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Best Workout Strategy For Beginners

So you’re looking to get started with a workout routine for the first time, or the first time in a long time, and the question is, “what exercises should I do?” Starting your fitness program off with the right exercises will be a determining factor for seeing the results you want and reducing your risk of injuries.

Most people who are unsure about what to do so simply watch others in the gym and mimic their workouts. This is never a good idea. The exercises that someone else performs may not be best suited for your workouts.

A common mistake many people make in the gym is using machines and free weights in the beginning of a workout program. In this article I’ll share with you the best strategies to follow when starting a personal fitness program.

Start with functional exercises instead of weighted exercises as a beginner workout strategy

At Shaping Concepts we always start off our Charleston personal training programs with functional exercise using bodyweight movements and exercises incorporating things like medicine balls, resistance bands, and stability balls.

The reason for this is simple.

You must be able to use your own bodyweight for resistance before you can expect to load the muscles and joints with weight bearing movements.

It’s all about establishing a solid base or foundation.

If there’s little or no attention paid to “movement patterns” in the beginning of your fitness program you’re setting yourself up for diminished returns and risk of injury. I’ve seen this time and time again with people rushing into weight training without first developing solid movement patterns and core strength.

An example would be incorporating a weighted exercise like the squat (using free weights or machines) without first developing integration and support from the core, lumbar, and pelvic muscles.

If you’re unable to do bodyweight squats with proper form and technique (going down until your thighs are parallel with the floor and staying on your heels with your back flat) you have no business doing weighted squats with a load on your back.

Not only do you increase the risk of injury but you also diminish future results by ignoring the integration and development of the stabilizing muscles.

The best way to explain this all the muscles in your body work together in one big kinetic chain. No muscle works in isolation by itself. The muscles assist one another in all human movements through integration.

When you’re sedentary and not using the major muscles groups with regularity (sitting too much), you’ll develop muscle imbalances.

This is simply a situation where one set of muscles get weak and inhibited (they stop firing due to inactivity) and opposing muscles get short and tight (due to their over-compensation).

This is very common with people who haven’t been active and spend a lot of time sitting down at their job. I’d say that three out of four new clients we see in assessments for our personal fitness programs have what’s called “lower crossed syndrome.”

No it’s not a disease or anything like that; lower crossed syndrome is a common condition where muscles imbalances develop from sitting too much. The low back muscles will be tight along with the hamstrings and hip flexors. The core muscles and glutes on the other hand will be weak and inhibited.

The imbalance is easily spotted when the client performs bodyweight squats and reaches during their fitness assessment. Falling forward when squatting and not being able to stay on the heels or go parallel to the floor are both tell-tale signs of lower-crossed syndrome.

Also during a forward reach (stepping forward with one leg and reaching over your foot) you’ll commonly see a lack of stability and difficulty pushing back to the starting position.

The reason for all of this is the glutes simply aren’t firing. They’ve in essence become turned off and your back and thigh muscles are forced to do all the work. This must be corrected before you can progress to weight training exercises.

Functional exercise essentially helps the body develop integration with the major muscle groups and works on stability, balance, proprioception, and control during movements.

When you break it down everybody does the same basic five movement patterns. Sure the intensity may be different but the movements are always the same.

Functional exercise works the body through the five main pillars of human movement which are listed below:

- Push
- Pull
- Rotation
- Level Change (squat down, step up, etc)
- Locomotion (walk, run, etc)

Every activity you’ll do today will involve one or more of the above movements. Functional exercise mimics these movements and works on developing the integration of all the muscles, just like in everyday life. It’s the best way to build a foundation for higher intensity weight training to come later.

How to build a beginner workout program

A good strategy to use in the beginning of your fitness program is simply incorporating 6-8 functional movements in a circuit workout done three times per week. You can start with one round (one time through all 6-8 exercises), then progress to two-three rounds for each workout. Look to do around 10 repetitions for each exercise in the beginning.

Listed below is an example functional workout for beginners:

Medicine Ball Squats
Resistance Band Presses
Medicine Ball Lateral Reaches
Resistance Band Pulls
Stability Ball Push-Up’s
Resistance Band Chops

10 reps each exercise
1 round is the completion of all six exercises
Move as quickly as you can through the circuit and provide a brief recovery between each round.
Complete 1-3 rounds

If you’re new to exercise I’d highly recommend meeting with a certified personal trainer to help you build the right program to suit your needs and goals.

Choosing a personal trainer can be a tricky thing due to a lack of industry guidelines regarding certifications, training, and experience. A fitness professional will always put you through an assessment of your movement patterns before starting a workout program with you or prescribing exercises. This is to identify any muscles imbalances that should be addressed before weight training exercises are started.

At Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios we provide a free, no-obligations trial of our Charleston personal fitness programs that includes a comprehensive kinetic chain assessment.

Even if you plan on exercising at home or in a health club, getting a few sessions from a personal trainer is a great idea. This way you can learn which exercises are best for you and how to perform them correctly.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of the importance of functional exercise when starting a personal fitness program. If you have any questions about starting an exercise routine leave me a comment to this post and I’ll be happy to assist you.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE no obligations trial of our Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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