Are you ready to continue your journey toward fitness? Then it's time to hit the weight room. You've been training cardiovascularly to burn fat, hopefully using target heart rate guidelines, now let's begin to build that lean muscle. I don't want anyone saying to themselves "but I don't want big muscles." Muscle isn't exclusive to men, we're all born with muscle.
Strong & Fit
This is about getting strong and fit ... strong enough to carry your own groceries, to get out of bed on your own, and strong enough and fit enough to play with your children or grandchildren.
I hope that some of this training information can be just as valuable to men. Women's body compositions are slightly different, but, the muscle mechanics and motion are going to be much the same. If you're a novice, you are so lucky! You don't bring into the gym with you an ego, or long engrained bad form. You get to start with a clean slate.
Before I talk about the workout, let's define beginner again. You're someone who never lifted weights before, or perhaps you did years ago and stopped, or it's been months since you trained on a regular basis.
- For a beginner or someone just new to fitness (never participated in any type of fitness programs) I recommend starting with a basic, full-body, 3-day-per-week program. You need to develop that basic foundation.
I often tell clients to think of the basic program as their "warm-up." A way to get the joints, tendons and ligaments ready to work a little harder, so they can accomplish the goals they set for themselves. I believe in a full-body workout because if you miss a day, you're not missing complete body parts.
When first starting out, it's likely that you'll see improvements rather quickly, it's important not to try to do too much too soon. If you hold back now on adding those extra sets, reps or weight, you'll avoid injury and overtraining.
In the program I'll set out here, you notice that it's large muscle groups only. I intentionally leave out training biceps, triceps and calves because I want you to build proportional strength first. As an example, your triceps are required when doing chest exercises, so, when training your chest, you will also "hit" the triceps to a degree.
Here's Your Training Protocol:
- Week #1 - Do all exercises in the order written. 1 set/15 reps of each exercise. Use a weight that allows you to complete all reps, the last two should be TOUGH.
- Week #2 - Add 1 set (if not sore). You will be doing 2 sets/15 reps this week
- Week #3 - Add a third set. You will be doing 3 sets/15 reps.
- Week #4 - Increase the weight you're using by 5 pounds. You are still doing 3 sets/ 15 reps
- Week #5 - Increase the weight used by 3-5 pounds, lower the number reps by 5. You are doing 3 sets/10 reps this week.
Rest 30-45 seconds between sets, rest 1 full day between weight workouts. Cardio and abs can be done everyday. You'll want to change your workout every 4-6 weeks because you'll hit a plateau and won't see the results you were expecting.
- Leg Press
movement: Adjust the back rest to approx. 45 deg angle.place feet high on the plate so that when you lower the plate your knees don't exceed a 90-degree angle and your heels stay on the plate. As you straighten your legs, keep your knees "soft". This keeps the workload in your legs not in the joint.
- Leg Extension (with machine)
movement: Sit upright in the machine, the rolled pad should sit on your ankles, not your toes or shin. Lift the weight, fully extending your legs. Do not exceed 90-degree angle when you lower the weight to the starting position.
- Leg Extension (with ankle weight)
movement: Sit on a bench or chair, place one foot on the floor for better back support, work one leg at a time.
- Lying Leg Curl
movement: Lie face down on machine, rolled pad should be at about your ankles, knees are slightly off the pad. Simply curl your heels toward your butt. Lower the weight with control.
- Bench Press
This will determinedifferent parts of the fan shaped pectoral muscle that will be "worked", though each exercise will work all parts in varying degrees. I'm focusing here on the FLAT BENCH chest press which targets primarily the center part of the chest, which is good for OVERALL strength, which is the focus of this workout.
Building the base of strength. Someone might tell you, if you're female, you don't need to work on a decline, because that area is mostly covered by breast tissue ... however, isn't there MUSCLE there too? YES. So, it also needs attention.
Chest muscles are (GENERALLY) strongest on the incline, then the flat, followed by the decline. Working on the decline can give you a better overall pump through the chest, but women will see the most VISIBLE results when working on an incline or flat bench.
- Flat Bench Press
Use a free bar or Smith Machine. Lying on a bench, feet to the floor, balance the bar over the nipple line.
Lower the bar gently towards the chest, lowering the bar only far enough that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Do not drop your elbows below the bench. You're getting into the rotator cuff and you WILL cause shoulder injury. It's not necessary to bounce the bar off your chest (ouch!)
- To Do This Exercise With Dumbbells
Position the dumbbells with your thumbs rotated up toward your face, either at 45- or 90-degree angle (as opposed to thumbs towards each other-this is easier on your shoulders and rotators) Press the weights together in an "A" shape, keep your pecs lifted towards the ceiling as you straighten your arms.
You'll be working the center chest, and to a degree the front shoulder, as well as getting some triceps action in there to assist.
- Seated Cable Row
movement: On a seated cable row machine, sit with your back straight, knees are bent slightly. Don't rock your lower back! Start the exercise by retracting your shoulder blades together first, keeping your arms straight, pull your elbows behind your back, release arms first, then release your lats to lower the weight.
Reminders: Sit upright, Pull the BACK MUSCLES FIRST, THEN ADD THE ARMS, lift chest to meet the bar.
- Shoulder Press or Seated Overhead Press
movement: This can be done two different ways, "standard" in which the weight is pressed overhead and the dumbbells touch, or "box" - keeping your arms parallel press the dumbbells overhead, don't bring the weights in together.
If you use the box press, use a lighter weight because this move focuses more on the deltoids. The "standard" movement allows you to use more weight because the work is shared by the delts and trapezius muscles. tricks: As you press up, think "down" so you don't shrug the shoulders, beware of arching your back to complete the reps, NO CHEATING!
With so much awareness these days of "political correctness" and "mindfulness" I think it's only right that I include a brief primer on gym etiquette.
These Are The Fashion No-No's
- Leaving plates loaded on a machine
- Banging plates with every rep
- Leaving sweat on a bench
- Hogging a machine someone else wants. Ask them if they'd like to work in. Oh by the way, it's okay for YOU to ask to "work in" too.
- Someone wearing a walkman or headphones may be politely saying they don't wish to be interrupted.
- And, here's the "mom" in me ... play nice with the other kids, remember to share, play nice with your toys and remember to put them away when you're done!
The Romance Of Training
Sometimes training or working out starts out like a new romance. It's easy to feel excited, and you're anxious with anticipation. As you workout you see muscles appear, fat disappear, you start to change! Months go by, the relationship changes, maybe starts to get stale ... the initial flush of excitement is gone. This is when you might give up, go looking for that "new" romance.
Remember, the average gym membership lasts 3-4 months. (Remember the rush at the gym following the New Year?) But mature love, the long-term relationship, like marriage, isn't built upon that hot fiery romance.
It isn't the foundation that the relationship is built upon. It's the daily routine, of building and growing. So it is with your training. The passion is still there, it just a little different shape. The passion comes now just in doing, working, creating for yourself the body you want to have.
As time goes on, it's not only the body that you're building and nurturing but the mind as well. It's the time you take for you, to nurture yourself and your needs, it can become a time to be alone in sanctuary, away from the demands of work, home, etc ... and when you leave that sanctuary you feel better, and you in turn can be better not only to yourself but to those around you.
Taking the time for yourself shouldn't be thought of as "selfish", because in the end you are better able to care for those around you, that mean the most to you.