Over the next 8 minutes of reading I’ll show you a basic workout routine for beginners as well as all the basics you need to know about when you start.
Since your body develops to the needs put on it, chances are that your body right now is a finely tuned machine for TV. watching! So what we need to do is get it ready to train without causing your body to say “nope, don’t think so pal” in the form of an injury.
Basically we are going to get your butt to the gym and get used to the routine of getting out of the house a couple of days a week.
Most people can handle a three-day a week commitment, and really that’s all that is needed to make most of the changes for the majority of people. Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the weekends off is usually convenient. It doesn’t really matter as long as it is three non-consecutive days. Then we go and train the whole body on each of these days with one exercise per body part.
Now its always smart to warm up before exercise so we do five to ten minutes of any cardio machine to get the blood flowing. This gives the heart a heads up that something is coming! Then we go on to the routine, and finally, the 20 to 30 minute fat loss cardio. Your cardio can be done on the treadmill, bike or whatever. You just have to move and sweat! So to take care of everything, you’re looking at an hour to an hour and a half if you’re taking your time.
Sets and Reps
Well, what is a set? A set is a bunch of reps done in a row, followed by a rest of usually a minute or two. So then, what is a rep? The rep is short for repetition. Or, how many times you raise and lower the weight in a row. So if you sat down and picked up a weight and put it down 12 times in a row, you just did one set of 12 reps! Clear it up a little? O.K., now it’s written a little different when you see it in a program.
The number of sets comes first and then the number of reps per set. So to tell someone to do three sets of twelve reps it would look like this, (3×12). Sometimes you see this 3×10, 8, and 6. This means you do three sets in total but one at 10 reps the next at 8 reps and the last set at 6 reps, all spaced out by your determined rest period. Now I know some people are going, duh, I knew that! But it never hurts to explain.
So what’s cardio anyway?
Cardio is short for cardiovascular, and this is where you burn off some extra calories for fat loss or train the old ticker to work more efficiently so you won’t have a heart attack when your kid jumps out of the bath tub as your sitting on the can! What determines how intensely you do your cardio depends on the goal that you are training for. A lower heart rate is more for fat loss, while a higher heart rate works the ticker. I’ll tell you how to do this later. Just remember that I’m keeping this simple so we can get going.
Now, for the actual routine. You could start right off and do a billion sets, but chances are you’ll have to call in sick the next day due to chronic “I can’t moveness”. So what you do is start off with one set for each of the exercises during week one and two. Now, the only scientific proof for this method of mine I can offer is that if you don’t listen, you’ll be as stiff as molasses in January. Weeks three and four, you bump it up to two sets for each exercise. Don’t worry, at month two we “stop the insanity” with three sets.
How much weight should I use?
The most popular question I hate to hear! If I had 007 x-ray spy goggles, maybe I could tell you, but I don’t know how strong your muscles are! Seriously though, this is why the slow build up in the levels of volume in the routine. The first couple of weeks are for experimentation. On Monday for example, you would pick a ridiculously light weight and do your exercises. That was easy, you think. The next time in however, you take another guess at what you should try, something just a little heavier. Doing it this way you actually get six workouts in before you should have found a challenging weight, sooner is better though. On week three when you start doing multiple sets, do both sets with the same weight. Eventually you will be doing three sets with the same weight, for the same reps. This is when it is time to nudge your weight up a bit. Now remember, I said nudge, not use the whole stack plus little children for extra weight.
There is no time frame to get to the point of all three sets for the same reps, just keep putting in time until it happens. This is where it could get a little confusing if you weren’t the smart, good looking, intelligent person you are! (Never hurts to get a pat on the back right?) If you were doing 3 sets of twelve reps (we are) and you added some weight, you would probably get fewer reps than before because it’s heavier now. This is O.K. because you just stick with it until you get back to twelve reps. So, this is what it looks like. You were doing three sets of twelve with 100 pounds. Now on set one you use 105 pounds and get ten reps, that’s cool. Next week eleven reps, right? When you hit twelve again, you up the weight again! When the other sets become easy, you adjust the weight for them too.
Soon your weights look like this; 110 pounds for 12 reps, 110 pounds for 10 reps, and 105 for twelve reps. Next week it should be 115 for 10, 110 for 11, and 110 for 10. Now can you imagine explaining this every hour on the hour to someone new? Thus the motivation for the book How To Start Working Out!
This is important to remember. The weight you use should be determined by the amount of reps you are trying to do. The correct weight for you to use on a set of twelve reps is the weight that causes you to not be able to do another rep in good form after twelve reps.
When calculating up your weights when you record them in your book a lot of people are unsure about the weights of bars, machines and pulleys and how to figure it into their total weight lifted when they write it down. My way may not be the “right way” but it’s the standard I have used for years and as long as you stay with it as your “chalk line” it’s all you need. The big, long, straight bar, or “Olympic bar” is 45 pounds. The short crooked “e-z curl bar” is 15 pounds. Now where the guesswork comes in is with machines and pulleys. All I do to keep things simple is to count only the weight I put on the machine (not the weight of the machine itself because machines are all different, especially smith machines) or go by what the numbers on the stack say. After all, the only thing that matters is that you make a progression from what you have previously recorded as your weight in your journal.
Can we start yet?
This is a routine for the folks who say, “I’d like to lose the spare tire and maybe add a bit of muscle. I don’t want to look like those guys in the magazine though!” Actually, everyone should start off the same way regardless of their goals. You have to give the body a warning of what is coming. A whole body routine is the nuts and bolts of all training routines. What we do is take one exercise for each body part and do three sets of 15 reps with it. Now on week one, you may find that three sets is too much. This depends on the shape you are in. A nice way to tippy-toe into this is to do 1 set of everything for week 1, two sets of everything for weeks two and three. Finish it off by getting in all three sets by the end of the month. By the time month two has started, you should be doing three sets of 15 for every muscle group on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The routine is followed by 20 to 30 minutes of your preferred cardio.
Wait there is still more stuff to get a handle on! I hope I get all your questions answered here, but I always get surprised by a new one.
Rest between sets
I see folks always chatting to friends or answering their cell phones. This is a waste of everyone’s time. At the start of these routines, two minutes between sets is O.K., until you get accustomed, but never longer unless you are on a specific power routine. If I can breath normally after 45 seconds, I’ll start the next set, if not, I give myself up to a minute and 30 seconds. Of course there is always a balance, so don’t go lower than 45 seconds because if you can start before that, you were probably slacking on the effort of the first set!
Your max heart rate
Here is how you gauge your progress on the cardio. Take 220 minus your age and multiply it by 60%. That’s a great place to start. What you have here is 60% of your maximum heart rate. Let’s say your 40. 220-40= 180 (your max heart rate). 180x 60%=108. So there you are on the bike pedaling away, reach down to your wrist, find your pulse for 30 seconds, and multiply it by two. If you came up with 115 slow it down a little and vice versa. You can also get heart rate monitors you wear that will measure as you workout.
Warm-up! For all the routines here, it is wise and advisable to never rush into a workout without doing some sort of general whole body warm-up. This could be as simple as 10 minutes of low intensity cardio on your favorite machine just to get the blood flowing. Follow that up with some general stretching to get rid of any kinks and then off you go!
Next article, we’ll talk about the basics of stretching, how not to get confused with all the approaches and start getting flexible as well as strong.