I often receive questions about the best way to kick start an exercise regime. Whether you are a complete beginner or someone who has taken a long break from training after an injury or similar the most important thing to remember is that we all have to start somewhere! To help you get started I’m sharing a free beginners, 4 week training plan at the end of this blog. Here are my top tips:
In my eyes a key achievement is just getting started as that takes drive and motivation! I want to share with you some tips on how you can embark on a training plan as a complete beginner, with tips on how to equip yourself with the knowledge and understanding to enter the gym confidently. The pace at which we ease ourselves into a training routine is crucial as it can determine the longevity of our training efforts. I think too many people place a huge amount of pressure on themselves to be as fit as possible as quickly as possible. Or they try to resume previous feats of strength or speed after a long fitness break and are then left feeling deflated when they can’t pick up where they left off. This post is dedicated to educating you on the best ways to get into a gym based training routine that is enjoyable, sustainable and progressive without running the risk of injury or making you feel like giving up before you have even started to get any results.
I’ve been a trainer for a long time and with clients I always try to emphasise that it’s not just about how hard you can push yourself in a session but rather how much progress you can make. As a coach I like my client’s progress be consistent. I understand that many people are not capable of intensity at the initial stages of training and in my opinion what’s most important is that they keep returning to the gym to improve their basic movement patterns and general fitness level. This allows them to set an excellent framework to build upon with their progress.
My training approach with a beginner would be as follows:
1) Get Moving
Initially I ask all my clients to move more, this may mean going for a short walk everyday, taking the stairs over escalators, trying some mobility exercises or some non impact exercise such as a 10-20 minutes on an exercise bike or cross trainer. For example, if I have a client who has little conditioning then it is important to address this without throwing them in the deep end straight away. Getting people to do too much, too soon can mean they fail to make progress or sustain the intensity of their workouts and ultimately they can become disheartened, unhappy and likely to give up. In a worst case scenario they can also become injured. None of these things are the best start to a training plan, especially when they have put so much effort in.
2) Keep it Short & Sweet
Shorter sessions which are repeated more often are better than longer session performed infrequently. When I work with beginners I would rather they trained frequently and consistently for less time as apposed to only managing 1-2 longer sessions a week. It is easy to get carried away when starting out and over train the body which can lead to sore muscles – often referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – and a reduced ability to train for days after the session. Performing exercise for 20-40 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week works best for me with beginner clients and some of those sessions may just be a brisk walk or a stretch session. Both the intensity and duration of course should increase but this is a great start and allows for good progression.
3) Master Your Basic Lifts
This may sound so obvious however, it is often massively over looked in the name of increasing workout intensity. Mastering the foundation lifts such as the deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press, row variations and lunges is a great place to start your training regime. Time under tension is a great way to ensure the muscles are working as they should and is a method I use over an increased load (initially) to really get that technique down pat. Here’s a great example: perform a squat and slow down the lowering phase of the movement (take 4 counts) and drive back up on one count. Once you are confident that you have perfected this you can increase the weights. Regardless of your experience it’s always best to book yourself a session with professional coach or personal trainer to ensure you have the correct technique and it’s helpful to have someone watch your form and give you tips and pointers.
4) Aim to Progress a Little Each Week
It’s easy to progress in the early stages of a training programme but it is important you control the urge to go too hard too soon. Remember that in the early stages progression can be incredibly subtle and it may be as simple as an extra rep on the last set of each exercise, resting for 5 seconds less in between sets, managing an extra set or of course going a little heavier. Don’t be led to believe that it’s all about going heavier and training for longer, there is so much more to it than that.
5) Have a Plan
Again, this one sounds obvious but it is crucial that you have a plan in mind when starting a training regime. It provides structure, a clear “to do list”, less confusion and something to be accountable to. So invest in a little notebook, put a plan in place and write everything down such as the exercise, reps, sets, rest and weight. Keep a note of energy levels too and even the time of day as all this will give a great indication of your progress overall. You’ll be able to easily see where you may need to up the intensity and change things accordingly and in a year from now when you look back on your entry notes you’ll see just how far you’ve come!
6) Opt For a Full Body Approach
When working with beginners I prefer to employ a full body approach to training. Of course, full body sessions are great for intermediate and advanced lifters too, however, the structure would be quite different. Guys especially (sorry guys!) tend to dive straight into a typical body builder body split type routine, where they train different body parts on particular days and focus on a lot of sets for each particular muscle. This is a great training variation, but it’s something that we must build up to rather than hitting straight away.
7) Finally, Don’t Over Think it
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to training so it is important you don’t overwhelm yourself. Focus on the basics and listen to your trainer in the initial stages – then you can get more creative in good time.
Other things to mention:
– Always warm up properly and prepare your body for exercise.
– Listen to your body.
– Never push through injury pain.
– Be sure to support your training regime with good nutrition.
– Get plenty of sleep.