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Important Notes on Training Programs for Beginners

September 11, 2014

athlete doing EZ bar preacher curls

The airwaves, newsstands, and interwebs are littered with different information about training and exercise programs. Trendy fitness has made way for a slew of misconceptions and misinformation that deprive newcomers and beginners of a safe and enjoyable workout. Even worse, many of these tips and tricks can easily lead to injury. How does one sift through the garbage without learning the hard way?

Starting Smart

Choosing the appropriate training program that matches your fitness and ability level and sticking with that program is critical for beginners. Let’s start off by choosing the right program for your ability. Put your ego in check and truly evaluate your strength and endurance levels. Don’t select a program from the internet just because a celebrity was rumored to have performed it during a movie shoot. The last thing you want to do is choose a workout program that far exceeds your ability, and in the process of performing it, you hurt yourself. This will ruin your outlook on what a workout should be. (Fry, 1997, p. 106-129). The trick is in progressive overload. You want to start out with a program that meets your exact ability and slowly build on it. Once you can lift a set amount of volume with perfect form and little fatigue, consider changing up a few acute variables such as the weight itself, time under tension, or resting period. (Bird, 2005, p. 841-851) Now for consistency: results are not going to come after one or two weeks. Results happen when you are dedicated to your workout program for an extended period. For beginners, staying faithful to a program for at least 6 weeks is recommended.

The Right Exercises for Beginners

For beginners, nothing beats the benefits of compound movements. Compound movements give you the most bang for your buck as they incorporate the most muscle groups. Since you are just starting out, your goal will be to familiarize your body with muscle breakdown and muscle repair. Compound exercises are the ideal way to do this. They also teach your body to work in a more efficient manner. The best compound movements are as follows:
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Overhead Presses
  • Clean and Press
  • Bench Press
  • Pull-Ups
  • Bent-Over Rows

Change It Up

When the time comes to change up your workout, you don’t need to be extreme about it. Doing too much too soon could be the perfect recipe for injury. Slight variations such as increasing your volume, adjusting your time under tension, or widening your grip are more than enough for your muscles to see as a challenge. (Clark, Lucett, Sutton, 2012, p. 340.) One of the greatest mistakes that new gym goers make is that they change things up too much! Yes, your body loves new challenges, but if you change before your body has even adjusted, you won’t reach the full benefit of that particular program. You are constantly bombarded by the temptation to change up your program but fight the urge. Stay dedicated to the program for at least 6 weeks, preferably 8 weeks. After that, sit down, and evaluate your gains. This information will help you progress to a new program or simply altering your current one to make it more challenging. Put simply: Keep it simple. REFERENCES: 1.) Bird, S. P., Tarpenning, K. M., & Marino, F. E. (2005). Designing resistance training programmes to enhance muscular fitness. Sports medicine, 35(10), 841-851. 2.) Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., Sutton, B.G. (2012). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 3.) Fry, A. C., & Kraemer, W. J. (1997). Resistance exercise overtraining and overreaching. Sports Medicine, 23(2), 106-129.


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