Updated: Jan 28
Training like Arnold, focusing too much on cardio and being an ego-lifter are just some of the mistake exercise newbies make on a regular basis. When you start exercising seriously it is important that you do the right things. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for chronic injuries and spending many years training around the damage you have done by trying to do too much, too soon. A beginner will have approximately 0-2 years of training experience through working out 3 times a week, reading magazines and copying social media stars and personal trainers. Even if you think you are not a beginner (you probably are) read through the list and fix your workout regime.
1. Have specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-framed short (1-2 week), medium (2 week-6 month) and long term (6 month+) goals. Track everything using a pad of paper or notes on your phone or an app. Target 1-3% improvement per workout (1). If you are not able to, examine the reasons why you think this may be and address them before your next workout.
2. Learn basic anatomy such as the main bones, joints, muscle groups. Use mirrors for technical and honest feedback when exercising in a controlled environment. Use videos and photos of yourself training to improve your technique and refine your posture.
3. Train between 3 and 5 times a week unless you are definitely unable to. Listen to your body. If you are tired, take a rest day. If you are OK, continue as you are, but do not increase the frequency. Perform most exercises between 1 and 3 times with a 60-90s rest period between them. Train intensely for no more than 60 minutes (including warm-up time). Do not sit down if you do not have to. Do not talk to others unless you are training with them and doing the same thing. Perform no more than 15 sets per workout.
4. NEVER SKIP LEG DAY (2). Perform these movements at least twice a week: squat, deadlift, lunge, push up, pull up, overhead press, vertical row, trunk rotation. Use compound exercises at least 90% of the time. Use a 15-25 rep range and aim to achieve complete muscular exhaustion between 15 and 25 reps of each set. Use full range of motion unless injuries prevent you from doing so.
5. Be active. Learn to move correctly. Try yoga and/or feldenkrais. Learn how to do self myofascial release (smr) (3) without spending too much time doing it. Take up a sport you enjoy that keeps you fit. MOVE! A rest day does not mean sit around doing nothing. Stay active, just do not push yourself.
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6. Don't spend money on cool equipment or fancy supplements. Be skeptical of what you read in magazines or in cleverly disguised adverts. A “5 minute ab blast" will not quickly make you look like a fitness model. Do not wear lifting belts. Learn to use your core for support. You are not a bodybuilder.
7. Learn from an experienced trainer whom you trust and is passionate about the long-term (4). Practice what they recommend. Do not lift with your ego! Use a weight or choose a variation you can fully control. Even if you are using a lighter weight, make the weight feel heavy by practicing muscle activation/tensing and focusing on contraction quality. Do not just go through the motions.
8. Understand how to perform cardio with correct techniques. Sprint slightly uphill (5). Do not run downhill or heel strike. Be as strict as you would be for weight or resistance training. Perform intervals for cardio exercise. Do not run more than 10km regularly unless you have to. If heart rate moves above 180-age for more than 15 minutes, limit that bout of exercise to 60 minutes. Do not train again that day.
9. Use the best technique you know 95-100% of the time. Move in slow motion (minimum 5s per rep). Do not copy others especially those lifting heavy weights, moving quickly, or on social media. A few bad reps can do serious damage but cannot suddenly lead to the achievement of your goals.
10. As hard as you train in the gym, make sure you recover just as much. Remember, abs are made in the kitchen.
11. Do not wear too many layers and sweat unnecessarily. Do not wear too few layers and become cold. Be barefoot as much as possible (6) unless you are in an environment which has health and safety rules or dangerous or dirty materials underfoot.
12. Walk briskly wherever possible. Use it as an added form of cardio and an effective fat burning tool. Just do not tire yourself out before a workout. Keep your heart rate at or below 180-age (when not training hard) for safe and easy fat burning.
13. Use music to appropriately and effectively increase and decrease intensity as well as improve enjoyment eg slow and relaxing for mobility, fast and exciting for intense training.
14. Be extremely patient. Change the routine every 4 weeks by changing the order, slowing the tempo down, resting slightly less or aiming to achieve 1 more rep. Beginner gains come quickly, but it takes a while to achieve the body you want. Enjoy your results without being too vain. Put all of your weights back.
15. And one last thing, DO NOT SKIP LEG DAY! (7)
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.