Starting a fitness program that includes strength training can be very confusing, especially for beginners or those coming back after a long period of inactivity. Here you will find a few exercise tips that will help you design a safe, personally challenging and effective strength training program.
Tip 1. Start Off Easy
The first thing to remember is that your body will need to adjust to the new stresses placed upon the muscles, joints and connective tissues, and therefore you should take it easy during the first couple of weeks. This is referred to as a “conditioning phase” and being cautious will help you avoid injury and reduce post workout soreness.
A good rule to follow for the first two weeks is to choose 6 to 8 exercises that involve all the major muscle groups, and use a weight which allows you to complete 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise in your program. Use body-weight where possible such as Air Squats for the legs and hips and Incline Push-ups for the chest. You would complete your program by adding 4 to 6 more exercises to include the back, shoulders, arms and abdominals.
Keep in mind that while the idea is to take it easy during the first 2-weeks, your program should present a moderate challenge–enough to let you know you have done some work.
Tip 2. Change Is Good
All exercise programs must be adjusted periodically to ensure continued results. After your 2-week conditioning phase, you should begin to increase the difficulty of each exercise. While there is a variety of ways to accomplish this, I would suggest you start off by increasing the number of repetitions. However, instead of setting a specific number, try working within a rep range such as 15 – 20. This means that the weight or difficulty should be such that you are able to get 15 reps (with proper form) but challenging enough so you cannot get 20.
Continue to increase the difficulty whenever you are able to perform 20 repetitions. At approximately 6-10 weeks, you will begin to hit a plateau at which time you will need to change your program. This can be as simple changing your rep-range or as involved as creating an entirely new program. I would suggest a new program, as this will again place different demands on your muscles and help to keep things interesting.
The bottom line is, always change what you are doing so your body has a need to adapt. This is the best way to ensure continued results from your program and holds true with regard to aerobic (cardio) workouts as well.
Tip 3. Take Time to Rest
Give your muscles a chance to rest. Allowing your muscles to rest after a workout is just as important to success as the workout itself. When you perform a strength training program, you are actually breaking down or creating small tears in the muscle fibers. As soon as you complete your workout, the muscles begin to repair themselves. This repair process takes about 24 hours, during which time your muscles heal and become stronger in anticipation of the next workout. This is why over time you become stronger and are able to lift heavier weight. However, if you do not allow your muscles adequate rest, they will not heal properly and could result in strains or injuries.
A good practice to follow is to perform a full-body workout (as mentioned in Tip 1) 2 to 3 days per week, with at least 1-day of rest between workouts, such as Monday and Thursday or Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Tip 4. Hire a Trainer
If you are a beginner, you should not try to go it alone. Just as when you are sick, you consult a doctor, when you are out of shape, you should consult a personal trainer.
While it may sound simple to follow a friend’s advice or a program you have found in a magazine, it cannot take the place of having someone beside you showing you the finer points of an exercise program tailored to your specific needs or goals. Think of personal training as a means to success rather than an unnecessary expense. Hire a trainer and get the results you deserve.