Over the last several months, I’ve had a professional ephipany of such. Many of you brought the inspiration, through questions you have asked me at my workshops, on social media, and in training.
This is what you taught me. People need, and want, more of the basics. Basics of everything fitness and diet related. I’m thankful to all of you for being brave enough to ask the questions and I’m making it my goal to lay out all the answers.
In my real [FIT] life newsletter, I’m in the process of launching my “Weight loss” series, and I’m using my own current journey as an example. If you’d also like to receive updates on that as they post, go here and sign up. Joining our real [FIT] life community is free. If you’d like to read the first two installments that have already gone out, you can go here, and here.
Today is an exciting day. This is the start of my new monthly series “Beginner Strength Training” and it will deliver exactly what the title suggests.
Who’s it for? Anyone who’s been wanting to strength train but is afraid, unmotivated, or unsure of how to start. This series is also great for those of you who’ve been tinkering around at the gym, but aren’t sure if you’re doing things correctly, or optimally. Maybe you aren’t getting the results you had hoped for, and aren’t sure why. Well, this can help.
So, without any further fanfare, let’s get started.
Workout I is short. I intentionally made it short so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. This A and B program will be your gateway to greater things. But, for now, we’re going to make this SO doable, that it will be hard to come up with an excuse as to why you cannot try it.
Today I’m giving you Program A and later this week I’ll be posting Program B.
The last important thing I will say, is that success in always in the details. Take advantage of how short this program is, and spend the extra time making sure you are reading the how to directions, looking at the photos, watching the videos, and doing everything properly. It makes all the difference, I promise you.
February Workout I Program A
(Alternate Program A and Program B, 2-3 times a week, on non-consecutive days)
Alternate exercise 1a. and 1b. for 8 – 12 reps, for 2 – 3 sets. Rest 1 minute between each exercise.
(Click on the exercises for the video links. Additional modifications, and videos, are offered in the notes below.)
1a. Goblet squat 8 – 12 reps
1b. Incline dumbbell chest press 8 – 12 reps
Alternate exercise 2a. and 2b. for 2-3 sets. Rest for 1 minute between each exercise.
2a. Split squats 8 – 12 reps each side (do all one side, then switch)
2b. Kneeling anti rotation static hold up to 30 seconds each side
There are three variations to choose from here. If you are brand new to squatting, I highly recommend that you select the first variation and work your way through.
Remember, a “harder variation” won’t give you nearly the results an “easier” modification will, if you cannot perform it properly. As long as an exercise feels hard for you, that’s all you need.
Select a box or a bench at a level that works for you. You may need a high box, starting out. That’s okay.
Stand directly in front of the corner of the box, feet about hip width apart.
Stand tall, extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height
Engage your abs and glutes (everything tight)
Sit your hips back and beneath you to the box, lowering with control
Actually sit on the box, keeping your chest high, torso erect
Drive through the center of your feet and come to full standing
Be careful of:
Don’t let your back round
Don’t let your knees cave inward
Don’t “plop” onto the box
Don’t drive your knees forward, rather than your hips back
Don’t lean forward excessively
Don’t shrug your shoulders up
You’ll perform this the same as a bodyweight box squat, only you’ll hold a dumbbell in the “goblet” position, close to your chest throughout.
c. Goblet squat
Once you feel confidant with your squats, you can start to take the box away
Make sure you maintain all the same form criteria as listed above. I find that when the box first goes away, a lot of people immediately start to shift forward into the knees again. Even though that box isn’t there, you still need to squat down as if it were. If you need to, you can first practice a hover squat, where you keep the box beneath you, but don’t actually touch it. This can help with the fear of falling.
When performing an exercise that requires dumbbells, start light just to get the movement patterns down.
Once you have the feel of the exercise, don’t limit yourself either. Use the rep range to gradually use heavier weights. I really like to use smaller incremental jumps, especially for upper body. If your gym doesn’t have them available, I recommend investing in some magnetic dumbbell weights. They come in donut or hex shape, and you can buy them in sets of 2.5 lbs or 1.25 pounds. I have a set of each.
Elevate the back of a lifting bench so that you are at an angle, chest higher than your hips.
Start with the inside edges of the dumbbells lightly resting just on the outside area of your upper chest (pecs). From here, fully extend your arns, and press the dumbbells directly over your chest toward the ceiling. Lower the dumbbells back to the start position with control.
Be careful of:
Don’t let the dumbbells get too far out from your body
Don’t lift your back and shoulders off the bench
Don’t let the dummbells “free fall” on the way back down
Don’t excessively arch your back
The main hang up with split squats is that they require a great deal of balance. If you struggle with these, I strongly recommend lightly holding onto something in the beginning, so that you can better focus on setting up correctly each time and maintaining good form.
And don’t worry about adding dumbbells until you can perform these with just bodyweight , for all recommended reps and sets. Here’s a video of split squats with dumbbells.
Place your hands on your hips and stand tall
Take a big step back with your left foot, left heel elevated off of the floor.
Take a moment to stabilize
Engage your abs and your glutes, and stay tight from head to toe
Bend your back knee toward the floor, lowering with control.
As you slightly hinge your torso forward, keep your chest high, and your front heel pressing into the floor
Press into the floor with both feet and fully extend both legs
If at any time you lose your balance, pause and reset
Be careful of:
Don’t start with your feet too close together
Driving too far forward into your front leg
Don’t let your front heel come off the floor
Don’t drop your knee to the floor
Don’t continue if you’re losing your balance
This exercise looks deceptively easy. You’ll need a cable system. If you don’t have access to one, use a resistance band instead.
Kneel on the floor, next to the adjustable cable column and set the cable handle at chest height. Select a light weight to start out. Once you can hold that weight steady for the full 30 seconds, with solid form, go heavier.
You may want a mat beneath your knees. You’ll also want to have a timer on your or a clock in eyes view. I just use the stopwatch on my smartphone.
Take hold of the cable handle and hold it close to your chest
Move yourself further out away from the cable column, keeping your shoulders directly over your knees
Center your weight evenly through your whole body, shoulders back and down, chest high
Keep everything super tight and press the handle out in front of the center of your chest, resisting the pull of the weight.
Hold there steady with arms fully extended for up to 30 seconds.
Switch sides when you’re done
Be careful of:
Don’t let your shoulders shrug up to your ears
Don’t let your back arch
Don’t let your elbows bend or your arms move
Take your time to learn these exercises, practice them, get acquainted with the spots in the gym where you can best perform them, as well as with the equipment you’ll need.
This should be a learning experience for everyone, so if you have questions, please share ask!
Later this week I’ll be sharing the B portion so you’ll have a well balanced program to work on for the next month. We’ll also be talking about how to best utilize this program so that you get the most out of it.
Till then, stay sane and healthy!