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So many times I’ve seen in the health-club setting a new member joining with grand views of getting into better shape and having stronger cardiovascular levels — all in the first 2-3 weeks.
I say that because of the way they start their exercise program. Instead of starting slow and building a solid foundation, they get “right to it” only to suffer prolonged soreness and/or injury.
In fact, the same scenario is often seen with some personal trainers who lack experience. I understand that personal trainers vary, and their styles and opinions vary, too, but whether you are using a personal trainer or working out on your own it is very important not to lose sight of safety and results.
So, how should an exercise program be started for the person who has not worked out in some time or for the person that is just starting out for the first time?
First, start slowly with 1-3 sets or groups of 15-20 repetitions per set. This should be for each body part: chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps and legs. I strongly encourage starting with compound or power movements. These are exercises that use more than one muscle. A sure way to know if it’s a compound movement is if more than one joint is moving. One such example is the chest press. This exercise works your chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles — all at the same time!
By doing this you not only have less chance of injury, but you’re also burning more calories due to the fact that so many muscles are being used at one time. More calories burned results in more fat burned, meaning smaller thighs! And with regard to effort, I tell my clients during the first 2-3 weeks of training to use the “rating” scale.
According to their standards of easy, medium, medium-hard, or hard, I keep them to a medium and choose a weight where they can still reach at least 15 repetitions. By doing this you make sure that you stay injury-free, and not get so sore the next day that you can’t use the restroom or can’t blow-dry your hair!
After you have a few training sessions under your belt, then increase your intensity to a medium-hard, and so on.
This approach is so beneficial in allowing the muscles to “learn” how to work together during the first couple of weeks. After the muscles are “in tune” with each other you can progress to working out heavier and more aggressively.
I liken this to an orchestra. At first when they come together the instruments don’t harmonize. But after practicing a few sessions the music flows. The same is true with our muscles. At first they won’t know how to work together in balance. One group may be over working and the other may be lagging.
So start slow according to your rating scale and shoot for a medium the first couple of weeks of your workout program.
Use exercises that use more than one muscle group and keep your repetitions over 15 initially. Try to do 1-3 sets per body part, corresponding to the size of the muscle group, i.e., legs would get three sets and biceps one set. And remember to give yourself a day of rest between working the same body part.
As your body starts to respond to the workouts increase the level of intensity to keep advancing your fitness levels.
Ed White has worked in the fitness industry for more than 22 years and is a certified personal trainer. He has complemented his love of personal training with 12 years’ experience in spine care in physical therapy and three years as administrator for a medical clinic. He has a record of success in teaching people how to care for their body through exercise and proper nutrition. He now owns EveryDay Fitness on Athens Avenue in Redding where he continues helping people of all ages reach their goal. He may be reached at 530-246-1902. For more information visit his website at www.edfitness.com.