14 Jun 2012
My Health Formula – #2 Exercise
How To Start
Well here goes. There are so many theories and ways to exercise it gets really confusing on how to start and what to do next. I train a wide variety of clients and use different training techniques depending on their goals. The only types of clients I refer to others now that I am a successful trainer are competitive body builders and rehabilitation clients. I respect and understand the quest for size and have been bigger myself but after a while I lost interest. I prefer to be leaner, quicker and more agile. I found rehab full of to many whiners just milking the system for money. Not all of them but so many it really turned me off wanting to help them.
So for beginners I start with general conditioning of the body along with coaching on diet, exercise, sleep, stress and nutritional supplementation. Topics for the future. General conditioning consists of slowly preparing the body for more intense workouts to build strength, size, neuromuscular control, (balance and coordination) and speed and agility.
My approach to general conditioning starts with building from the inside out. I will keep most people in this phase for 8 weeks with slow progressions. So we start with the cardio vascular system and the internal skeletal muscles that hold and maneuver our skeletal system. Cardio vascular training consists of low intensity cardio training at a moderate range of heart rate depending on age, fitness level, and any medications or limiting conditions you may have. You may choose whatever machine or exercise you wish as long as it involves the whole body or you mix it up to involve the whole body.
How you progress with your cardio is based on maintaining a predetermined conditioning heart rate range. It will take more and more intensity to maintain that training heart rate range. There are different heart rate calculations out there to determine your training range. You can google it or here is basic formula. 220 – Age – Resting Heart Rate. Then multiply it by 55% and add back in the Resting Heart Rate to get your lower range. Do the same thing but multiply by 80% to get you maximum heart rate. As you progress you will need to change this range depending on your fitness goals. This is just a basic formula but not a bad starting point for beginners.
Workouts should be a whole body workout every other day at least 3 days a week. You can break this up into muscle groups if you prefer to be at the gym every day or four or five days in a row. My preference is every other day for a full body workout during the conditioning phase with cardio every day. The program should be a wide variety of 8 to 10 basic exercises including balance and coordination type exercises that activate the internal muscle groups. Posture and proper form are also taught in this phase so make sure you research each exercise thoroughly or hire a good personal trainer.
Reps should be 15 to 20 and sets should be 2 – 4 depending on fitness level. If you’re not comfortable working out with free weights, cables, balls, bands, TRX, Bosu balls etc then you can begin on machines with light weight but know that you will graduate to functional training fairly quickly. Let’s face it machines don’t help with daily activities and are not functional training. Machines definitely have a place in your workout just not yet and will not be a predominant part of any program I give my clients. I use machines to strengthen very specific muscle groups when needed but most traditional machines do not teach the body to use all the necessary parts together to perform an exercise. For example if you’re sitting in a leg press machine the core and the rest of the body is not activated the way it is in a free standing squat, lunge or deadlift.
I highly recommend hiring a good personal trainer at the beginning of each phase of your workout plan to help you learn correct technique, progression and posturing. These are very important to preventing injury, posture problems and overtraining. You don’t need a trainer all the time just at the beginning of each phase of your plan to help you work out your progression plan and show you how to execute it correctly.
The next phase for beginners would be to slowly start increasing cardio training intensity and building strength. Generally a 6 – 8 week period. For this phase the heart rate training zone can move up to 60% – 85% in the previously mentioned formula. When you do your cardio is up to you but I recommend after your workout or on your alternate workout days if you’re doing whole body workouts every other day. Warm up your muscles first for least 10 minutes doing light exercises that mimic your workout. This will prepare the body for what you’re about to do and help prevent injury and increase range of motion.
Exercises in this phase will consist of functional training with Free weights, balls, bands, Bosu, TRX and body weight to name a few. I would increase weight, decrease rep range to 8 -12 reps, probably 3-4 sets for each exercise depending on time. Keep the balance and coordination exercises in your program just progressively make them harder by reducing your base of support or destabilizing it. So instead of two feet use one foot or add a Bosu, balance board or ball to your exercises for balance. Use logging sheets and measurements to track progress. As soon as you can complete 12 reps on the last set of an exercise move the weight up a level. Never increase your weight to much as this can lead to injury. For most exercises 2.5 to 5lbs is enough of an increase if you’re increasing consistently.
The next phase if you want size is to maintain cardio or even cut it back a little and increase to heavy weights and low reps. There are lots of different training techniques in this phase but we will cover just the basics for now. The reps should be between 4-8 and the sets 4-5 and you most likely will want to split up your muscle groups and workout 4 – 5 days in a row. You should also look at finding a workout partner to assist you with the last few sets and reps. You should find an experienced spotter or get a personal trainer to go over correct spotting posture and procedures to avoid injury to the spotter and yourself.
I usually keep a client in this phase for 4-6 weeks and follow it with a week of active rest. So no gym or just low intensity fitness workouts. I prefer if they jog, hike, swim, bike, walk, kayak, canoe or any other leisure activities that keep you active but don’t tax the body to much. During the active rest period you need to really watch your diet and eat like you’re in repair mode. So eat super healthy, clean real, food and take high end nutritional supplements.
Stretching is highly overlooked by most people and needs mentioning. Without flexibility you will not build a nice even strong body and you will ruin your posture. Truly beautiful bodies are strong and have great posture. You can walk around like and ape with rounded shoulders, descended stomachs, forward head posture and a spine that looks like it’s been put through a wringer or you can stretch, take yoga, Pilates etc. to keep your body upright and functioning like a well-balanced athlete. There is nothing more attractive than a healthy fit man with great posture and flexibility.
Just a start and I know there is much more to working out but it will give those of you who are just starting out an idea of how to go about it.
In good health