newsroom).

Austin Dotson, a certified personal trainer, says the best workout program for that is "CONSISTENCY." Yes, he emailed this in all caps. Where can I buy that exercise routine? Do they have it at Target?

The trainer says keeping your mind focused on why you started working out in the first place is one of the most important things to weight loss. Don't fall off when it gets tough; that's when you need to push yourself the most.

More: Need some motivation to hit the gym? Follow these Instagram fitness trainers to get moving

When it comes to the physical labor, Dotson loves jumping rope for exercise.

"Jumping rope is a great cardiovascular exercise that will get the heart rate soaring through the roofs," said Dotson. "I would also recommend mountain climbers. Great tool for getting a stronger core as well as increasing the heart rate for fat loss."

Seymour suggests hitting the weight room to shed some extra pounds because having muscle boosts your metabolism, so the more muscles you're building, the more calories you're burning.

Workouts to build muscle

If you want to build muscle, you're going to have to pick up a barbell or 10 so get comfortable with the weight room in your gym.

Osamoje Imoohi, a certified personal trainer, recommends people add weight-resistance training into their workout routines and to target each body part throughout the week.

Lunges with weights, push-ups with weights and arm raises with weights would all be good weight-resistance training.

That means focus on training your legs for one day, train your arms the next day and move on to back workouts the day after. He suggests doing this to build a balanced and complete physique.

More: Paleo, Atkins and keto are all low-carb diets, so what's the difference?

"I would highly recommend doing compound exercises, these are exercises that work several muscle groups at the same time," said Imoohi. "They trigger muscle growth. Bench press, squats, deadlifts and overhead presses are all examples of compound exercises."

Workouts to tone muscle

No one really knows what "toning" means; it's just a word that's thrown around when people want their bodies to look like Gabrielle Union or Beyoncé.

"Frankly, 'toning up' is a myth we’ve been fighting against for a decade," said Kristen Seymour, who is co-owner of fitness website Fit Bottomed Girls and a triathlon coach. "What people generally mean when they say this is that they want to get leaner and build some muscle – or that they want to look like the celebrity with the awesome arms on the cover of some magazine."

Both Imoohi and Jennipher Walters, the other co-owner of Fit Bottomed Girls, suggest doing high-intensity interval training workouts, which consist of exercises that you do at very high intensity for a short period of time with little rest recovery as opposed to jogging on the treadmill for an hour.

Walters says that classes like CrossFit can include HIIT workouts, but not every CrossFit class will be entirely composed of HIIT exercises.

"They both offer cycles of exercises," Walters said. "Lest anyone get bored in a class, both of these exercise styles keep it fresh and exciting by moving quickly between activities."

Imoohi suggests running, swimming, boxing or cycling at least three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes at a time in addition to your HIIT workouts.

"In terms of choosing what kind of activity to do, it’s pretty much always a great idea to incorporate a nice mix of workouts throughout the week," Walters said. "Some HIIT, some weights, functional mobility work and recovery. This helps you build the muscle you’re looking for while still maintaining good cardiovascular health and flexibility."

I just want abs

Good news, according to Dotson we all already have them.


"Believe it or not, we all have abs," Dotson said. "Abs are really determined on the percentage of body fat a person has. If you are unable to see your abs, it’s not because you can’t get them, it’s because they are hidden behind layers of fat."

OK, wonderful, so my abs are just hidden underneath a few months' worth of donuts (ahem Doughnut Thursdays 🙄).

In order to see your abs, it means you have to drop some body fat, which can be done with all of the exercises listed above. Dotson says you'll have to be in a caloric deficit, so burn more calories than you consume.

"In order for a person to obtain the wash-board abs they are looking for or even to semi have them appear (everyone is different), they will need to combine a HEALTHY diet, cardio, weights, resistance training and a calorie deficit," the trainer said in an email.

To drop body fat, it's essential to mix in cardio like running on a treadmill, jumping rope or HIIT exercises with weight and resistance training. So do push-ups, lunges, squats and bench press with weights.

Good nutrition is key

Regardless of all the work you put in at the gym, nothing will work unless your nutrition is on point. You have to put in as much effort (if not more) into your diet as you do your workouts.

"Nutrition is fundamental. Individuals looking to lose fat and gain muscle should drink lots of water, consume protein, and avoid processed sugars/unhealthy fats," said Imoohi.

"It doesn’t matter how much you work out, if you aren’t eating a balanced healthy diet, you will never get the results you desire," Dotson added.

"Eighty percent of our fitness journeys will come from nutrition," said the fitness trainer. "The other 20 percent is the effort you put into the gym. Cutting out process foods, sugar, sodium and fried fatty foods."

You could be in the gym every day and you still won't see the results you want if you're not eating right.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Workouts for each fitness goal, from weight loss to finding your abs