This article is geared toward the beginner who will be working out in a gym or who has access to equipment at home. It is an introduction into the world of ‘resistance training’. When I use the term resistance training, I am referring to exercises where you work your body against resistance, whether that resistance is coming from bodyweight, gravity, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags or resistance bands.
If you are thinking of venturing into a gym for the first time to exercise, then you probably are thinking that it can be an intimidating place! A maze of complicated looking equipment that everyone else seems to know how to use, while you walk around lost with no idea where to start.
Not only are you confused by all the different equipment and how to use it, you’re unsure about how many reps to do, how many sets, what exercises you should be doing and even, how many days each week you should work out, etc..
WHAT SHOULD YOUR GOAL BE?
If you’re just getting started with resistance training, your goals should be:
STRUCTURING YOUR TRAINING WEEK
There are endless different ways to structure your training week. If you’ve “googled” this, you’ve probably found yourself lost in the thousands of articles, each one claiming that their unique approach to structuring training is best. Well, I’m going to simplify it for you!
I’ve found that most people who are new to training get their best results by following a full body workout program training around different movement patterns.
This provides just the right balance between providing the stimulus that allows you to get stronger and leaner, while also allowing you to recover adequately.
YOUR TRAINING IS ONLY AS EFFECTIVE AS YOUR RECOVERY!
Rest days are when your body adapts, and your muscles repair themselves, so you become stronger. If you don’t take days off from working out intensely, your body won’t have time to recover and you won’t make any progress. That is why it’s not advisable to have daily intense workouts without taking a rest day.
STEPS TO FOLLOW ON WORKOUT DAYS
Step One: Warm up - The warm-up is essential for optimal performance. In addition to mentally preparing you for the workout ahead, you’re dramatically reducing the chance of getting injured because your body is physically lubricating your joints in preparation for intense exercise. It’s important not to neglect the warm-up. The better your warm-up, the better your workout will be.
Step Two: The Workout - Form is essential so you will need to familiarize yourself with any new exercise beforehand and perform it with no weight as part of your warm-up to prevent possible injuries.
Step Three: Cool down - Stretches take advantage of your body’s elevated temperature, allowing you to restore their length and reduce the tension caused by your workout. Foam rolling works out the kinks and breaks up the small knots in your muscles that are caused by an intense workout. It’s kind of like giving yourself a massage.
WHEN SHOULD YOU INCREASE THE WEIGHT YOU ARE LIFTING?
As your strength increases, the weight that felt like it was hard last week might feel easier now. At this point you’ll want to try to increase the weight you are lifting. Once you can comfortably complete the given number of reps with good form, increase the weight.
Your strength won’t increase on every exercise in every session but over time that should be your aim - to increase the weight you can lift for the given reps for that exercise.
The warmup sets will help you identify how strong you are feeling on any given day.
You can also increase or decrease the weight during your working sets. You might do 10 reps of 10 pounds on an exercise and realize you could have done 15 pounds. It’s fine to adapt as you need to, so you could try the 15 pounds for your second set. If that worked – great. If that was a struggle, maybe go down to 12 pounds. It’s about experimenting to find that appropriate weight.
Make sure you track your workouts either in a notebook or in a fitness app. This will allow you to log which exercises you do and the weights you lift.
As well as recording the weights you lift, also track how many sets and reps you do and how you felt that day. Each time you train, you can refer to this as a gauge of progress or to determine areas of improvement. I’ve saved my workout journals going back over 10 years.
HOW FAST SHOULD YOU PERFORM EACH EXERCISE?
The key words are tempo and control. If you lift too fast, you won’t have control. Lack of control places you in a position where you are either not performing the exercise properly or you risk injuring yourself. You should be able to stop at any point in the exercise. If you aren’t able to do this, you’re doing it too fast.
For our purposes, tempo means the following:
Exercise Sessions Should Be Short.
Long exercise sessions (anything over 60 minutes, not including the warm-up and cool down) are ineffective for rapid fat loss. Anything after 60 minutes is a recipe for overtraining, stagnation and boredom. In my view, performance usually starts dropping after 45 minutes. A shorter session usually means pinpoint focus and higher intensity.
If you want to see results, you must do work and do it often. Preferably 3x per week. You can have the best training sessions in the world, but they will be rendered ineffective without consistency.
Your Body Must Recover !
That is why you will have days off between workouts.
It’s important you build upon the skill of “listening to your body”. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t push it; your body has a way of telling you things.
Good Pain vs. Bad Pain
Mild discomfort is part of the exercise process and is necessary for the improvement of performance and body composition.
Feeling the “Burn” is fine. But it should be short-lived and during the exercise only.
Fatigue after a workout should leave you exhilarated, but not exhausted. Fatigue that lasts days means you have been excessively challenged and your muscles and energy stores are not being replenished properly.
Soreness is common, especially for muscles that have not been exercised for a while or when you perform an exercise you are not accustomed to. Soreness typically begins within a few hours, but peaks 2 days after exercise. This is referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and is normal when beginning a new fitness program.
Bad pain is usually caused by the improper execution of an exercise. Nothing should really “hurt”. Immediately notify both your coach and your physician of any sharp or sudden pains, swelling or any unnatural feelings in your joints or ligaments.
I recommend you perform each exercise with NO WEIGHT to familiarize yourself with the movement pattern and to mentally and physically prepare yourself for the tasks ahead. Warming up is a crucial part of injury prevention and prepares your body for exercise by lubricating your joints. It’s typically counter-productive to train through soreness.
Focus on your own journey and progress at a pace that’s right for you. Don’t worry about the exercises that other people in the gym are doing or the weights they are lifting. You are not competing against them. You are only competing against yourself to progress each time you workout, whether that be more weight or an extra rep.
And, the best habit you can develop for working out is to be consistent. So, show up and then keep showing up.
And remember, enjoy the time you spend getting stronger and leaner!
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Mitch helps people lose unwanted pounds, boost their energy levels and turn their bodies into 24/7 fat burning machines using his Metabolic Adaptation Protocol™.