BodybuildingPro.com Training Database Mental Preparation Articles Fitness for Beginners
By Ted Bodenrader
You all remember your very first day of school.
Your lips quivered with cold anxiety. Knots were bundled up in the
thick of your throat. Your eyes were wide with blind fear.
Your mother had her hands full, all right, dragging you by the arm
to the bus stop that morning. There may have even been a little
kicking, screaming, and crying involved in this frightening
A decade and a half later, hopefully, after thousands of days just
like that first one, you were unleashed from high school, a wiser,
sharper, more mature individual. Hopefully, you departed school
with a wealth of knowledge between your ears, a wisdom that you've
contributed to the society among us.
Now, you courageously prepare to take on your next mysterious
endeavor. It bears an eerie resemblance to that chilling morning so
many years ago, when you were just a diminutive schoolyard rookie.
It's a day that you've been continually putting off and putting off
and it has nothing to do with tax sheets or W-2 forms. No, this day
is far more dreadful.
It's your first day at the gym.
The terror that comes with wandering into a foreign element,
especially one as intimidating as a beef-infested health club, it
can easily stray one far from the premises. In this institution, it
is often far more tempting to drop out than to graduate.
However, that very first day at a gym is crucial to the success of
your fitness life. In other words, it can either make you or break
So, instead of wandering into the gym a naïve and misguided
freshman, here's a three-step tutorial that will direct you through
a rewarding fitness education, one that you'll hopefully graduate
from with honors.
1) RESISTANCE TRAINING:
Before you lay your very first fingerprint on an iron weight, wipe
your mind clean of all the typecasting and preconceived notions
you've amassed regarding weightlifters and bodybuilders. This is
not a Rambo movie nor is it WCW Tuesday Night Nitro. In other
words, it is not an exercise in machismo and manliness. Rather, you
are merely trying to develop a stronger, healthier body by
fortifying your muscle tissue.
After warming up with a light stretch of your muscles, perhaps
partaking in a five-minute warm-up on either a treadmill or a
bicycle, it will be time to drown out your fear with a positive,
courageous attitude. The most important concept to be taught on
this day - and on any other, for that matter - is that your form is
top priority. Close out all the surrounding gorillas, pushing their
two tons of plates toward the ceiling. You must establish proper
range of motion in all exercises before taking on weighty
challenges. Start off with light, manageable resistance in your
quest to perfect your form.
The best way to accomplish this is through the use of the
modernized machines, since these devices are designed to perform
the range of motion for you. Perform slow, strict repetitions,
concentrating on your form and your specific muscles.
Take between 1-2 minutes rest period between sets, being
particularly conscience of safety. If you feel any peculiar muscle
strain or joint discomfort, stop immediately!
Otherwise, break your training regimen into three divisions, each
one compiled of two muscle groups. Here's one such suggestion:
DAY 1: Chest and triceps.
Your chest workout can consist of three or four exercises, two or
three sets per exercise. Bench presses followed up by incline
presses will target the entire pectoral region. Most gyms offer the
machine version of these exercises but in the event yours does not,
barbell presses at a light, manageable weight will work here. And
don't forget a spotter!
After presses, jump on the pec deck machine and perform two to
three sets of flyes, before finishing your chest workout with a
couple more sets of cable crossovers. This workout will give you a
balanced assault of both building and isolating maneuvers.
Since the triceps is a much smaller muscle, you will be performing
only two exercises, two or three sets apiece. Begin your triceps
workout with machine dips, stimulating the muscles, before grinding
out three sets of pressdowns on either the machine or cable
In all of the aforementioned exercises, try to perform between
10-12 repetitions per set at a weight that will allow you to reach
failure on the final rep. This means you will likely be dropping
the weight continually throughout the workout.
DAY 2: Shoulders and back.
Hitting the shoulders first, begin the workout with two or three
sets on the shoulder press machine before moving along to the
machine version of lateral raises, where you'll add another two or
three sets. For the frontal region, perform two or three sets of
front raises on either the cable machine or with light dumbbells.
You'll also need to work the traps, and for this stingy muscle, a
couple sets of upright rows will do the trick.
Your back workout will begin with wide-grip pull-ups. Yes, the same
ones you used to do in gym class. You probably called them chin-ups
back then, but these will probably require a spotter, since tapping
your chest on the overhead bar is far more vigorous. After the
pull-ups, perform two or three sets of behind-the-neck pulldowns at
a light resistance, before concluding the lat workout with three
sets of seated rows, preferably of the machine variety.
