Becoming fit requires two things:
1. Routine Exercise
2. Appropriate food
Now, I am a very skinny person, and I have been so for a very long time! I am like a constant of nature, regardless of how much(little) I eat, I don't gain(lose) weight at all. So, this exercise routine I followed was an attempt at changing that and trying to look a little bigger and better than I currently do. And it seems to be working so far, albeit slowly.
Now, there are two types of workouts:
1. To reduce weight
2. To gain weight
To reduce weight, you MUST do cardio exercises. Follow a strict plan here and it will pay off. Sure, it will take time but the results will be astonishing and long lasting. Once you meet your target, you have to do the bare minimum to maintain that, no more and no less.
If you are just starting out, I would suggest going for a 10 minute treadmill on no incline, at jogging speeds. The speed would vary from person to person. The idea here is to condition your body for the long haul. Follow this up with 10 minutes on a cross-trainer followed by 10 minutes on a bicycle. Do keep a track of your performance on a weekly basis, if not on a daily basis. Note the time that you have exercised for and at what speeds on each machine. After 2 weeks of this, increase the time to 12 minutes on each machine and change the activity on each machine such that you exercise at breakneck speed for 90 seconds and then jog for 30 seconds and do this for the time allotted for that machine. This will seem hard on the first go but this has got a tremendous effect. A month after this, increase the time by another 2 minutes on each machine. Further improvements to this would be increasing the time or increasing the ratio of time spent on the machine at breakneck speed to time spent on machine at jogging speed. I understand that it is not possible to increase the time indefinitely since time taken for these exercises would be too much. Once you hit this roadblock, change the regimen to include two out of the three machines on each day such that each machine is used the same number of times during the week. Once you have reached this stage, do take a day off during the week :)
Once you meet your targets, 75% of your exercise routine as in the last stage that you followed.
Note that it would be a good idea to keep a track of your heart rate(most machines have it on the handles) at the end of the routine. Make sure it doesn't exceed the 180-190 range. That would be a cause for alarm and you should consult a doctor about this.
This also requires a strict diet control, hard as this may be for most of the readers here, it's a necessity. To tell you the truth though, it's quite simple. You just have to restrain yourself for a month, then you become habituated to the change. That first month is the toughest nut to crack and requires tremendous self control, but you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't ready for that already.
Alright, for the diet, cut down on the quantity. Bring it down to 75% of your current intake. I have to keep this as generic as I can since every person has a different consumption and different metabolism. All those health plans that tell you to eat such and such quantities in specific terms, well, I am stumped as to why they do not consider that everyone has a different metabolism. After a month of this, if you still need further reduction in weight, reduce it further by 75% and continue following this cycle till you achieve your targets. If after reducing it for the second time you find that you aren't feeling well, feeling dizzy too often, maybe you reduced your diet too soon and should wait a month more to make the transition. If this happens in your first change itself, then your water intake and sugar/salt intake are insufficient. When I say sugar, please increase on glucose intake and not the processed sugar from food items. For salt intake, use an ORS packet a day till you get better.
Water intake should double once you start exercising. You should sweat a lot during the exercise and this should be compensated for by the increased salt and water intake.
As far as reducing weight is concerned, cardio is the only method to achieve this. Even if you want to reduce the fat around specific parts of the body, cardio is the way to go. Anything else would just help build muscles, not reduce fat with the same efficiency that cardio does.
To increase weight, you will have to do weights and join a gym for this, unless you can afford all the equipment to set up one at your place(which would be really cool by the way). This is what I have followed and it seems to be having an effect, gradual and minimal, but it's there(glad about some change). Try to keep this as regular as possible and it will pay off. This is a time taking process too(at least for someone like me, for others whose body responds quickly to changes this might be highly effective). Once you achieve your target, then just do the bare minimum to maintain it(though I believe by this time you would be addicted to the workout and would want to continue with the usual routine).
Exercise 4 days a week, 2 days for upper body(Monday and Thursday for me) and 2 days for lower body(Tuesday and Friday), rest on the other days. For the upper body, I did 1 exercise each for chest, shoulders, upper back, triceps, biceps and forearms. Each exercise of 3 sets and 8 reps. The weights are to be decided such that you can complete that exercise with 8 reps in not more than 3 sets. If you can do a 4th set, then you need to increase the weights. For the lower body, I did 1 exercise each for the calves(standing calf raise), front thighs and back thighs, followed by 8 minutes of running at 12kmph. 3 sets and 8 reps again and weight decision as above.
I try and do abs on a daily basis, since they are the hardest to exercise.
I am not mentioning exercises in particular because there is an abundance of websites out there explaining what exercises to do. You just have to pick up something you are comfortable with. Avoid anything that may injure your back or neck while doing weights. Consult a gym trainer if you are doubtful. I was having difficulty doing barbell curls initially so I moved to dumbbells for biceps. It's as per your convenience really, at this stage.
After about 3 months of this, your body is conditioned enough to move to muscle specific routine. Now, go for a 3 or 4 day workout. For 3 days, do chest, biceps and forearms on Monday, shoulders, back and triceps on Wednesday and legs on Friday. For 4 days, do the legs on Tuesday and Friday and move the Wednesday workout to Thursday.
For each of the muscle groups here, perform 4 sets of 8 reps each, and two exercises for each muscle, i.e. 2 for biceps(I do 3 here), 2 for chest etc. Again, minor tweaks must be done by you to make it more suitable to your needs. Multiple exercises per muscle is to exercise all the muscles of that group, all round growth of the muscle.
Note that there are two types of weight programs: power and stamina. Power program involves more weight and less reps and vice versa for stamina program. To counter the advantages and disadvantages of each, I went for the middle ground with 8 reps. Power goes for 4 to 6 reps while stamina goes for 10-12 reps. Power program is meant for a bulky frame with short burst of energy or strength. Stamina program is for lean muscle with extended disbursal of energy possible.
Stage 3 is something I haven't ventured into and hence will not be covering it here. It would be a routine for advanced users, not something I would ever cover. It would result in radical changes in the size and shape of the body too.
Now for the diet. Needless to say, protein intake would have to be increased, which would involve increasing water and fibre intake to counter the harmful effects of protein. If you can do this naturally, great! Nothing better than that. But if not possible, get some protein supplement for Whey protein from the market and consume 1 large scoop during stage 1 and 2 large scoops during stage 2. I mix this with glucose to keep energy level high. I have been using EAS whey protein for a while now and I can notice some differences. Keep fatty foods to a minimum, carbohydrates should be as usual. Maintain required levels of sugar and salt to prevent feeling dizzy or faint. Consume protein post workout and the next day, they will be repairing and rebuilding your muscles.
I think that about sums it up. I don't suppose I have missed anything here. Wish you all the best in getting fit and enjoy your workouts!