Starting and maintaining a workout program is not easy. If it were then trainers like me would be out of business. The biggest issue people have is not knowing where to start. With the amount of conflicting information on the Internet I can see why it is difficult for beginners to know what to do in the weight room. Below are three tips that will help you develop a plan that is safe and effective.
1) Stick to the Basics
Social media is a great tool for folks to learn exercises if they follow the right people/accounts. The problem comes in when beginners see these fancy exercises that look really cool on social media but are often unnecessary because a more basic exercise could achieve the same result in a safer and more efficient way.
There are six basic movements that beginners (really all lifters) should stick to:
1) Squat (Ex. Back Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat)
2) Hinge (Ex. Romanian Deadlifts, Hip Thrust)
3) Lunge (Ex. Lunge Variations)
4) Push (Ex. Bench Press, Push-Ups, Shoulder Press)
5) Pull (Ex. Conventional Deadlift, Rows, Lat Pull Downs)
6) Carry (Ex. Farmers Walk Variations)
All six of these movements do not need to be in every workout but shooting for 2-3 movement categories per workout is a good start. Your program as a whole should certainly included all six movements.
Sticking to these fundamental movements will provide more strength benefits than most of the crap you see on social media.
2) Train like an Athlete
You may be saying: "Travis, I can't do the same things that athletes do!"
That may be true, and most likely your goals are much different from an athlete's goals so a different training program will be warranted. What I mean by "train like an athlete" is, athletes train because they are on a mission. They have a specific goal--to improve their sport performance. While you may not care about improving your sport performance, you should care about improving your performance in everyday life.
To improve an athlete's performance in sport, we focus on improving the strength and efficiency of their movements. The average (non-athlete) person could also benefit from this approach. Focus on improving your strength in the six basic movements and then program accessory movements to compliment your more specific needs.
Athletes also respect the recovery. I've been in quite a few gyms and it seems that the only people who are properly warming up and cooling down are athletes or former athletes. The average gym rat walks in, swings a couple light weights around, and calls that a warm-up. That is good for increasing the likelihood of injury but not so good for much else. Athletes know the importance of a dynamic warm-up and proper post-workout stretching, mobility, and foam rolling. Yet another way beginners and even experienced lifters can train like an athlete.
3) Don't Program Hop
There are a lot of places on the Internet where you can buy or freely download workout programs. Many beginners take advantage of this and it certainly does more good than bad for them but it is important to remember that consistency is everything. Once you pick a program, stick to it. Don't "hop" from one program to the next and expect it to work. A good program is designed with a progression model and it is important to stick to the program and trust the process. Switching from program to program will decrease the effectiveness of all of them.
Ultimately, the goal should be to design your own program that is specific to your desired outcomes. Pre-made programs are good, but they're often a very general approach that will lead to very general results. With that said, early on it may be challenging to know exactly which exercises to include in your program to produce your desired outcome so I recommend perfecting the aforementioned six basic movements and then progress from there. If you can perfectly execute the six basic movement patterns then you're already well on your way to moving better!
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