If you’re new to exercising, you might be looking for a good beginner workout routine. However, you’re probably not sure whether you should be doing strength training exercises such as weightlifting routines or bodyweight routines, or whether you should just be doing cardio. The truth of the matter is that workout routines for beginners are going to vary based on your starting level of physical fitness.
How Fit Are You?
Prior to undertaking any exercise program, you have to determine what type of shape you are in (and seek your doctor’s advice if needed). Are you significantly overweight or just looking to lose fat on the margins? If you’re significantly overweight, then I would recommend simply performing cardio until you can shed some pounds. Excess cardio can lead to muscle loss, but at this point, I think developing a healthy cardiovascular base and losing some extra weight is more important. If you’re really out of shape, something as simple as a regular walking routine can provide a good starting point. You can elevate to a steady state cardio routine before getting to the best cardio for weight loss: a HIIT workout routine.
If you’re just looking to shed some pounds and already have a good fitness level, you could jump right into high intensity interval training workouts (HIIT). This type of interval training involves performing fast paced sprints for a designated time followed by a slow jog or even walking. HIIT has been proven to be a more efficient way to burn fat than simple steady state cardio due to an effect known as EPOC in which your body continues to burn calories after completion of your workout. Combing HIIT for fat loss and a strength training routine for muscle gain is an excellent combination. Visual Impact Cardio lays out an 8 week plan to optimize fat loss with cardio.
Beginners Strength Training
Resistance training is a great way to burn some extra calories while creating a stronger, better looking body. While a lot of people focus on weightlifting routines, you can certainly start with a bodyweight routine as well. Either way, start slow until you develop proper form for your chosen strength training exercises.
As a starting point, I would recommend doing 3 sets of 4-6 reps. The first set should be a warm up set where you use a minimum amount of weight. What sometimes works well is pretending that minimum weight weighs a lot. It helps prime your muscles for what’s to come. You should try to lift relatively heavy weights for the next 2 sets of 4-6 reps. As mentioned, focus on form first. Proper form will best develop the muscles and prevent injury. Additionally, avoid failure on any set and rest 1-2 minutes between sets. You don’t want your muscles to get used to failing. Doing 4-6 reps in this manner can help you get really strong and develop really tight muscles.
Strength Training Exercises
There are a wide variety of exercises to incorporate in a strength training routine. I’d try to include compound exercises that work multiple muscles. Start light and work your way up. There are a few different ways to divide your exercises. You could perform arms one day, legs/abs the next, or simply perform a full body workout in one day. Just make sure to take at least 1 day of rest between exercising the same muscle group. Before starting your workout, it’s good to do a light warm up to get your heart pumping a little.
Here are a few strength training exercises by muscle group:
Chest: Bench Press, Pushups
Back: Lat Pulldowns, Pullups, Inverted Row
Shoulders: Shoulder Press, Front/Side Raises
Triceps: Triceps Kickback, Triceps Extension, Dips
Legs: Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Calf Raises
Abs: Planks, Leg Raises
If you’re doing a weightlifting routine, I would be sure to incorporate bench press and shoulder press for upper body and squats for lower body. These are all great compound exercises that will really help you get stronger. Generally I don’t advocate leg training because I find that HIIT provides enough of a workout. However, for a beginner, it’s good to perform squats or other leg exercises to develop baseline strength. Again, good form is paramount. Many will recommend crunches for abs. Crunches don’t work though. You’ll see your abs when you lose enough fat. In the meantime, do planks to increase your core strength and develop your abdominal muscles. If you’re interested in a more advanced routine, I’d recommend checking out Rusty Moore’s Visual Impact Muscle Building or Visual Impact for Women. Aside from providing great tips, he throws in an illustrated guide to just about ever strength training exercise you can think of.
If you’re doing a bodyweight routine, there are a variety of ways to perform pushups, pullups, inverted row, dips, and bodyweight squats. Don’t be surprised if these bodyweight exercises are actually more challenging than some weightlifting counterparts. You may have to get creative if you can’t perform enough reps of these. For example, you might have to do wall pushups or pushups on your knees. Conversely, once you get stronger, you might have to make these exercises more challenging as too many reps focuses on endurance rather than strength. Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, Convict Conditioning offers some of the best bodyweight routines around.
Beginner Workout Routine
Workout routines for beginners don’t need to be overly complicated. Just start by performing some good strength training exercises combined with some fat burning cardio. A total of 3-4 hours of exercise per week should be more than enough to help you lose fat. Once you progress, then maybe you can tackle a more advanced weightlifting routine or bodyweight workout.
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