Where to start: First time gymgoers
“Where do I start?!”
This is typically one of the first questions I get, and it’s a good one, because there’s a lot of misleading information out there.
There are a lot of different programs and opinions about what’s best for gaining weight, losing weight, building muscle, burning body fat, toning, balancing, getting abs, etc. Its overwhelming, I get it.
Start with the basics.
Assess yourself: what can you do? Can you do a push up? Can you do a full squat? Can you do a lunge? I would always suggest starting with body weight movements. For example, if you can’t functionally do a decent body weight squat, then adding more weight with a barbell is likely going to get you injured.
- Push up
- Pull up
- Body weight row
- Basically any calisthenic movement
You would be amazed at how much stronger you can get just doing these. And the good thing about all of these is that they train your body as a whole instead of in pieces. Doing big compound movements has many benefits over breaking up your training into body parts.
1. Burns more calories and recruits more muscle (more bang for your buck!)
Using your body as a whole burns more calories because it uses more muscles. For example you burn a lot more calories doing a pull up instead of bicep curl. Compound movement = use more muscle = better results.
2. Saves time
It’s a lot more efficient. You can do a full body workout two or three days a week, whereas if you use a body part split, it’s going to take you 4 or 5 days to hit every muscle.
3. Your body operates better as a whole system rather than in parts
This is straightforward. Your body operates better when it is used as a whole. That’s how it’s designed.
4. Functional training and avoiding imbalances
This goes into operating as a whole. If the majority of your training is in big compound movements that recruit a lot of different muscles, then as long as you maintain good form you will avoid becoming imbalanced and injuring yourself. Do you want to be able to use your body when your older? Or do you want to look like you can do a lot, but not be able to move properly…?
5. Hormone release
Your body releases a lot more testosterone and growth hormone by doing big compound movements. This goes with using more muscles. Use more muscles = release more beneficial hormones = best results. Not to mention you’ll feel a lot better psychologically because of this as well.
Advancing and adding weight
Once you are efficient in these then you can start adding weight or modifying each of the workouts. But the same principal stands: its almost always more efficient to do compound movements that use a lot of muscles than to split your workout into each and every body part. Ask anyone in the gym and they will tell you that there are a few exercises that they never leave out. Squat, deadlift, bench, pull up, etc.
Scaling some of the basic movements:
Body weight squat – barbell squat, front squat, goblet squat
This can be adding weight, like a squat, or by adding a plyometric, like jump squats.
Push up – dips, bench press, dumbbell press, weighted push up
This can adding weights, or changing the movement itself, like elevated push ups, or dips.
Lunge – dumbbell lunge, barbell lunge, front rack lunge
Plank – weighted plank, towel slides, plank to push up, ab roll
This could be adding weight or scaling the movement up.
Pull up – lat pull down, weighted pull up
This could be adding weight to your waist, or by switching to a lat pull down.
Body weight row – barbell row, dumbbell row, cable row
Also, some kind of pull is ideal – traditional deadlift or Romanian deadlift
(Note: some of these can be used to scale down a movement as well. For example if you can’t do a pull up or body weight row, you could start with a lat pull down or barbell row to build up strength to eventually do the full movement)
I’m not saying that body part splits don’t work, at some point in training you need to focus more on specific areas to get the results you need. But in the beginning stages of learning to work out, you should stick to mastering the basic movements! At some point, if you want to focus on certain areas then I would suggest adding in some accessory work. For example if you feel like you need to work on your calves, then do some extra work there.
Thoughts? Concerns? Leave a comment or email me if you have questions or suggestions!
Have fun 🙂