DAY 3: Legs and biceps.
Legs are as physically taxing as anything you'll encounter in the
gym (deadlifts aside) so it is wise to begin the workout rifling
your stems. After adequate stretching, begin with three to four
sets of leg presses on the machine, before taking on two to three
sets of hamstring curls and another two to three sets of leg
extensions. Perform slow, tedious repetitions to insure that you're
stimulating the targeted muscle. At the conclusion of your
extensions, perform three to four sets of calf raises on the calf
You'll feel weak in the knees - literally - by the time you whirl
around to working your biceps. Six total sets is about all you
should target for biceps, 10-14 repetitions per set. Begin with
standard curls, preferably with a curl bar, and perform strict sets
at a weight that will not sacrifice proper form. After this, try a
few sets of concentration cable curls, alternating sides, for the
same number of reps.
AND DON'T FORGET . . .
Every three days. Three letters: ABS.
These are vitally important. Abdominal muscles are often abandoned
in the weight room, yet, a washboard stomach can often
differentiate between the perception of 'fit' and 'fat'. And when
we're talking abdominal training, there's one basic word to speak
Pull up a mat and begin with a few sets of 15-30 basic, standard
crunches. Contrary to popular belief, abs should not be trained
everyday. Like any other muscle, it requires a recovery period,
albeit a shorter recovery period.
And do your crunches slowly and effectively. Remember: haste does
not necessarily make a thin waist.
2) CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE:
You can do it in the morning. You can do it in the evening. You can
do it in your home. You can do it in the park. You can do it at the
gym. You can do it for a while. Or you can do it all night
But just make sure you listen to the Nike folks as you slip into
their athletic shoes. In other words: Just do it.
You can train your arms, legs, shoulders, chest, back, and abs
until your ready for a rest home, but there's one such muscle that
should be prioritized over all the aforementioned. Your heart.
Reserve at least three days per week for cardiovascular training,
with a bare minimum of 20 minutes per session. Many trainers prefer
doing their "cardio" at the conclusion of weight training. Others
prefer it first thing in the morning.
Nonetheless, it is imperative to exercise your ticker on a regular
basis, whether through jogging, walking, swimming, cycling,
aerobics or whatever your heart desires (no pun intended). The
choices here are endless.
However, what you should be selective about is your approach to
such a new endeavor. In other words, you are not in boot camp and
you should thrust forward with a gung ho approach at first. Ease
into your cardio schedule by taking on measures at a moderate pace,
eventually working up to a 60 percent heart rate.
Overtraining with cardio will sap both your energy and your
motivation and will ultimately prove detrimental to your fitness
goals. So, while it's imperative that you do it, be sure not to
3) OUTSIDE THE GYM:
A professional football player may be on the official time clock
from September through January, but in essence, his workload
doesn't exactly end when he exits that arena after the final game
of the season. On the contrary, his work schedule consists of a
Your fitness training should be no different.
When the pulling, curling, stepping, rowing, and kicking has all
subsided for the day, and the droplets are falling from your hair
from your post-workout shower, you must remember that the game is
far from over. Rather, it is just heating up.
There are so many more integral elements involved with maintaining
a sound, fit existence aside from what you do in the gym or at the
neighborhood athletic track. Being healthy is a 24-hour commitment,
it is a way of life, not just a passing fad or hobby. So, be sure
· Indulge in moderation. The ice cream, the burgers, the
pizza, the beer, it can all be enjoyed from time to time. But make
these tempting indulgences a rarity, not a regularity. Healthy
eating is perhaps the single most important element to maintaining
a trim, fit physique. And if you've never been one to drink water
and lots of it, now is the time to take on a new favorite beverage.
Spring water can spring a slew of healthful results.
· Fuel your body. You'll need to consume the proper amounts
of carbohydrates (35 percent of your caloric intake) and protein
(another 35 percent) to maintain a healthy balance and adequate
· Get your eight hours. By that, we mean a good, hearty
night of sleep. In order to manage a full, hectic day of work,
chores, and exercise in the day ahead, you'll need to do one last
thing when today is complete: Give it a rest!
Of course, the best education one can attain is not in a classroom.
It is through experience. Your fitness education is no different.
Your knowledge will gradually increase through osmosis, through
dedicating time, effort, and energy into improving your overall
lifestyle, whether it is in the gym or in your own home.
Continuously challenge yourself with stiffer tests, and you'll be
met rewarding results. Eventually, you'll be cruising along with
As for now . . .
Class is dismissed!
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